When Facebook makes a change, the world turns quiet in breathless anticipation. Outside of Google, no other internet company has more of an impact on how we spend time online. The king of social media networking recently announced the site wants visitors to enjoy “more meaningful interactions.” That sounds like a feel-good move, but what exactly does Facebook mean by “more meaningful interactions”? Does it mean Facebook has decided to turn into a dating site, or wants us to cry at those cat videos instead of scrolling past them?
The Skinny behind the Announcement
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently made the announcement the company plans to change the complex algorithm that determines what content features on your news feed. Prior to the announcement, the news feed displayed posts from a select group of users and from Facebook pages. The company operated the news feed to help users discover relevant content, which is crucial not only to how we experience Facebook, but also how we implement search engine marketing on its platform.
Zuckerberg’s announcement, therefore, has the potential to drastically alter both our daily Facebook interactions and our search engine marketing strategies.
What Does the Change Mean for Users?
Much of our Facebook news feeds is professionally curated content from businesses, organisations, and the news media. Facebook wants to shift the news feed paradigm from presenting professionally published news to displaying posts created by friends and family members.
In fact, these kinds of changes are something that the social media leader has already experimented with in a limited number of smaller countries, including Guatemala and Cambodia. Here, it pushed professionally generated posts into its “Explore” feed, which Facebook introduced in the autumn of last year.
The Big Question: Why
Zuckerberg mentioned in his presser the company has looked at extensive academic research that concluded social media should primarily operate for the wellbeing of users. In other words, Facebook wants to eliminate what is considered passive social media content and replace it with more meaningful content that encourages interactions.
The major change brings Facebook full circle as it returns to its roots by emphasising the “social” in social media. It’s been speculated that one of the prime motivations for the change is the criticism Facebook has faced in the wake of the US presidential election and the amount of “fake news,” often sponsored by the Kremlin, that was featured on the platform.
That would certainly help explain Facebook’s interest in pushing more organic content, and could also prove a tentative first step towards addressing the issue of the site being used by large and powerful groups to influence feeling and opinion among the general public for anti-democratic purposes.
Facebook has Changed Before
As some news organisations start to worry (justifiably – groups in Guatemala reported a massive drop in readership on the back of the changes that Facebook made to the platform there), it’s worth remembering that Facebook has made major changes to its operating procedures before.
In late 2013, the company altered its algorithm to place more emphasis on publishing “high-quality articles” over more popular, superficial kinds of content. While certain Facebook-dependent meme and click-bait sites suffered as a result, others – especially those that merely use Facebook to prop up a strong, independent site or platform – prospered.
Of course, how these most recent changes will truly take form and affect search engine marketing remains to be seen. It seems a fair bet, though, that with an emphasis placed on community and quality, we can expect the content most likely to flourish is that which is curated with integrity and engagement at its heart.