Just like most people, Mark Zuckerberg started 2018 by making resolutions. One of those resolutions was to get Facebook back to its original state. A place of positivity. A place focused on sharing what matters most to you. This next year, Facebook will be giving priority to connections and people over brands, publishers, and news outlets. Zuckerberg then notes,

“I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down...But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

With Facebook’s recent emphasis on being a media company, a hint at diminishing eyeballs sent financiers into a tailspin. Shortly after the news was made public, Facebook’s stock dipped. While confidence in the platform declined, Zucks isn’t a fool. He is not going to do something that puts his company in jeopardy. In fact, he’s likely saving it.

“Facebook (including Messenger but excluding Instagram) saw a decline in total person-hours (the number of users multiplied by hours of consumption per person) during September of -0.1% year-over-year following a -0.9% decline in August. (Business Insider, Sept, 2017).” With usage dipping, Facebook is looking to improve its experiences, its relevance, and ultimately continue to engage users. Ultimately, making changes will help keep the user base engaged and still provide steady revenue from advertisers.

Given the news, there are a few things we can glean for brands that are reliant on Facebook as part of their digital media plan.

  • Separate News Feeds to Designate Content.

With last year’s election and more desire for real-time news, we have seen a shift in the way people consume content on the platform. People have moved away from posting about themselves to a place where they are consuming news and information. In fact, Facebook estimates about 90% of their users are “lurkers” or people that consumer content over sharing their own content. This shift in behavior shows the importance of creating a place for people
to consume news, content from brands, and publishers.

Currently, Facebook is running a test in a couple of markets where it gives users two feeds: one for friends, family, and acquaintances and the other is for media outlets, publishers, and brands. With the new emphasis on segmenting content, this test could be released to the larger audience. This would then give brands a designated place to share content and subsequently boost posts.

  • Double Down on Video Content.

Over the past year, Facebook’s made efforts to be a video content publisher. With the Watch Tab, Facebook is encouraging original video content production, similar to a Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Given this focus and changes to the Feed, brands should be doubling-down on video content. Facebook recently released pre-roll and in-stream ads on their video content and with a tab dedicated to video, these ads will only increase and serve to reach a large audience.

  • Quality Over Quantity.

Recently, Facebook announced more crackdowns on engagement baiting content, (e.g. using reactions as polling mechanisms) or overly exaggerated headlines. This emphasis and focus mean Facebook is getting serious about protecting the quality of the content people see. Brands will have to live into this too, by creating content that serves to engage people rather than mislead them. The idea of pushing tons and tons of content and seeing what sticks will no longer behoove brands and could be detrimental to a brand’s reach and engagement. Content will have to
produce engagement with gimmick and artificially inflating conversation.

  • Plan for Prices to Go Up.

Along with increasing the quality of the content, Facebook could limit the number of ads that are served in the Feed and could become more stringent with ad qualifications. If the quality of the time spent on Facebook also goes up and people spend more time on the platform, it makes it more valuable to advertisers to get visibility with an engaged audience. Altogether, this change to the feed makes ad space limited or appear more valuable, thus increasing
the cost of ads and lining Facebook’s pockets. We told you, Facebook is not going to break itself.

While marketers and brands are unsure about the changes coming to Facebook this next year, we must not forget the iterations that have come before. The platform has made countless updates in the past and just like clockwork everyone becomes skittish. In the short-term, we could see brands halting their Facebook activity or acting bearishly, but in the end, we see the changes as a positive step for the platform and its growth.

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