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Getting in Facebook’s Head

Understanding the Recent News Feed Changes

In case you missed it, on Jan 11 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook made an announcement that Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm would be changing rather dramatically to show more personally relevant and oriented posts that encourage real engagement with other people.

This move is designed to get away from the passive consumption of “social media fast food” purveyors which has caused this particular marketer to cynically rename Facebook “Wastebook” because of the time sucking nature of the platform (I’m not sure that this has changed but we’ll see). Basically, it appears that The Zucks was trying to get back to the roots of Facebook:

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.We built…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, 11 January 2018

 

Facebook: The Big Campfire for Everyone To Gather Around

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

Now whilst I don’t doubt the truth of that statement we all know that Facebook is a very expensive platform that went public in 2012 at $38USD per share (that’s $90B clams); by August of that year a share was worth $20.11 (ouch) however by Feb 2014 Facebook hit a cruising altitude of $68.06 per share (that’s $173.35B). Today you won’t get much change out of $200 per share for Facebook as it sits at $180+ per share.

Okay enough boring stuff. Facebook was expensive to build, it is expensive to run and it’s worth a lot of money to a lot of people. Facebook needs to stay in the game and this is their long game strategy coming into play.

Further to his January 11th statements, Zuck made the following comments on the 31st of Jan:

“We estimate these updates decreased time spent on Facebook by roughly 5% in the fourth quarter. To put that another way: we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by an estimated 50 million hours every day to make sure people’s time is well spent. That’s how serious we are about this.”

 “… Now, building a stronger community also means delivering on our product roadmap for the next 3, 5 and 10 years.”

Like I said, this is a long game strategy.

No Seriously, So What’s the Rub

“In this case, it intuitively makes sense. If people interact more, that should lead to a stronger community. And we already know that time in News Feed interacting with people is more profitable than time passively consuming video or news. When you care about something, you’re willing to see ads to experience it. But if you just come across a viral video, then you’re more likely to skip over it if you see an ad.”

Whoomp there it is

Yep. If you want to sell ads you need quality programming to make the ads work. You also need to stop giving away air time for free.

“So we’ve studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.”

You don’t think they were just paying for those university studies to make sure we feel like we’re being embraced by a pink fluffy life-sized panda doll we won from the Sydney Easter show, do you?

I know. I’m being cynical but I think we need to get real about why this change was made. I want to believe that Marky Mark is thinking about people but I think it’s more a case of the old Australian adage of shearing the sheep rather than shooting them.

Not Enough Information

I have a suspicion, but not the time or the skillset to research it (if someone reading this does please let me know). I have a suspicion that seeing how Facebook and Google (as well as any other company who saw what was coming down the pipe when it comes to big data – Cambridge Analytica anyone?) is so invested in AI to make sense of the masses of data they have at their disposal that potentially the current Newsfeed setup wasn’t giving them the sort of data they needed to reach their long term goals. Those goals being to make themselves inextricably embedded in a significant portion of the average person’s life.

Just consider the future of these developments:

  • Facebook Watch – Facebook’s on demand video service. (https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/08/introducing-watch-a-new-platform-for-shows-on-facebook/)
  • Facebook Stories – Facebook’s answer to Snapchat refusing their buyout overtures in 2013. Available on Instagram too.
  • Facebook Groups – Facebook’s answer to that bygone web 1.0 medium – the forum – popular in the 00’s. Sans all the nastiness that used to accompany forums.
  • Facebook Market Place – Facebook’s Craigslist, Gum Tree etc. local trading post killer. Albeit much safer for buyer and sellers than any of these platforms due to the removal of anonymity.
  • Facebook Messenger – Keeping you connected … and tied into their platform.

“Over the next 10 years, we’re working on the foundational technologies needed to bring the world closer together.

Our goal with AI is to understand the meaning of all the content on Facebook to help us build better services. In addition to making it easier to get people the help they need and remove harmful content, this will also help us show more content that encourages connection and conversation.

Let’s summarise:

  • Facebook want to understand you better. The real you, the one not being goaded into conversations by “engagement bait” or some troll. Facebook does very deep thinking on deep levels about this. (For more insight you should take a look at their research website – they’ve been busy: https://research.fb.com/research-areas/)
  • Facebook eventually wants to be essential to your day-to-day because you are a captive audience to advertise to. This isn’t new. Google is doing a good job of it but they failed in the social media department. Facebook is going to be right there to use their privileged position and the 1000+ terabytes (1 petabyte per day – the equivalent of 13.3 years of HD video footage) of data they receive per day to fold themselves into our lives as inextricably as possible. Google actually processes 20 petabytes of data per day so …
  • Facebook is doing this to give their platform longevity and to make them much more profitable.
  • They seem to be interested in sanitising the internet for us as well. Google is doing the same. It’s a tricky line to walk. How far is too far and who decides what is fake news and what a valid opinion in a debate.

Wrapping Up This Ball of Twine

I think it’s important to understand where a platform is going to understand the philosophy underpinning their day-to-day actions. This is the type of thinking successful businesses use. They use their goals as rules to measure each action by. This in turn helps you as a user of the platform to adapt your strategy so you get play in the pool and achieve your goals.

Next week I’ll be publishing a post on practical steps and strategies for getting the most organic reach you can based on things that Mark Zuckerberg has said and observations that we’ve made since the changes took place.

 

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