What Facebook's Latest Algorithm Change Means For Your Station

Facebook has done it again. They're changing their algorithm, again, to prioritize user content over Publisher content. Meaning, users could see more selfies, cute baby pics and brunch photos versus news headlines in their feeds.  Facebook said the change is based on feedback from users and its community with the goal of ensuring users don't "miss stories from their friends".  Plainly put: Facebook's success is built on keeping viewers engaged on its site.  It doesn't want to become MySpace.  Facebook wants to keep its users on the platform and keep them happy at the same time.

As it relates to your Page there are some important considerations.  Facebook’s values state “friends and family come first".  After that, Facebook research has shown that News feeds should “inform and entertain”.  Facebook says that its users "value stories they consider informative" and that "people enjoy their feeds as a source of entertainment".  This can, obviously mean different things to different users.  For some, entertaining and informative content could mean a video featuring a recipe created by a celebrity chef.  For others, it's local news, weather reports or sports discussions.  Facebook admits this could affect reach and referral traffic, something stations rely on to drive users back to their websites and recruit viewers to the broadcast products.

"Our aim is to deliver the types of stories we’ve gotten feedback that an individual person most wants to see", Facebook Vice President Adam Mosseri said when outlining the social network's News Feed Values. 

“We anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience,” engineering director Lars Backstrom said in the June announcement about the most recent algorithm change.  “If a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts.”  The more engagement your posts get, the less of a negative impact this algorithm change will have on your Page.

What About Facebook Live? 
Mosseri also indicated that the change is "agnostic of media type" meaning users could also see less video and Facebook Live broadcasts from publishers.  This is almost ironic considering Facebook had an algorithm change in March touting that it would put more weight on Live content when considering feed rankings.  It should be noted that Facebook Live broadcasts still generate substantial engagement and reach.

Take, for example, insights from my Page. 

While these numbers aren't anywhere near a television station's page that has likes in the hundreds of thousands, it's interesting to see how a Live broadcast of a July 4th parade reached exponentially more users than the most engaged story image post I had over the past week, which was a story about Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki redefining the concept of the hometown discount.  Another Live broadcast I did remniscing about the late Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt reached more than 131,000 users. 

Facebook has said that users, on average, spend 3x more time watching a Live video compared to a video that's no longer live.  The social media network recently told Poynter that it boosts Live videos while they are streaming.  At the end of the day, Facebook wants engaged users.  Live video is a way to get them. 

Is it worthwhile to keep investing in initiatives like Facebook Live? Sure.  While it shouldn't replace your original programming it can continue to serve as an engagement tool and gateway to your news product.  

RELATED: How To Use Facebook Live In Your Newsroom 

The Takeaway 
The lesson here? Don't put all your social media eggs in one basket.  While Facebook is a valuable tool to share news content and raise awareness for your station properties, make sure it's not the only one.  Your content needs to be distributed across a variety of platforms, with Facebook still being one of them. 

This update will have less of an impact if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content along with their friends reacting and commenting on it.  Remember engagment? Links or Page content shared by friends or content your friends interact with frequently will still appear higher in the feed.

At the end of the day, good content will always rule.  If you have a great story that is interesting and impacts your community, share it.  People will notice, read it, comment on it and share it.  Good content will beat an algorithm because, at the end of the day, people always have and always will love a good story

While we encourage you to be nimble when it comes to your broadcast product, you should be nimble when it comes to your social media strategy, as well.  Algorithm changes are going nowhere. They're the new normal.