Does Facebook's News Feed Punish Advertisers (Yet)?

Oh, that sneaky Facebook! Changes to its platform that weren’t announced Tuesday keep popping up. And some of them have serious implications for brand pages on the social network.

Colin Murphy, director of social for advertising and marketing agency Skinny, examined the impact of the changes implemented by Facebook Tuesday on brand pages and made several disturbing discoveries that were not included in the official announcement by the social network.

These discoveries suggest that Facebook’s latest upgrades may have a detrimental impact on advertising revenues, which just might motivate the site to rejigger things, fast.

Without further ado, here’s more of the skinny from Skinny, along with our own analysis.

Likes

Uh, oh: When users like content within Facebook, that activity no longer being publishes in the news feed, Skinny says.

That includes liking posts on brand pages, friends’ walls, or the newsfeed. Pages liked within Facebook were also not showing up on newsfeeds.

However, liking content outside of the Facebook platform, such as a news story on another site, is still displayed on news feeds, and content can still be shared.

The issue for brand managers: Fewer likes being displayed mean fewer mentions and less opportunities to lure friends of fans to brand pages.

Our understanding of the news feed changes is that users see more content related to things they’ve already interacted with; so, when likes happen to involve a topic that a particular user has already engaged with, that individual will see that thumbs-up action. Admittedly, we’re still learning about this, and would love to hear what you, readers, are seeing.

News Feed

According to Murphy, the new algorithm that populates the newsfeed on Facebook emphasizes relationships and gives priority to friends over brands, which is clearly a disadvantage for the latter.

Again, this could be the result of individuals preferring to see their friends rather than brands, based on what we know of the news feed functionality. This phenomenon seems consistent with the way the chorus of complaints about the news feed has overtaken just about everything else that we’re seeing on the site.

Photos

The size of photos within the news feed increased, but Murphy found that this change was not being reflected in photos shared via brand pages, which still appear in the smaller format (see screen grab below, from Murphy).

When it comes to photos, bigger is better, and should this discrepancy not be adjusted, the smaller photos from brand pages will not attract as many eyeballs as the larger ones from friends.

Murphy summarized the supposedly hidden changes and their impact on brand pages:

Brands were undervalued in this update in three primary ways. First, Facebook pages weren’t included in the photo display and recent stories updates. With recent stories, it seems like Facebook’s algorithm will favor a “friendship” over a “brand relationship,” meaning brand content won’t show up at the top of a user’s feed. Second, with the updated newsfeed, photos on brand pages won’t look as sleek and big as they do for personal accounts.

Third, and possibly most important, when a user likes content (again, content, not pages) within the Facebook platform, that content will no longer post to the user’s wall, meaning greatly decreased impressions for brands. To clarify, content outside Facebook that is liked will post to that user’s wall.

These three strikes against brands might be intended to get more of them to pay for the visibility they lost on Facebook, but that seems like an adversarial way to try to get more advertising dollars.

We’ve yet to hear about any advertisers withdrawing from Facebook or cutting back spending because of the changed news feed.

More likely, brand advertisers will continue to brainstorm about how to optimize their content around the site’s changes.

Readers: What do you think the next move should be for brand managers? What about for Facebook?

Main image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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