Will Facebook's News Feed changes lead to better brand content?

BBDO New York, MEC, Deutsch and others weigh in on the new algorithm

Once again, Facebook is keeping adland on its toes, changing the algorithm of its New Feed.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Adam Mosseri, vice president of News Feed Product Management, said that the social platform is adjusting the priority of posts in New Feeds to emphasize personal content. Posts from friends and family will appear higher than posts from Pages, accounts that belong to brands, businesses and publishers.

The 10-year-old social media platform, which has a user base of more than a billion people, is making this change to better align with the first of its "News Feed Values" — friends and family come first. There is simply "far too much information for any one person to consume," Mosseri said.

 Of course, this means posts from brand and publisher pages will drop to the bottom of users’ News Feeds. "We anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages," said Lars Backstrom, engineering director at Facebook, in another blog post on Wednesday.

"The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience," he said. There will be "less of an impact" for Pages that receive their referral traffic from shares than there will be for those that get the majority of their traffic from posts placed on Pages. 

The News Feed change follows similar adjustments Facebook made to its Instagram algorithm earlier this month.

Campaign US asked industry experts about the impact of this shift.

While some believe the move will benefit brands and publishers, others think that they’ll have to resort to increasing their ad spend. Still, all agree that brands and publishers will have to step up their game.

Julian Cole, Head of Communications Planning, BBDO New York

This is going to be great for marketers and advertisers. The vast majority of brands are still holding on to an old view of how social works, which assumes organic reach is a valuable channel. This will hopefully help put another nail in the coffin of this outdated view.

The average reach for big brands was under 2% for organic post reach. This could drive it closer to 0.02%, which in our view is good because it will compel brands to focus on the quality of work being pushed out via paid media to the feed, rather than the quantity of organic work.

Noah Mallin, Head of Social, MEC North America

There is no question that this puts publishers in a tougher spot. Brands are already pay-to-play, so publishers and branded content have been a way to increase exposure without necessarily running a buy. It's hard to say what impact this will have on traffic. I would still expect publisher content to perform better organically than content posted by brands.

This does tell us a few key things: Facebook really wants platform specific content to take hold. Publishers will resort to more paid promotion. The upside is that the new rule around tagging brands in publisher's branded content will give insight into how much traffic is being driven by paid versus organic. Expect even more prominent share buttons and calls to action on publisher content.

Greg March, CEO, Noble People

Facebook is and should be constantly balancing the platform between what is most engaging for its users and most valuable for advertisers.  Historically they made the former a huge priority and expect the brands/advertisers to take what's left over and be thankful. Facebook's scale, ability to target, reliable in-view (yet small) ads are not matched by many alternatives.  

They are rigorously exploiting their market advantage and increasing the price of their scarce resources.  You can increase "price" by raising what the media costs. But you can also do it by devaluing each brand's 'free' intrusions on their 'followers'. Now brands have to get better at managing their pages and pay more money to keep their audience engaged.

Chris Gilbert, Senior Social Strategist, Kettle

Brands that still heavily rely on organic marketing will see the biggest decline in reach. For media-first brands, organic reach typically lives as a small share of overall reach.  

It’s no coincidence that as we continue to hear of concerning ad blocker and bot fraud metrics, Facebook happens to make two major changes that heighten the need for paid spend on their platforms: this recent algorithm change and the new Instagram one. The company appears to be capitalizing on their prime position within the current state of digital media, though with subtle, sugar-coated moves that help mitigate potential backlash. It’s certainly smart comm strategy at the very least.

Meghan McCormick, Social Strategy Director, Deutsch New York

Agencies, publishers and brands are going to have to get serious about the amount of money they’re allocating to promote content. No longer is paid support a "nice to have." It is a "need to have" to reach and retain their target and drive traffic at levels similar to what they're seeing now.
They need to create work that resonates with consumers in a way that doesn’t feel like a jarring intrusion on the content they are seeing from their friends and family. When it comes to delivering content on Facebook, it should be interesting and informative, and it should be entertaining.  

Leif Eng, Strategist, Firstborn

The effect on brands and publishers will undoubtedly be negative – Facebook’s stated goal is to deprioritize their content. While the effect may be less severe for certain parties, non-personal pages will take a hit.

For brands, the need to invest in paid advertising through the platform will increase. Making great content will not be enough to draw a large audience — driving significant views/traffic through personal shares alone is an incredibly lofty goal.

Publishers will, theoretically, be affected less, given that appealing content is the foundation of their relationship with the consumer. That said, most would need to adjust their content strategy (or invest in paid promotion) to achieve the same reach that they enjoyed. 

Karan Dang, Digital Creative Director, 180LA

This is a good thing. There is a flood of content available for people online to consume. They don't care about what values a brand has or what heritage it came from. As marketers our job is to make that messaging relatable. More often than not, users skip content that is about the brand. This is why people are switching to platforms such as Snapchat to consume genuine content. Facebook's algorithm was brand friendly and consumers got a sense of it.

This will definitely make marketers work harder to create content that users will want to engage with and share. As a result, content will be better and brands will have an opportunity to be more relatable and less self-serving.

Arthur Ceria, CEO, CreativeFeed

The new algorithm change will affect publishers more than it will affect brands. It is only brands who pay for sponsored native content that might feel an indirect impact. 

For publishers that have taken a content-first approach, like BuzzFeed's Tasty and The New York Times, the impact might be minimized because they have continuously posted engaging and relevant content.

The changes might be felt more by publishers that focus on pushing sponsored content for brands that is too promotional or misleading or just generally not appealing. Those need to reconsider how they are presenting information and approaching the use of social media. 

Kim Jimenez, Senior Social Strategist, Omelet

With Facebook prioritizing posts that inform and entertain, we honestly see this as an opportunity to make even better content for the brands that we work with. This new update can be a challenge if you let it, but with a focus on quality over quantity we can set a high bar for content that people will actually want in their News Feed.  It’s just about being scrappy and flexible enough to come up with innovative solutions.

Lux Narayan, CEO, Unmetric

While this could affect traffic for some, it’s another important reminder for content creators to do more of what they should be doing, creating content focused less on selling and more on providing value. There's a reason "Tasty" recipe videos do so well; they inform, entertain and are the perfect content to invite comments and shares. By default, good content marketing will — and should — garner more attention and engagement.

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