Facebook algorithm changes to prioritise ‘authentic and timely’ content

Facebook has tightened up its News Feed algorithm in attempt to cut down on fake news and engagement fishing - but what does it mean for marketers?

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Keeping up with changes to the Facebook algorithm can be a real headache for marketers – and another update has just been announced less than a week after the last.

The change is part of an effort from Facebook to douse the flames of the recent fake news controversy, which even moved then U.S. president Barack Obama to comment.

The update is designed to prioritise ‘authentic and timely stories’ over fake news and spam content. Facebook has categorised the changes as follows:

  • Incorporating new signals to better identify and rank authentic content
  • A new way to predict and rank in real-time when posts might be more relevant to you

As well as sources of fake news, pages that seek to boost post engagement by asking for likes, comments and shares will also be impacted.

In a news post, Facebook stated: “One of our News Feed values is authentic communication. We’ve heard from our community that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most — those that people consider genuine and not misleading, sensational or spammy.

“When ranking News Feed we look at many signals personal to you, such as how close you are to the person or Page posting, as well as more universal signals like the overall engagement (likes, comments, shares) that a post has.”

Using a section of pages that engaged in spam posting as a model, Facebook trained a model to identify posts that were more likely to be authentic – or otherwise.

One of the signals they used was people hiding posts after they had viewed them in their feed. Facebook used this as an indication that those posts might not be authentic.

Other signals were used in the process that Facebook won’t reveal, but the end result is that more authentic posts will show higher up in the News Feed.

Boost for real-time content

Facebook will also start rewarding posts that gain a lot of attention in a short space of time. This will boost topical content and is likely to favour pages that publish breaking news or focus on trending topics.

As the statement explained: “When ranking feed to determine the relevance of a post, we always look at real-time signals, such as whether a friend has just commented on it. If your favorite soccer team just won a game, we might show you posts about the game higher up in News Feed because people are talking about it more broadly on Facebook.

“If there is a lot of engagement from many people on Facebook about a topic, or if a post from a Page is getting a lot of engagement, we can understand in real-time that the topic or Page post might be temporarily more important to you, so we should show that content higher in your feed.”

Will it impact marketing?

If you already play by the rules and output authentic content that generates natural engagement, then either nothing will change or you might even see a small increase in traffic and clicks.

If, however, you run campaigns encouraging users to like, comment or share then it’s advisable to stop. Facebook hasn’t clarified exactly what it’ll be looking for to penalise posts that do this, so it’s best to steer clear of using any language that could be interpreted as engagement fishing.

On another note, the update will be good news for brands that produce videos via Facebook Live. Publishers of real-time videos that generate good levels of engagement are likely to reap rewards.

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