Did you tune in to the Facebook Live event featuring Facebook VP of Product for News Feed Adam Mosseri and Facebook’s new Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown? No? Don’t worry – we did. Here’s the tl;dw:
Mosseri didn’t reveal any secret insights on the way the News Feed works but did confirm the prevailing mantra: quality content wins the day in News Feed. “The most important input into what you see in your News Feed,” says Mosseri, “is who you’ve decided to friend, and what publishers you’ve decided to follow in the first place.”
First, he says, the News Feed considers who posted the content. We will see posts from people we engage with (Like, Comment, Click, Share) more frequently than other content. In other words, engaging content begets engagement, which leads to more exposure to those repeat eyes. Your audience isn’t necessarily your pool of fans, it’s the group of fans who are actively engaging with your content. That’s why it’s important to regularly study what content is the least engaging so you can correct your posting practices. (This research is easily done by going to your SND Dashboard Post Manager and reverse-sorting your recent posts by “engagement.” Ask your SND Client Strategy Specialist how.)
Second, says Mosseri, the News Feed gives individuals more content in the post types that they seem to prefer to consume. Do you watch a lot of video in your News Feed? Facebook will give you more video. Do you browse through a lot of pictures? Posts with multiple pictures will get a little edge. Do you follow a lot of links? Links to a specific source? Links have always been the news media’s best friend in News Feed, so if you want your fans to see more of your Link style posts, make sure those posts are attractive to click. Then if you have stories later that are harder to tease, the News Feed will be more forgiving if you get lower engagement in those instances. Posting quality content isn’t just about the clicks today, it’s about filling your tank for clicks tomorrow.
Third, he says, overall engagement is considered into the equation. That’s a no brainer, right? If you have better engagement than other sources, you’re considered a better contributor and given more juice in the News Feed. But consider: engagement is a percentage of interaction against the total number of people who Like your page, so having more fans and followers is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be! If, hypothetically, you have 500 engaged fans, it’s better to have 1,000 total followers than 2,000 (50% engagement vs. 25% engagement).
And the final ingredient, says Mosseri, is time. When was the post made? When was the last time someone engaged with the post? (Or, more specifically, when was the last time one of your friends engaged with the post, or when did someone engage with a post that you already engaged with?) This is actually two points: new posts with zero engagement will be seen towards the tops of most News Feeds. And posts that receive frequent, ongoing engagement will keep recycling and recycling; that’s how viral posts go viral, of course.
The reason there isn’t a “magic solution” to game News Feed’s logic is because every audience is different. That doesn’t just go from industry to industry, but from publisher to publisher and market to market. Understanding who your audience is and how they respond to different subjects and types of content is key says Mosseri. Regular attention must be paid to your metrics, which is something that is very easy to do in the SND Dashboard. The idea is not necessarily to post more quality over quantity, but to post a great quantity of quality. Find out what works, and keep doing it until it doesn’t work anymore. “People ask about how much to post.” Mosseri puts it, “The key is to post as much as you can that people would find engaging.”
“With Facebook Live,” says Mosseri, “everyone’s waiting for an outcome.”
Facebook Live often gets treated like another medium for traditional legacy media “sit down and talk at you” practices. But what Mosseri sees is that users want to be shown a story, to go along with you as something is happening now.
Another point brought up by Brown was that Facebook has been taking the initiative to slow the stream of fake news. She points to recent updates which have made it easier to report disreputable or spammy sources. Those reports then go to third party fact checking organizations in the U.S. (and soon to the rest of the world) to fact check those articles. Mosseri says Facebook then flags those articles and gives them less organic exposure. While the News Feed logic does include some measure of protection, still the responsibility falls mostly to human judgement.
Facebook is also doing what they can to disrupt the financial incentives of “fake news” says Brown. Fake news providers are born from the desire to make money on ad impressions. They’ll post whatever they can to get your attention, then translate those impressions into advertiser dollars. They’ll post a lot hoping for that one viral hit. When that spike happens, Mosseri says it’s an “ongoing work” to identify those traffic spikes, verify the content, and then bury it. They hope that by doing this frequently, the hoax sites will have less incentive to invent clickbait and slow down if not completely shut down their operation. The threat if disinformation will never completely go away, but Mosseri says Facebook’s goal is to make it so disinformation doesn’t get so much exposure.
There are, of course, some instances where content is unfairly flagged because users simply disagree with the content. But Mosseri says the truly “fake” content gets flagged more often than content flagged out of spite, and that’s where the third party fact checkers come in to evaluate the merits of the flag.
Mosseri says that original posts and the reshare of that same post are going to be weighted independently of one another. The News Feed ranking doesn’t do anything to automatically downplay the exposure of a link shared only a day or two after the original, but it’s important to consider the merits of the content he says.
For example, it’s easy to want to post an “ICYMI” post on a Saturday of something that might not have gotten a lot of exposure during the week for the sake of filling content over slow weekends. But if that content didn’t get a lot of attention at 10:00 on a Thursday morning, it probably won’t play at any time on a Saturday afternoon either. Poor engagement is rarely a fluke; it’s a reflection of the content quality. The News Feed is now more than ever driven by a pattern of user behavior.
Now consider your main weather page. The URL to your main weather page is probably the single most repeated post on your entire site. Perhaps you have a specific time of day where you would normally share the day’s weather and drop that link in there. Sharing that same link over and over again isn’t on its’ face damaging to your organic reach so long as something click-worthy is happening in the weather. But not every day is a severe weather day. On normal or “boring” weather days, that URL will fall flat.
It’s okay to repeat a post in a considerably small window, but you need to consider the merits of your effort. What is new? What is so interesting about this link that my audience needs to see it again?
Facebook recently announced a ranking change in video which Brown brought up during the interview. Mosseri believes that generally “shorter” video performs better on mobile devices and so performs better overall, but the recent ranking change was introduced to make sure that videos over 90 seconds receive fair exposure. Mosseri said they were concerned that longer videos were being unfairly downplayed. The overall impression seems to be that the definitions of “long” and “short” are still being sorted out. Facebook is constantly making changes based on ranking results and user feedback.
One of the more concrete tips from Mosseri had to do with the age-old debate over how to deal with breaking news on Facebook. Mosseri says, in a breaking news situation, it’s best to keep updating the original story (and the original post) so long as the updated details are minor. There will be a threshold of new information that will demand you create a new post for that story, but until that time – updating the original with minor changes isn’t going to punish you in the News Feed says Mosseri.
Finally, an oldy-but-a-goody was asked, are there specific calls to action that get you flagged? It’s always been conventional wisdom that you should never literally ask someone to Like, Comment or Share a post. Mosseri says the News Feed doesn’t scan for those words by itself, but that those types of posts tend to get flagged and Mosseri says they are attempts to game the ranking. Instead he says, let the content speak for itself: Amber Alerts are implicitly posted to share, stories that invite conversation will organically do so (especially if you literally ask a question in your post), and there’s no telling what a user will Like so there’s no sense in asking them to “Like if.”
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