Facebook Messes With News Feed Again, Presents New Visibility Challenges

    August 20, 2013
    Chris Crum
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Facebook has been messing around with the way the News Feed works again, even as many people are still waiting to even get access to the “new” News Feed design the company unveiled all the way back in March. This has implications not only for users, but for businesses who rely on reaching customers in one of the most-viewed spots on the Internet.

Are the changes Facebook has been making to the News Feed good or bad for businesses? For users? Let us know what you think.

Facebook announced that it has made an update to the News Feed ranking algorithm, making organic stories that people didn’t scroll down far enough to see reappear near the top of the feed when they’re getting a bunch of likes and comments. This is being referred to as “story bumping”.

Facebook has been testing the change, and shared some data points surrounding it.

“In a recent test with a small number of users, this change resulted in a 5% increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends and an 8% increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Pages,” says Facebook’s Lars Backstrom.

“Previously, people read 57% of the stories in their News Feeds, on average,” says Backstrom. “They did not scroll far enough to see the other 43%. When the unread stories were resurfaced, the fraction of stories read increased to 70%.”

Well, that sounds pretty good for both users and businesses, no? This way, as a user, you’re going to see more content you missed, some of which you might actually be interested in. As a business, it means you have more chances to get in front of users, which has become increasingly hard to do (at least without paying Facebook). While we say the News Feed is presenting new challenges, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be more challenging to attain visibility. It just means there are new factors to consider.

But make no mistake. It will still be a challenge to get in front of users. Facebook reportedly said that 1,500 potential stories are filtered from your News Feed on any given day.

The company also announced some other interesting changes called “Last Actor” and “Chronological By Actor”.

The first looks at the 50 most recent people you engaged with on Facebook, and shows more of them in the feed. The latter aims to put updates from friends in chronological order when they post a series of updates, which makes sense in the case of live-Facebooking events, TV shows, games, etc.

Story Bumping is reportedly live on the desktop and is rolling out to mobile, while Last Actor has rolled out, and Chronological By Actor is coming in the future.

Ari Rosenstein, VP of Marketing for Facebook PMD Adotomi says, “The News Feed has clearly been the key to Facebook’s success over the last two quarters. It seems like such a natural feature to be in a social network, but it has truly revolutionized our personal communication and proved to be the revenue driver that Facebook was searching for since it’s IPO. The News Feed is where we instinctively go to get the latest information about our friends, but also about the world. Often we find out about greater news events because of the reactions to news stories by our friends and family. If YouTube is our custom picked media channel, then the Facebook News Feed is the media channel our friends pick for us. All of the content is picked by others yet it retains a very high degree of relevancy to us, making one of the best information recommendation and discovery engines out there.”

“News Feed improvements like ‘Last Actor’ and ‘Story Bumping’ are going to make newsfeed content even more targeted and relevant for users which is a great benefit,” Rosenstein adds. “For advertisers they should look to focus more on ads in the News Feed and less on page posts to Fans as ads will allow for better targeting, larger reach, and the ability to better control the duration of the message.”

EdgeRank, which has historically been the foundation for Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, is apparently no longer a thing, at least in name. Now it’s just the News Feed Algorithm.

“While the name ‘EdgeRank’ may be disappearing, News Feed content will still be ranked based on weighing factors like user affinity and the number and types of engagements a post receives; factors that are already in use with EdgeRank. However, the importance of optimizing for previous EdgeRank factors like time decay is changing significantly,” writes Adam Greenwald at marketing firm iCrossing.

“These changes highlight a distinct difference: it’s now not just how recently a story was posted that matters, but how recently you engaged with that user or Page,” he notes. “With these new adjustments to Facebook’s algorithm, the winning strategy for brands will include optimizing not only for the timing and frequency of Page posts, but for frequent Page engagements. Optimizing for maximum engagement should continue to be first and foremost in the minds of social marketers.”

In other words, don’t just expect to say things on your Facebook Page, and expect them to be seen by a large number of people. The more you actually engage with your fans, and expand combinations, the more likely you will have a successful post, visibility wise.

Facebook is discussing the ongoing changes it makes to News Feed in a new series of blog posts. This began this week with one about Story Bumping (though it’s not actually referred to as that in the post). You can expect others to appear on the Facebook For Business blog.

Facebook also completed the roll-out of Graph Search in the U.S. This also has very significant implications for businesses, particularly local businesses. The implications will only expand as the feature’s functionality does. The company reminded us that it is still working on features like the ability to search for posts, comments, and of course Graph Search for mobile.

The company is also testing Trending Topics in its apparent efforts to become more like Twitter – a place for public conversations. There are going to be marketing opportunities on that front as well.

Do you like what Facebook is doing with the News Feed? Do you consider the updates improvements? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.rareoccasionsinc.com Samantha Renee

    Whatever Facebook does, you shouldn’t be complaining. It’s a free advertising platform for you to use! I don’t have a problem with anything they do. If you are a real business, you know you have to spend money to make money. If you want more visibility, pay to promote and boost your pages.

    • http://www.sfpincchicago.com Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.


      Paying to promote and boost pages on Facebook does nothing. Literally nothing. You MAY (may being stressed) get more “likes”, but if those “likes” aren’t interacting on your page, buying your products, or doing anything else to drive business (even sharing your page), then it does you little.

      We attempted to buy ads, and although it gave us a few “likes”, there was no source of the likes, no notice where they came from, if they are in our target market, no personal activity on those pages, or anything else. For all we know, they could be “serial clickers”.

      It’s the online equivalent of going to the book store and reading a magazine for 8 hours, then leaving to go home, enjoying the virtual air conditioning, and the book, but not actually buying anything, treating your business like a personal library. While some large stores like Wal-Mart and the like may be able to afford to have you lounge around all day, not all businesses are created equal, despite what many in the online world think.

      It is true that many online expect every business to treat them like Wal-Mart, in the sense of they expect to be able to offer free returns, credit on purchases when merchandise is still being kept, double money back, and other nonsense, again, not all businesses can afford that kind of silliness, nor would every business WANT to be like that. Ours is not like that, and we don’t WANT to be like that.

      You make assumptions in your post that paying for clicks is the be-all, end-all for businesses, and that will solve all problems. News flash: It doesn’t solve any problems. It increases revenue for Facebook and the other social networks and platforms that charge you to be there, while offering nothing of substance in return.

  • http://www.thecollectorshub.com The Collectors Hub

    As a user of FB, I don’t like that they filter the posts from pages that I’ve “Liked”. It may be that those pages have very little activity but when they do, it’s extremely important to me that I see the posts. It’s very presumptuous of FB.

  • http://signature.eu.com Steve at signature Image Consultants

    Good points, your finger is on the pulse as usual Chris. Business models need to evolve on order to stay ahead of the curve and Facebook is no different. IMO The future of Facebook lies in it’s ability to attract more advertisers without completely pissing off it’s users with poorly targeted ads that suck! And I’m not the only one who thinks so according to Warrior Forum & Kashflow dotcom

  • http://www.pennyleisch.com Penny

    I’m spending more and more time off of facebook because the changes make it too time consuming to manually check the people I want to follow to be sure their posts haven’t been buried. For those people on FB to keep in touch with distant family or other personal contacts, there needs to be a way to tell FB to set it so we see their posts and FB doesn’t make decisions for us. I’d be gone if so many of my family didn’t use FB as their only means of communication. That may not last long if FB keeps changing things and people have to waste at ton of time trying to figure out what happened this time. I work online and have a lot of tech background, so I just grin and bear it, but we are losing people who have no clue. How does that increase sales and exposure?

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    Whenever I hear of FB changes the first thing that comes to mind is how much?

  • http://facebook t daberko

    Keep the groups separated from the news feed page. I can select the groups I want to view

  • Brenda Mullins

    I’m not sure how this new idea will work for Gamers (they make up a huge audience on FB). Already many of the gamer posts are not being shown which makes it very difficult for helping others and receiving the help that you need yourself. I think it would be nice if they had a few sub cats across the home page (GAMES ONLY, STATUS CHANGES, NEWS, etc. Then you can click on Games to see Gamer posts, click on Status changes to see what family is up to, and News to see what people are posting that is news worthy.) Just an idea.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/company/brick-marketing---boston-seo-firm Nick Stamoulis

    It seems like getting people to interact and engage with your brand is going to be even more important than ever. Story Bumping and Last Actor mean favorited brands get more love and show up more frequently in the News Feed, getting them even more love. It’s a feedback loop that might be harder to crack into now.

  • daastayah

    It’s now been 6+ months since I signed up in the waiting list for the new homepage. Now most of my friends have “made the switch”. Most of them didn’t even have any clue of the new update let alone sign up for the waiting list. Really shows how facebook updates are being rolled out. I really can’t see the advantage in ignoring the ones who actually kept track and were interested, could add value by giving feedback etc. and prioritizing those who didn’t even want it in the first place.

  • matt

    Since story bumping has set in I have actually been checking news feed less. I didn’t think anything would ween me off my addiction. Further, I am now seeing objectional content via friends liking and commenting on objectional content. I subscribe to NO ONE’s comments or likes.

    • matt

      Why checking news feed less? I am seeing the same posts over and over throughout the day.

  • Sarah

    YAY and THANK YOU facebook for warning us about all those changes (NOT.). I was wondering how come I don’t get any feedback on my posts on fb lately, now I know. Glad I had to search myself for the answer… The more it goes the more i hate facebook’s policy.