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Facebook News Feed Shifts To Favour Value Over Engagement

Facebook Announces New Algorithm Changes

Facebook is at it again. The social media giant has announced another algorithm change – but this time, it will prioritise value over engagement.

The social media giant has said that it’ll improve user’s News Feed experience by asking for feedback, updating user surveys and taking into account how many angry reactions a post gets. The goal? To create a Feed that contains less divisive, politically charged content in favour of one that has more of the stuff users really want to see.

Combined, these decisions could have a massive impact on what Facebook’s audience sees as they scroll.

Given that news and politics dominate the Facebook News Feed, its reduction could well translate for greater exposure for the more interest-led approach to content, favoured by marketers.

Here’s what will be used to shape decisions moving forward:

What’s worth your time?

Two years ago, Facebook started to introduce surveys that asked folks if ‘this post is worth your time.’ That feedback was then used to inform what a person sees moving forward.

Aastha Gupta, Product Management Director, Facebook

“For example, if people say a post is worth their time, we’ll aim to show posts like that higher in News Feed, and if it isn’t worth their time, we’ll aim to show posts like that closer to the bottom.”

Survey results aren’t designed to categorise Posts based on their engagement levels; instead, Facebook wants to use this as an indicator of value.

“This survey-driven approach, which largely occurs outside the immediate reaction to a post, gives a more complete picture of the types of posts people find most valuable and what kind of content detracts from their News Feed experience.”

For brands, this could pose a problem. How would you make your Posts ‘valuable’ to consumers? If News Feeds are going to be organised by value rather than engagement and other relevant metrics, it puts different pressures on marketing and social media departments.

Feedback driven signals are also important

But that’s not all. Facebook is also looking to get specific feedback from people, which will be used to make News Feed ‘better’. Facebook will be looking at:

  • Inspiring stuff. According to Facebook, people want to see more posts that inspire and uplift them. As a result, the platform is running a series of tests to see which posts people find inspirational and will use the results as a signal in News Feed ranking. The aim of the game is to show inspirational posts at the top of the News Feed.
  • Understanding content better. Some people don’t want to go on Facebook and read political argument after political argument – the platform will try and iron out those negative experiences. It will potentially limit the reach of posts with lots of angry reactions.

Aastha Gupta, Product Management Director, Facebook

“This is a sensitive area, so over the next few months, we’ll work to better understand what kinds of content are linked with these negative experiences.”

  • Changes to make it easier to provide feedback. For a while now, users have been able to hide posts they don’t like, but Facebook will test a new option that allows users to tap an X in the top right corner of a post they don’t want to see to hide it from News Feed and see fewer posts of that nature in the future.

Much needed change

The change, specifically regarding moving away from pure engagement metrics to a value-based system, has been required for a while now. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Facebook is well aware of the outrage, divisiveness and polarisation stoked by its algorithm.

Facebook ignored the findings from its own internal reporting in 2020 because algorithmic changes made could affect right-leaning users and hurt engagement (and revenue) across the platform. Incredibly, the WSJ cited that 64% of people joined extremist groups on Facebook based on content the algorithm recommended to them in News Feed.

Therefore, it is interesting to see Facebook’s latest pivot towards ‘value’ and a News Feed that contains less divisive content. An internal Facebook idea called Common Ground was scrapped a few years ago – a project which tried to prompt politically neutral content.

It seems like Facebook’s top brass have seen the light and are now more interested in helping users find common ground than things that divide. It probably has nothing to do with regulators in the EU, UK and US circling the News Feed. Probably.

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