On January 12th, Mark Zuckerberg notified us that a change is in the works and it involves the Facebook Algorithm.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it, do this first:
Take a deep breath and repeat after me….” It's just an algorithm”
An algorithm is nothing more than a formula applied to a situation to come up with a solution.
So, how does this apply to Facebook? Well, the fact of the matter is that there are just too many people posting on Facebook. On the one hand, this is great! On the other, it presents a unique challenge to Facebook.
What's the challenge you ask?
Answer: What should Facebook show within your newsfeed at any given moment in time?
Popular options include:
- Show every post that a friend makes.
- Business owners would like to believe that they should show every post that they make on their business page to the people following it.
- Group Administrators would like for you to see the posts made in the group to which you belong to.
- Advertisers are paying to have their posts placed in front of you, therefore they should be shown.
With over 2 billion daily active users on Facebook, it simply isn't possible to appease everyone. So Facebook's solution was to develop a set of rules that would, in a way, rank the content to determine what a user would most likely want to see in the Facebook newsfeed. This is what we call the Facebook algorithm.
So what did Zuckerberg say and what does it really mean?
But first, a disclaimer. The translation below represents my own views and not necessarily the views of Facebook. To be clear – I do not work for Facebook.
Zuckerberg: “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That's why we've always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”
Translation: Facebook wants to be a place you come to improve your life and strengthen relationships. They don't want you to waste your time, but rather, they want your experience to be a positive one where you leave feeling just a little better than you were when you logged in.
Zuckerberg: “But recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
It's easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other.”
Translation: A lot of people are posting a lot of stuff and on the grand scheme of life, a lot of it isn't really that important. It doesn't contribute to Facebook's goal of strengthening relationships, improving well-being and being happy.
Zuckerberg: “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being. So we've studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.
The 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. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they're entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”
Translation: Facebook understands that they have your attention and they don't want to stir the pot, so to speak. Instead, they want you to do more of what makes you happy, and less of what doesn't.
Zuckerberg: “Based on this, we're making a major change to how we build Facebook. I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
Translation: It's not about what's happening today in the world. It's about what's happening today in your life.
Zuckerberg: “We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you'll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
Translation: Expect more posts from friends, family and the groups you've elected to be a part of to appear in your Newsfeed.
Zuckerberg: “As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.
For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We've seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.”
Translation: If you're a business, brand or media, then you better be posting content that is meaningful to the viewer. This means that it's not about what the business wants to push in front of the viewer, but rather about what the viewer deems meaningful to them. Facebook also knows that certain events are extremely important to some viewers, and they won't stop showing those videos, but they will stop showing pointless, time-wasting videos. If you're a business, consider using Live videos because they spark engagement between the person streaming and the viewer in real time. By sparking conversations, this tells the Facebook algorithm that a video or post is meaningful to the user.
Zuckerberg: “Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”
Translation: Fewer people viewing your posts, by default, results in less engagement. But don't despair, adjust your content plan accordingly and the lower engagement should only be temporary.
Zuckerberg: “At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.”
Translation: Facebook cares about their audience and they realize that some people may not like this. But this isn't about those people. It's about the people that want to experience important moments with the entities that mean the most to them at that time.