ICYMI: Facebook Acting Like a Friend

Facebook is definitely looking to squeeze advertisers, but recent changes and new tools from the social network are making it seem more interested in keeping users engaged.

Since early-May, FB has rolled out or announced features that give more weight to content from your friends, make ads more useful, and gives us articles faster. It’s a little too early to judget the impact, but you could end up with a more personal, less ad filled and more entertaining Facebook News Feed.

Facebook Algo Gives More Weight to Friends

Facebook_pages_posts

A lot less page post stacks.

The shift toward a more friend-centric News Feed is probably the biggest change. If you only caught snippets of the news, then you’re probably expecting to see a lot more baby pictures and puppy portraits. But the algo change is more nuanced than that.

The algorithm update has 3 main components:

    1. See multiple posts in a row from the same source: Facebook used to limit how much content you’d see from a single source, but now it will let you see as many as it thinks you can stand. How much you see from any given source will depend on how many or how many friends you have and how many pages you’ve liked — assume that if you have only a handful of either, then you’ll be getting a lot more info about them.
    2. Content from friends “you care about” will showup higher in the News Feed: Instead of prioritizing Liked pages or content you click a lot, Facebook will place updates from friends more highly in the newsfeed and try to balance the mix of friend and page content. In the announcement, FB points out that you will still be able to see the content from pages you like, so I’m not sure how much this will change things. But its possible that your feed could start looking more like a Friends activity “digest” than an ad reel.
    3. Notifications about friend Likes & Comments will be pushed down: These notifications seemed like a failure of translating theory into practice. Yes, we would want to know what are friends were liking and talking about, but we didn’t realize how inane or damn random a lot of their activity would be. Facebook has listened to user complaints and decided to push these types of notifications to the bottom of the News Feed.

What This Means for Users

From a user perspective, this means your feed is going to be a lot more personal. Of course, that assumes you have a lot of friends AND that you find their content interesting.

The potential upside is that you’ll be able to get the news that really matters to you up front, rather than scrolling through ads to find a gem or two from your family. The potential downside is that you’ll end up with a very boring or repetitive feed. Your bestie from college might hijack your feed with pictures of her cats or you may get bombarded with wedding pictures for 2 or 3 days.

Whether this update makes you happy or sad will largely depend on the diversity and size of your friends list and pages.

Call Now Button for Facebook Local Ads

I’m still going to Google to find business numbers and addresses, but Facebook is increasingly pushing local ads based on your location. Whether you like the local ads or not, they are not going away and now they are more useful.

Users will be able to click the Call Now button and go directly to their phone.

What This Means for Users

If you’re wondering why I’d include a new ad format in a list of user-friendly updates, then I suggest you think about how often you search for things on your phone. Imagine being able to get all the details you need about a business without leaving Facebook, then calling to get a reservation, directions or a price quote.

I won’t argue that this is an update made for users, but it does add value, and will no doubt become more useful as Facebook ramps up small/local business advertising.

Facebook Instant Articles

3-Map_web2Instant Articles means you get to read article in Facebook. No more click and then waiting for the content to load on publisher sites. I’m sure publishers have a mixed feelings about this, but the gain for users is being able to read articles more quickly and without transitioning between the FB app and your mobile browser. The new feature uses the same tech Facebook uses to serve videos and images on mobile, and FB claims Instant Articles will load up to 10x faster than publisher sites.

What This Means for Users

Faster article loads and less clicking between sites. In addition, Instant Articles will come with a host of interactive features like tilt-to-pan photos, auto-play video, embedded audio captions, and interactive maps. Right now, the feature is only available to select publishers, so you may not see content from your favorite sites yet. But the added functionality plus the speed makes a Facebook a much more robust content platform. We’ll have to see who else joins.

Is Facebook Really Your Friend

No, Facebook isn’t your friend. And we can trust that these updates are carefully calculated to make us spend more time on Facebook. That said, if you’re already using Facebook, then why not enjoy a faster more personalized experience.

Did I miss any big FB updates? Let me know in the comments.

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