Last year, Facebook announced it would begin adjusting their news feed algorithm in response to users who were concerned about missing updates from friends and family—and both publishers and brands cringed hard.
In late June, the social network announced it would do it again, making it clear that highlighting content produced by friends and family was their highest priority. The news, while not unexpected, has been a huge blow to companies across social media. Not everyone was surprised at the news, though.
Everyone Shares on Facebook
“I think it’s a characteristic of Facebook that we’ve always understood,” Melissa Bell, vice president of growth at Vox Media, explained in an interview with the New York Times. “Facebook, at the end of the day, is a place where people want to share things that matter to them, whether it’s a news story or their child walking.”
Despite the algorithm change, Vox Media intends to continue its social media marketing experiments, like many other marketing firms that aren’t sure they have other options. According to a 2016 study by Pew Research, 44 percent of American adults regularly read news content on Facebook. A separate study by Parse.ly, a digital publishing analytics company, indicated that more than 40 percent of referral traffic to news sites comes directly from Facebook, so there may be no jumping off the social media bandwagon cold turkey.
Drop in Reach Expected?
Although Facebook has said it expects a drop in reach and referral traffic for publishers whose audience primarily comes from content published directly through their page, as opposed to items that are shared or comments that are made to content, many publishers are hopeful that there won’t be much need for change to their current strategy.
Kinsey Wilson, executive vice president for product and technology at the New York Times, indicated that he doesn’t expect the algorithm change to result in a change to the Times’ social marketing approach, adding, “I think we’ll simply have to watch it.”
Even so, smaller publishers are concerned that the algorithm change will mean big waves in their little ponds. This may mean more commercial traffic for other social sites like Twitter or Snapchat or even an increase in paid search. Only time will tell.