What Facebook’s Recent News Feed Changes Could Mean To Marketers

Facebook makes four new changes by giving more News Feed control to users. We try and find out what it means for marketers.

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In the previous quarter Facebook made $3.54 billion with a monthly user count of 1.44 billion. On mobile, Facebook reached 1.25 billion mobile monthly users (up 5%), and 798 million daily mobile users (up 7.1%). While it is a fact that Facebook’s growth has been saturating in developed markets for various reasons, cluttered news feed is one of them. Teens no more find Facebook a place to be, other age groups have often complained that brands have jammed the news feed with unattractive content and sale deals.

To have the user base still hooked up, Facebook, since the last year has been cleaning the News Feed. It started by giving more control to users and has forced brands to be smarter and efficient in their content marketing strategies on Facebook. The recent announcement of giving users a new set of controls that make it a lot easier to see more of what’s relevant to you in your News Feed is one such move.

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.

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The next two settings expand the unfollow feature that lets you stay away from updates of friends that irritate 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.

Facebook_news_feed_screenshots_1.0The 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.

It is interesting to see that while it is providing an option to select favourite brand pages to pop up at the top of the Facebook News Feed, at the same time it hasn’t provided an option to “unfollow” a list of brands who are spamming the News Feed with their boring content. However Facebook said that its overarching goal with the new settings is to make your News Feed show you things you care about across the board — whether that means making it so your favorite friends and pages show up at the top of your feed, removing friends whose posts you don’t want to see, or adding pages that show you content you care about.

These new settings are first rolling out in Facebook’s iOS app, and they’ll be available on Android and on the web within the next few weeks.

This isn’t the first time Facebook is providing News Feed control to users. Earlier in the month of April, Facebook introduced three major changes – 1. Priority to content posted by friends, 2. More posts from same source in a row, and 3. Hiding posts that say what friends liked or commented on a post.

Prior to that last year Facebook wielded a stong axe on “Like-baiting”, frequently circulated content and spammy links.

Should marketers be worried?

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.

These changes once again send clear messages to brands that they will have to invest more on content marketing strategies. Facebook isn’t against promoting content – in fact it has made favourable announcements for advertisers in the past – but brands will have to work hard. “Facebook is a funny place for marketers because it’s the sort of channel that lets you humanize but at the same time, you have to pay to play. If you look at all the algorithms and every message you put out, two or three people are going to actually seek out your content,” Gerry Moran, global head of social media and content marketing for Cognizant Technology Solutions said.

“[See First] is part of the evolution and it will make content marketers work harder to catch the attention and mind-share of the reader or consumer,” Moran says. “The onus is on the marketer to put out great stuff.”

The math is simple – Facebook knows that for growing its revenues it will have to hold its users first and at the same time compel brands to create interesting content. The latest update is one more serious step in the direction of making the News Feed relevant, fun and human by Facebook.