Facebook recently posted a healthy Q2 2015 earnings report – mobile monthly active users were 1.13 billion and 75% of total ad revenue of $4.04 billion was contributed via mobile. This growth is also due to the seriousness that Facebook has shown towards making the News Feed intelligent over time.
This year itself Facebook has been quite rampant with occasional tweaks to the News Feed, while keeping both users and brands happy. Listed below are six such News Feed changes that Facebook has done so far in 2015:
1. Cut back on hoaxes in News Feed
Aiming to cut down on the spread of false information, earlier this year Facebook decided to flag posts that appear to be hoaxes and show fewer of them in people’s News Feeds. However the action lies in the hands of Facebook users to decide whether a certain news is hoax or not.
To curtail hoax-busting websites, Facebook added an option for people to report a story they see in News Feed as false. “This works in the same way as reporting a story as spam. When you click to hide a story you also have the option to report the content. Stories that include scams, or deliberately misleading news, are reported two and a half times more often than links to other news stories,” said Facebook.
If enough people flag a story as false, Facebook will append a message to the post, like: “Many people on Facebook have reported that this story contains false information.” Such posts will have reduced distribution in the News Feed.
However, satirical websites were spared from this update as satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire. The update didn’t affect majority of publishers but only those frequently posting hoaxes and scams saw their distribution decrease.
2. Time spent on stories
This year Facebook has tried impressing large publishers to join the network by launching features that will interest them. Facebook Instant Articles – a native publishing platform for selected publishers is one of them.
To keep the attention of publishers, Facebook tweaked the News Feed. Till some time back the overly complicated News Feed used to consider liking, commenting and sharing as major factors in determining the mix. But from now on Facebook is adding time spent, after its research showed that people don’t always like or comment on stories that they find meaningful.
Describing how the algorithm will show content, Facebook informed it is going to find out the kind of content one spends more time on the News Feed.
However, Facebook said that it didn’t expect Pages to see “significant changes in distribution” because of the update. Right now time spent on stories might not be of a great value but let’s say you start reading more of the content published by BuzzFeed on Instant Article Facebook’s platform. According to the algorithm since you have spent good time on the story, so here on your News Feed will see more of BuzzFeed articles.
This also means that other publishers will have to suffer, even if they have a compelling story.
3. Consideration for ranking videos
Facebook added more signals to its ranking of video in the News Feed, adjusting the mix to make sure people see more of the videos they like on the social network. To do that, the company expanded on the traditional like, comment and share metrics and started taking into account whether people are activating audio, making video full screen and other actions that indicate interest.
Facebook made that News Feed adjustment a year ago — showing more video to people who interact with video, a move that has fueled the network’s growth in the video space. Today Facebook witnesses more than 4 billion daily video views.
4. News Feed favour friends
Social networks are in existence for friends first and then for brands, Facebook respects that and the changes in April to the News Feed reflect the same sentiment.
Facebook made three big changes to the News Feed stated Max Eulenstein, Product Manager and Lauren Scissors, User Experience Researcher. These changes were:
a. Priority to content posted by friends: With this update Facebook users would not miss any Facebook activity from their close friends. Activities like photos, videos, status updates or links, will be higher up in News Feed so users are less likely to miss important updates from friends. However Facebook adds that, “If you like to read news or interact with posts from pages you care about, you will still see that content in News Feed. This update tries to make the balance of content the right one for each individual person.”
b. More posts from the same source in a row: Previously Facebook had rules in place to prevent users from seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row. But this constraint clamped those users who had less content available to see on Facebook. With this update if users run out of content, but want to spend more time in News Feed, they will see more.
c. Hiding posts that say what Friends liked or commented on post: Going further, Facebook will make posts of Friends liking or comments appear lower down the News Feed or not at all. So that uses are more likely to see the stuff that they care about directly from friends and the pages you have liked.
These changes affected brands that are still expecting organic growth on Facebook. It is a known fact that Facebook has killed organic growth and it is forcing brands to boost content to reach out to its user base via ads.
Brands who have built their fan base on ethical grounds weren’t the most worried bunch, as it is always worth paying for reach to their organic fan base.
5. User preferences in News Feed
Again last month, Facebook announced giving users a new set of controls that made it a lot easier to see more of what’s relevant to you in your News Feed.
In Facebook’s iOS app, there’s now a new News Feed preferences tool that presents you with four simple tools. The first known as “See First” is entirely new to Facebook: you can now select brand pages and friends that will show up at the top of your News Feed every time you load it up so you don’t miss updates you always want to see.
The next two settings expand the unfollow feature that lets you stay away from updates of friends that bug you a lot every day with irritating facts and links. Facebook now gives you a tool to pack all these Facebook friends or relatives that you had to add due to social pressure to your “unfollow” list!
In addition to zipping the irritating friends on Facebook, the network is also providing a feature to see whom you have unfollowed in the past and give them a second chance. For instance if you have unfollowed a friend’s updates 2 years back then you give them another shot if you wish.
The fourth and last tool is about a discovery option to find new brand pages to follow, based on pages you’ve liked in the past.
The feature “See First” guarantees to show all posts from the friend or brand pages, but brands will have to be really lucky to make their way on that list. But that isn’t curtailing the appearance of brands on News Feed. In fact the last feature should be positive news as Facebook is providing a discovery option to find new brand pages to follow, based on pages one has liked in the past.
6. Hide button
The latest change Facebook has made is in the way the “hide” feature works and how it may affect Pages. The hide button is a strong algorithm indicator in what not to show on the News Feed. When heavy users of the hide button hide everything , they end up missing a good bit of content they’d actually like.
The new shift will depreciate the hide signal for those users who err on the side of hide. This means that these users will begin to see more stories as their specific hide input isn’t as strong as it previously was. In short, you won’t be able to hide from content, and a subset of users will now be delivered more content.
Good news for brands since a new group of folks will now see more content, they’ll see posts that they would have missed previously. Facebook doesn’t expect Pages to see any significant distribution changes with this update, though you may see some red flags fly in the form of hidden post metrics.
All the six updates prove that Facebook is keen on making your News Feed relevant, fun and human for users, while considering the happiness of brands and publishers too.