Facebook’s New Algorithm is Affecting What Content You See

On January 11th, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be changing its News Feed algorithm to prioritize content from “friends, family, and groups.” His goal was to bring it back to friends and family again instead of viral videos and media posts.

In January, Zuckerberg stated, “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to help you have more meaningful social interactions… Research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long-term measures of happiness and health.”

Zuckerberg hopes to bring people of Facebook ‘closer together.’ In turn, stories will get de-prioritized and conversations that Facebook thinks will spark a lot of engagement will get boosted.

Adam Mosseri, a former VP of Facebook’s News Feed Management tweeted, “Facebook is looking at both what people do in reaction to and what people say about their interactions on Facebook. Much of what we’ve learned is relative, intuitive, such as longer comments tend to be more meaningful to the recipient than shorter ones.” Last year, advertisers spent a colossal $39.4 billion on sponsored content for Facebook. However, most of them would struggle to explain to you how Facebook ranks its News Feed content.

Co-founder and COO at CPC Strategy, Nii Ahene, states that “Facebook is taking a cue from Google to curate content based on a metric of relevance, or trust. Similar to Google’s use of backlinks, Facebook has been forthcoming about its use of engagement for ranking content. This transparency is an opportunity for advertisers to better understand the algorithm and optimize.”

However, more than a year after Facebook made these changes to “make us feel better”, new data suggests people are still sharing and seeing the same old stuff as before.

NewsWhip, an analytics company that tracks how content spreads across Facebook, put out a new report looking at how last year’s News Feed changes have affected what’s being shared on Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg announced sweeping changes to News Feed last January, promising that “we feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.” As a result, he said, the company would be making adjustments to News Feed in order to optimize for “helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” rather than pure engagement.

Engagement is much higher than in 2018

Engagement — likes, comments, shares, reactions — has risen. For the first few months of this year, it was 50 percent higher than it was in 2018, and about 10 percent higher than it was in 2017 (which, remember, included Trump’s inauguration, large-scale protests, and the chaotic early days of his presidency).

According to studies compared to the past two years, the algorithm changes have increased engagement. According to NewsWhip, engagement is “way up” in 2019 compared with the previous two years. “2019 to date has seen the most engagement on its content with over 6 billion engagements to English language web content already this year,” NewsWhip writes. 

A new study says that engagement has rebounded significantly in 2019 – but with specific types and sources of content. The study concluded a 54 percent increase in Web Content Management via social media. This can range from images, videos (live and native), shared articles, status, and links.

In regards to content, the study showed that live videos (not native videos) compromised the lowest percentage of top-performing post content formats – with photos dominating the top 10,000 posts and native videos following close behind.

The Four Factors That Determine Your Content Ranking

The Facebook Algorithm is a process that ranks all available posts that can display on a user’s News Feed based on how likely that user will have a positive reaction. It’s important to understand that the goal of the News Feed is to “show stories that matter to users,” according to Adam Mosseri, VP of Facebook’s News Feed Management.

1. The Inventory of all posts available to display. It represents the total stock of all content available that can display to a user on Facebook’s News Feed, including everything posted from friends and publishers.

2. Signals that tell Facebook what each post is. This represents all the information Facebook can gather about a piece of content. They are the single factor that advertisers have control over (what type of content, the publisher, its age, purpose, and more). Your content needs to signal to Facebook that it’s meaningful and relevant to your target audience.

3. Predictions on how you will react to each post. This represents the behavior of a user and how likely they are predicted to have a positive interaction with a content piece.

4. A Final Score assigned to the content based on all factors considered. The score is the final number to a piece of content based on the likelihood the user will respond positively.

So, how do you ensure your content is meaningful and engaging not only through your audience’s eyes but through Facebook’s eyes? Be a conversation starter. Although you may be talking through screens, your content should spark conversations so it feels more personalized. You want to create positive interactions between you and your target audience. Don’t just focus on consumption – your content should prompt people to stop, interact, and share with one another.