For all intents and purposes, Facebook just gave users more control over what they see in the news feed than ever before. And with it, a pathway (albeit a tough one) for pages to reclaim some post visibility.
For weeks now, Facebook's been testing a feature that lets users pick and choose which friends and pages they most definitely want to see when they open up the news feed. Today, Facebook formally announced these updated controls, allowing users to prioritize who they see first at the top of their news feeds.
"News Feed is a personalized stream of stories that you build from the people and Pages you’ve connected to on Facebook. The goal of News Feed is to show you the stories that matter most to you. To do this, we use ranking to order stories based on how interesting we believe they are to you: specifically, whom you tend to interact with, and what kinds of content you tend to like and comment on," says Product Manager Jacob Frantz.
"We’re always working to improve and personalize your News Feed experience. We know that ultimately you’re the only one who truly knows what is most meaningful to you and that is why we want to give you more ways to control what you see. Last year we announced some new ways to control what you see in News Feed. Today we are announcing even better tools for you to actively shape and improve the experience. We’ve redesigned and expanded Facebook’s News Feed Preferences to give you more control."
Have you been able to regain some reach as of late? Do you think pages can convince users to put them in their "see first" list? Let us know in the comments.
That control comes in the form selecting which friends and pages you want to see before all others at the top of your news feed. If you go to your news feed preferences inside settings, you'll see the option to "prioritize who to see first." There, you can star both people and pages. From then on, you'll see their new posts at the very top of your news feed when you open up Facebook. They'll have a star next to them.
The regular, algorithmically-driven news feed will pick back up once all the starred posts are exhausted.
Facebook, always protective of its algorithm that takes into account likes, comments, and other interactions to show you what it thinks you want to see, is basically letting you bypass it.
This is good news for users, and even better news for brands.
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Facebook can’t show you everything from every friend and page you follow. Anyone with a page knows that despite recent reports of a turnaround, overall Facebook’s organic reach has plummeted over the past year or so. For brands, competition for room in the crowded news feed is at an all-time high. Pages are lucky if they're seeing post visibility in the teen%.
Facebook does not filter posts from friends, however, and all you have to do to see every single thing every single friend posts is to scroll down far enough. Of course, that’s not really feasible, but at least the posts are there, on the news feed, if you really wanted to scroll forever.
For pages, this isn't the case. And we all know that as a page, posting can often feel like blowing smoke at a campfire.
But this new feature lets you tell Facebook that you never, under any circumstances, want to miss a post by a specific person or page.
This could be excellent news for pages, which continue to suffer with visibility. Recently, Facebook announced a tweak to News Feed that would show users more content from friends, and even less from pages. It's hard out there for a page. If pages can convince users to put them in their "see first" lists, then they've found the Facebook holy grail – 100% visibility in someone's news feed.
Expect the please add us to your see first lists so you never miss a post pleas to start pouring out from pages. Users are limited to 30 friends or pages in their "see first" section, so it's hyper-competitive. But if pages have the love of their Facebook fans and churn out content they actually can't stand to miss, then it's possible for pages to ensure their posts are at least seen.
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So, why is Facebook doing this?
When you think about it, Facebook is giving users a way to avoid all the stuff they don't really want to see – and of course that includes ads. Let's say a Facebook user only really cared about a handful of people and pages – everything else is just noise to them. This new feature lets them sign on, check out the only stuff they really want to see, and sign off.
“It sounds counterintuitive, but the worse we do on rankings, the more we make people try and scroll through, the more likely they are to just go away,” a Facebook spokesperson told Re/code. “If we show you the stuff you really really want first, you’ll come back more often.”
So, Facebook's theory is that if you get to see what you want in news feed, you'l like Facebook more. And if you like Facebook more, you'll get on Facebook more.
And if you're thinking that Facebook is going to use this against users, and target ads based on who they prioritize – Facebook says that's not the case.
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Motivations aside, this is all pretty good news for users and pages. The new set of news feed preferences also includes a "discover new pages" tool.
"Helping you find new Pages to follow can help you connect with publishers, artists and businesses you might be interested in. Based on the types of Pages you’ve liked in the past, you can discover new Pages in order to get more of the stories you care about," says Facebook.
And there's also a tool for "reconnecting" with friends and pages users unfollowed.
Users should see all of these new options on iOS, and Facebook says it's coming to desktop and Android soon. For pages, this is a tough way to try to regain reach, as it involves users actively deciding they want to put you in their favorites. But it's something. And if you're truly awesome, then why wouldn't someone want to put you on their "see first" list?
Do you think this new feature benefits pages? How do you plan to utilize it? Let us know in the comments.