Facebook makes Pages’ organic reach in News Feed even more dependent on shares

To stay in the friend zone, Facebook will take a harder look at whether friends are sharing a Page's post before putting it in people's feeds.

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It’s a weekday, so there’s a good chance Facebook is recalibrating its all-important News Feed algorithm. And as is often the case that means Pages will have a tougher time getting unpaid placements in people’s feeds.

This time around Facebook is making Pages’ organic reach even more dependent on people sharing Page posts with their friends.

“If a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts,” Facebook engineering director Lars Backstrom said in a company blog post announcing the latest news feed algorithm tweak.

Why is Facebook doing this? Because Facebook wants to stay in the friend zone. The social network has been pretty regularly recalibrating its news feed algorithm over the past few years to better sift through all the posts from friends, family members, brands, publishers and celebrities to find the ones that someone will most likely want to see. It’s even added ways for people to hand-pick whose posts they most want to see atop their news feeds.

But Facebook says people are still worried that, instead of engagement announcements, baby photos or new job alerts, they’re seeing cooking videos, celebrity livestreams and Instant Articles. Okay, Facebook didn’t say that because Facebook would never say that. Instead the company just said “people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about.”

This is a problem for Facebook, which has reportedly seen double-digit drops in personal posts according to The Information. If people can’t rely on Facebook to keep them up-to-date with friends and family, then maybe they’ll find another platform they can rely on. Maybe that other platform is named Snapchat.

So sometime soon — technically “over the coming weeks,” which in Facebook parlance means after today but before the end of days — Facebook will adjust its news feed algorithm to, once again, prioritize “the things posted by the friends you care about.”

“Friends” means people, not Pages. But the latest news feed algorithm update isn’t all pain for Pages. Sure, Facebook’s been pay-to-play for brand Pages for years and could be headed that way for other types of Pages if Facebook thinks their posts are devaluing people’s feeds. But we’re not there yet. We may never get there if the aforementioned drop in personal posts means, instead of people sharing their statuses, they’re sharing cooking videos, celebrity livestreams and Instant Articles. That would explain how the “share” has usurped the “like” as the all-important Facebook metric for Pages, a status Facebook’s latest news feed update appears to cement.

In keeping with its “friends and family first” ethos, Facebook will give a person’s friends and family more control over which Page posts make it in their feeds, even if that person directly follow a Page. As Backstrom mentioned, if a lot of people are sharing a Page’s posts with their friends and those friends like or comment on it a lot, then that Page shouldn’t see its organic reach shrink that much.

Of course there’s a chicken-and-egg problem here: If people aren’t already sharing a Page’s posts en masse, how’s that Page supposed to get their newly more shareable posts in front of people in the first place? Hmm….

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.

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