DigitalNews Today: How Facebook's Changing News Feed Could Dictate The Future Of Content Marketing

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How Facebook's Changing News Feed Could Dictate The Future Of Content Marketing

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Much in the same way that Google constantly refines its search algorithm by launching new updates and making tweaks, Facebook refines how it relates to users by updating its newsfeed display. To the average user, nothing is changing—these introductions are gradual and subtle, designed to be almost imperceptible while still improving the overall experience. However, the rapid-fire nature of these updates in the past few years and the scope of Facebook’s vision for the future are having a profound effect on the future of content marketing and how people use social media.

I want to start by taking a look at some of the significant updates that have shaped today’s average user newsfeed (aside from updates that have filtered out spam and hoaxes).

Increased Search Functionality
In December 2014, Facebook introduced multiple new search features for its users. Among these were a keyword-based search that allows users to look for old posts that were shared with them by certain other friends, and a feature that allows users to search for specific apps. This was the first major leap forward in terms of Facebook’s search functionality, but it wasn’t until 2015 that it developed a new kind of search engine altogether.

In May 2015, Facebook developed a search bar on its mobile app that allows you to search for specific articles on the web that you mean to share. When drafting a post, you now have the option to search the web for the article you have in mind. Here’s the catch—this doesn’t run on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It’s an independent, fully functional web search bar created by Facebook, and it could serve as a precursor to further search functionality in the future.

Neither of these search-based updates have a direct effect on how Facebook populates your newsfeed, but they do play into Facebook’s apparent long-term strategy, as we shall see.

Friends Over Pages
Businesses were understandably nervous when Google announced in April 2015 that it would be prioritizing content from Facebook friends in individuals’ newsfeeds over any content produced by business pages. This is the latest extension of what is objectively a decline in the organic reach of branded posts. Part of this is motivated by Facebook’s desire to sell more advertising; if you can’t get this level of reach for free, you’re forced to pay for it. But more of this is motivated by Facebook’s desire to have each individual’s newsfeed to be as customized as possible to that individual.

Following this update, Facebook introduced a “See First” option in June 2015. Originally, Facebook users were able to filter out certain types of posts in their newsfeed by blocking individual users or setting up specific post filters. Now, users can choose friends and followed pages to “see first” in their newsfeeds. Users can prioritize the types of people and posts they see at the top of their newsfeed, adding to the customizable experience.

New Article Formatting
Perhaps the most significant update in Facebook’s newsfeed came in May of 2015, when Facebook introduced its “Instant Article” functionality. Facebook and publishers alike have begun to notice that articles generate significant volumes of traffic once shared on Facebook, compared to if they were simply left on the publisher’s main page. In fact, many Facebook users simply discern the content of articles through the osmosis-like process of seeing a headline and brief description pop in their newsfeeds.

Rather than fight these qualities, Facebook decided to enhance them. With Instant Articles, major publishers can submit their articles directly to Facebook, cutting out the “middle man” of visiting publishers’ sites. It’s a mixed bag for publishers—they’ll be sacrificing web traffic, but the move could actually increase their number of readers.

Two Goals for Facebook
Facebook hasn’t said much about its motivation for all these updates, other than the standard “improving user experience” type of jargon. But looking closely at the cumulative effects of these adjustments, I would guess that Facebook has two main goals:
To give users a truly customizable experience, so that every newsfeed is specifically catered to the individual user.
To give users an all-in-one platform to serve all their online needs.
To the first point, we see the new newsfeed controls, search functions, and article listings. To the second, we see integrated online search, immediate articles, and even buy buttons—which I didn’t even mention above since it’s only peripherally related to newsfeeds.

Facebook is trying to expand the “experience” of a social media platform, giving users more robust functionality while catering to the individual. I believe this sets an important tone for the future of both content marketing and social media marketing, as users will grow demanding of more individualized, custom experiences in the content they read and in the pages they follow. Such a shift is bound to happen gradually, but savvy brands should pay attention and start preparing for this change today.

Customizable Content and Integrated Features
Facebook isn’t alone in these two goals. Google is trying to do more for individual users with predictive search queries and Knowledge Graph presentations. Twitter is offering more live feeds of content, and a news feature called Moments that seeks to uproot journalism at its core. It’s only a matter of time before other platforms get on board.

If you want to be successful when these paradigm shifts hit the market, you’ll have to prioritize your presence on these platforms and create material with a laser-focus on certain types of users. In the meantime, the best thing for you to do is keep reading the news, watching for these updates, and make iterative changes to your strategy as you learn more.

Originally written by Jayson DeMers on Forbes,com

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