Facebook has rolled out the latest tweaks to its News Feed algorithm with the promise that it places posts from friends and family at the heart of its work. But what does this mean for brands and businesses looking for organic traffic on the social network?
The latest round of updates to the News Feed have again focused on the background work of the platform, deciding how posts are ranked based on a user's interests, previous interactions and their relative 'closeness' to any given Facebook friend. As Facebook notes, with more than 1bn people using the platform, the concern is now managing the flow of information that most users could never hope to keep up with in real-time.
With this update, Facebook once again reiterated its hope to focus on stories from friends and family, reassuring users that they will see the posts that matter the most to them at the top of their feeds.
"We learn from you and adapt over time," said Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management for News Feed at Facebook. "For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, we'll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won't miss what she posted while you were away."
Facebook's research shows that beyond informing us on the latest activities of those nearest and dearest to us, users expect the News Feed to inform and entertain us, generally with articles shared by friends and family and increasingly with video content.
While Facebook's renewed promise to focus on keeping friends and family at the fore of the News Feed will likely be warmly greeted by users, brands making use of the social network to generate organic traffic will likely lose out from the latest changes.
"Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages," said Lars Backstrom, engineering director at Facebook. "The specific impact on your Page's distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience.
"For example, 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."
The change is in line with Facebook's strategy from the past few years of placing pressure on businesses and organisations who host a Page on the platform to make use of its advertising.
While the updates to the News Feed algorithms enable the company to trumpet its commitment to user interests, they also force brands using the social network to pay out for promotion or risk being shuffled to the bottom of the News Feed, or even off it altogether.
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