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So Facebook is getting (more) personal

I’d welcome hearing the opinions, recommendations of my friends and family who mean something to me, instead of believing stories just because an ‘influencer’ claims it to be true
/ 05:02 AM February 06, 2018

—ASSETS USED FROM JORDAN DÍAZ ANDRÉS AND NICK BLUTH OF NOUN PROJECT, ILLUSTRATION BY JAKE SECO

Facebook has introduced sweeping changes in the kinds of posts its more than 2 billion members will often see. It says it will now prioritize what friends and family share and comment on, while de-emphasizing nonadvertising content from publishers and brands.

Users will see fewer viral videos and news articles shared by media companies and brands. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts that friends have interacted with—for instance, a status update that many have commented on, or a photo of your baby that they liked.

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More conversations

The goal is to encourage users to have more conversations and connections with friends, rather than being bombarded by brands.

FEATURED STORIES

The announcement came after Facebook faced criticism for months over what it shows people, and amid debate on how its site has negatively influenced millions of users.

Facebook has, for instance, been questioned about how its algorithms may have prioritized misleading news, resulting in divisive and inflammatory posts that influenced the 2016 United States presidential election.

In the Philippines, that setup appears to have also created polarized views about President Duterte’s war on drugs.

The repercussions of these news feed changes will almost certainly be far-reaching. Publishers, small business and many other groups rely on the social network to reach people, so de-emphasizing their posts will most likely hurt them.

Publishers and brands

Facebook said its new ranking system will hurt nonadvertising content from publishers and brands, like news stories and viral video posts, but not change the ranking of advertising that has been paid for. That will leave businesses that want publicity on Facebook no choice but to spend more on advertising.

With different, less viral types of content on the news feed, the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will likely go down.

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However, we can expect that the time they do spend on Facebook will actually be more valuable. There may be less opportunity to expose users to brands, but this opportunity to get in front of users will have more impact.

Facebook wants users to stop aimlessly scrolling and surfing the news feed and instead stay and interact.

Public content will be held to the same standards—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

I, for one, am tired of seeing trolls and people who claim to be influencers inject ideas that are not based on facts, or worse, based on fake, biased news.

I welcome hearing the opinions and recommendations of my friends and family who mean something to me, instead of believing stories just because an “influencer” with a million followers said so.

Positive takeaway

Is there a positive takeaway for brands from this change?

Amending the network’s system to encourage more personal posts may benefit brands by having more thorough data on users that they are targeting.

By data, I am not talking about metrics that Facebook or other social media platforms provide. Rather, I am referring to actual listening and more interaction.

In short, brands and publishers need not reinvent the wheel. To stay relevant, they should listen to what their target audience is talking about, understand needs and address them, rather than bombarding the audience with stories that are not actually relevant to them.

Staying relevant

I do not claim to be an expert in digital marketing, but I have been an avid observer of the changes, from the print publishing days in the 1990s to digital publishing. And I’ve observed that one thing has not changed: If you stay relevant to your audience, your audience will find its way to you.

Case in point (like I said, I’m just an observer, so I’m using my nephew as a case): I have an 8-year-old nephew who’s glued to the internet, thanks to YouTube and online games. I was saddened that he would not grow up to love printed books and magazines as much as I do. The only way I can encourage him to read is through Kindle, because it’s on the iPad.

I was surprised that he started ordering books on Amazon.

Okay, so it was Captain Underpants, but the point is, the content was relevant enough to him that it didn’t matter what platform it came on.

Facebook simply wants to stay relevant. It doesn’t want to be a publisher or news editor. (Sure, perhaps at some point it probably did, when Mark Zuckerberg envisioned Facebook to be a social infrastructure for the community to encourage civic engagement, only to end up encouraging divisive views and political discourse. But I digress.)

It wants to be a social network and deliver what is actually relevant to the lives of its users. Zuckerberg chose long-term relationships over short-term profits. Is that so bad?

Perhaps this forces the media, the publishers (or content developers, as they’re often referred to nowadays) to face the fact that digital advertising will never sustain the industry—if they are irrelevant to their audience to begin with. —CONTRIBUTED

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