Facebook tweak emphasizes friends over publishers

On Wednesday, Facebook announced a change to its News Feed algorithm that will rank the status updates of users’ friends and family higher than posts by publishers and brands:

We’ve heard from our community that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about… So we are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed.

What does that mean for our publications?

It is critical to promote our content on social networks for it to be viewed by our audiences. My mantra these days is “post to social or it didn’t happen.” Facebook delivered more than 40 percent of our users on average in the past month across the news sites.

We should expect that the overall reach of our pages will decline somewhat. Organic reach (people you can reach for free on Facebook by simply posting to your Page) declined from about 12 percent in 2012 to somewhere near 4 percent recently. For pages with more than 500,000 likes, the figure is closer to 2 percent.

In practice

The good news is that when people engage with a post they help boost the visibility of the content. So referral traffic which results from people sharing, commenting, or reacting with the posts should continue to do well. Here are some ways to keep growing reach and engagement:

  • Links: Posting articles is the single-biggest performer on Facebook for us. People respond when we share stories to our pages. Add context or additional information to the post for best results. An aside or pull quote is enough.
  • Breaking News: Regular updates of breaking stories are met with great interest from our communities. While these may not drive direct traffic to our sites, they provide value for the newsroom as a service and lay groundwork for other posts.
  • Images: Image posts rank high in the News Feed weighting. Tease a photo gallery on your site with a photo or collage and some information.
  • Share your work: The single best thing we can do is to log in and share articles we’ve published in our own personal News Feeds. Not a requirement, but definitely a no-brainer. Sharing a post “publicly” means people can subscribe to your public feed without being your friend. Subtle, but important for journalists.

Why does Facebook keep changing things?

Making a useful and compelling product is the top priority for a business that makes money delivering advertising information to an audience. This week, Facebook published their “News Feed Values,” which puts “Friends and Family” first. Also on that list is “Constant Iteration,” which suggests modifications to the platform and the computations that drive it will always be in flux.

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