Six Facebook changes you should know about

The people behind the social network with 1.4 billion active users are in a state of constant flux, tweaking and amending the service. Much of their focus is on the News Feed where most users spend most of their time. Here are six (relatively) recent changes to Facebook you should know about:

The “See First” tool

Introduced in early July, the “See First” tool allows users to manually prioritise – and, therefore, de-prioritise – the updates they see from friends and Pages. The change reflects a more general effort by Facebook to rely as much on human as machine intervention to determine what is likely to appeal to the user. With this tool, users can opt to “see less” of a friend or Page or even put either or both “on pause”. For organisations and brands looking for engagement from Facebook (without paying for adverts) this means reduced exposure. Potentially.

More hosting, less linking out

Facebook has begun hosting news content from media outlets. Rather than linking out, “Instant Articles” are read within the Facebook app. If users express a preference for “Instant Articles” by clicking, liking and commenting more than they would on external links, then these articles are likely to get a higher profile on the News Feed. A virtuous circle for those in the scheme, a vicious cycle for those not. The BBC, Guardian, The New York Times and Buzzfeed are among the media outlets that have signed up. Facebook is offering compatibility with key metrics tools including Google Analytics and comScore so publishers can keep track of page views and share those measures with advertisers.

No more paying for Likes

In the past advertisers using Facebook’s cost per click (CPC) model would end up paying for almost any form of user engagement. And, as we know, some forms of engagement are more valuable than others. So from 10 July, the company announced it was updating the way CPC is measure. Now the definition “will only include clicks to websites and apps, and not likes, shares and comments”.

Fewer promotional posts

This change was introduced towards the end of last year in an effort to reduce the number of posts people were seeing in their news feeds that were little more than dressed up adverts.  As the people from Facebook noted on their blog:

“News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc.), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts.”

Now there are. Specifically, there should now be far fewer posts with the following traits:

  • Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  • Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  • Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

A negative perhaps for those wanting to use Facebook for marketing purposes but it does suggest that good content will win out – which is positive news for users and those that have a well-executed content marketing strategy.

Fewer click-bait headlines

Another change from last year, which makes it on to the list given its impact. Last August, Facebook announced that it would be looking to root out articles that have headlines written deliberately designed to encourage clicks without the content to back it up. This is the classic “You’ll never believe”-style click-bait headline that over promises and under delivers. How does Facebook judge whether a headline qualifies as click-bait? It is using two measures. The first is the time people spend on the article before coming back to Facebook – the less time, the more likely the headline has under delivered. The second measure is the ratio of people clicking on the link compared to those discussing, sharing and liking it. Again the fewer people doing the latter, the more likely its click-bait.

New look. New logo

Last (and probably least) Facebook has changed its logo.

A subtle change at that. According to Facebook’s creative director, quoted in Wired, the new logo with the slightly thinner strokes is meant to “make it feel more friendly and more approachable”. Oh, and it’s changed its friends icon, too.

Jon Bernstein is a journalist, digital strategist and associate at Slack Communications. He tweets @jon_bernstein

Image licensed under Creative Commons