Mark Zuckerberg is having a crisis of conscience.
Or that’s at least what it seems like after the bombshell Facebook dropped late last night. There are major changes coming to Facebook's News Feed that will favor person to person engagements over brands and posts that encourage a “passive experience.”
Here’s a quote directly from Zuckerberg’s post last night about what he envisions this change meaning:
As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people… Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.
Sound a little convoluted and wishy-washy? We thought so, too.
It’s unclear exactly what this new announcement will mean for brands and Facebook marketers. Some very credible sources, such as the CEO of the Social Media Examiner, are suggesting this could mean the end of Facebook pages.
As terrifying a thought as that is, we just can’t be certain yet. Jon Loomer summed up our thoughts on the matter in his blog saying, “I don’t know if your organic reach is going to disappear. I don’t know if this will impact ads. Facebook has attempted to make changes to the news feed in the past that didn’t seem to change much of anything. So, we really don’t know.”
So, what about us? What were the gut reactions of the team at Matchstick Social as we made our morning coffee, settled into our desks, opened our emails and proceeded to nearly spit out that coffee in shock when we read the news? Glad you asked:
“I’m holding off sounding the alarm bells, but I definitely think Zuck knows Facebook has ruined a lot of lives and wants to get back to providing a service that helps people instead of hurts them. I tend to hold an unpopular opinion: that the days of easy engagement content like gifs and surface humor are over. Even though these are historically engaging types of content, they don’t start conversations and create meaningful connections like Facebook has alluded to missing. Google has undergone similar content algorithm changes and it protected brands who were authentic and tossed out ones who were trying to game the system.”
“While it's far too soon to sound the alarms, this is certainly something to keep a close eye on. My gut says that this will impact brands organically, but how much organic reach are pages gaining in the first place? With Facebook shares down by 4% as of this morning, it's difficult to believe that Zuckerberg will turn his back on the multibillion-dollar beast that he's built as an advertising platform. For me, the biggest take away will be from a content strategy perspective, but we've already seen social go in this direction with less click baiting and more emphasis on content value. I believe ad costs will likely rise, but brands with less self-serving content and more entertaining video, gifs, list, etc. are going to be fine.”
“It doesn’t seem like even the people in charge at Facebook know exactly what this announcement will mean. However, I do, in a way, see Zuckerberg's point. Engagement has become a cheapened commodity that is often manipulated by brands on Facebook and that we’re all hopelessly addicted to. I don’t think this will have large immediate impacts on brands nor will it mean the death of pages. However, marketers and brands are definitely going to need to take a long, hard look at the value of the content they're putting out.”
One thing is certain: Every brand, publisher and marketer needs to keep a close eye on this as more details roll out. In the meantime, it’s important to vary your content mix and test more types of content to see what works. Don’t stick with what you’ve always done and just watch engagement go down. This will certainly hurt your visibility in the long run.
What was your reaction when you read the news? Is this the signal of the apocalypse for brands on Facebook? Will nothing much come of Zuckerberg’s impassioned dialogue about Facebook engagement and the state of our society? Let us know here!