Can Facebook’s decision to revert to its original style of news feed (more posts from friends and less from organisations) alter revenues and strategies for content publishers? BrandWagon speaks to four industry experts to gauge what this will mean for brands
‘This will optimise content strategies across brands’: Ashish Goel, CEO, Urban Ladder
Considering the heat Facebook has received in recent years from the press, regulators, brands and other stakeholders, it comes as no surprise that it is compelled to reevaluate its position as its user base stagnates. As the social platform iterates its value proposition, it is easy to overlook that its business model has not changed much. In fact, this change will be hard on brands as there will be more emphasis on making the most of ad spends and driving Facebook’s bottomline. Marketing budgets will also increase and that is unfortunate for brands already producing quality content. Good content should be recognised and surfaced regardless of who is creating it — whether it is the consumer or a brand. But all is not lost as we still don’t know the nature of the beast.
From a consumer standpoint, it is a move in the right direction for marketers to create more engaging conversion nudges driven by a clear value proposition. It will certainly fuel creativity in the ecosystem rather than accumulating vanity metrics. It is a tougher road for advertisers who haven’t been content-driven and an easier transition for those who have already been having conversations with their consumers. This decision by Facebook will optimise content strategies across brands and reduce volume-driven tactics. It will also compel business verticals to have a more qualitative versus quantitative means of brand measurement. Facebook is a trendsetter in many ways and this decision is sure to have an impact on other social media platforms as well, who will follow suit by also working towards projecting a lifestyle rather than cluttering user feeds with ads. This is not the first or the last strategic move by the giant to control the narrative and save face (no pun intended). But only time will tell how consumers and brands will adapt to this change.
‘We will see a shift in marketing dollars’: Ashwin Suresh, Founder, Pocket Aces
Facebook has always rewarded content that generates organic engagement. This had led to the creation of publisher brands that focus on creating shareable content that encourages users to share videos after viewing them. This generates tremendous organic virality for the content and publishers don’t need to spend a crazy amount of marketing dollars to boost the posts to audiences. The last time Facebook changed its algorithm to favour its users, we saw such publishers continue to thrive. This time will be no different. This algorithm change won’t dramatically impact an advertiser or publisher who focusses on creating shareable content. For advertisers and publishers that have so far not focussed on this strategy, organic reach will start to decline and they will have no way of reaching most of their audience without heavily boosting their posts. This is a vicious cycle as unengaged impressions on a piece of content will down-rank that particular piece of content as well as the publisher behind it. To combat that, publishers will then have to spend more money just to reach the same number of people. That leads to more unengaged impressions and so the cycle continues.
For advertisers, this means an increased allocation of ad dollars towards their FB campaigns. This is the best time for advertisers to increase the efficiency of their marketing spends by piggybacking on engaging content being produced by premium publishers instead of creating their own video assets and spending heavily to boost them. While pricing from such publishers is likely to increase as a result of rising demand, content marketing and native advertising will still offer much higher RoIs for advertisers given how expensive it will become to promote digital ads on FB. We will see an increasing shift in marketing dollars towards such campaigns in 2018.
‘Facebook is going back to basics’: Sattvik Mishra, Co-founder and CEO, ScoopWhoop Media
I think there is definitely going to be a drop in organic reach after this update. Media companies who have diverse traffic sources like direct, referrals, search, affiliate, etc would be least affected but publishers who have put all their eggs in one basket (Facebook) would suffer the most. It will become increasingly difficult for smaller media companies to build scale, as they often look towards Facebook for a majority of their traffic.
Organic reach for brands was marginal anyway but now that it is dead, brands will have to pay on Facebook to reach users and I see them continuing to do so. I do not see a huge drop in revenues. From what I see, this is Facebook going back to basics. Although, time will tell how users react to this specific change. Facebook, over the years, has evolved as a go-to source for news and current affairs for users across the world, and this change is going to affect user behaviour, at least in the short run.
I see people spending less time on the platform (Facebook). Stories from friends and family come in limited supply as opposed to public content from media companies that keep on giving. News and current affairs, which is consumed more passively will show less on a user’s feed, while relatable/entertaining/upbeat content that drives ‘meaningful’ interactions like comments and shares would continue to do better.
Every platform, whether a social network or not, will have to make course corrections from time to time depending on two things. One, how user needs and behaviour have changed over a period of time and secondly, how the platform itself has evolved. In my opinion, all social networks will eventually make changes in what people see and how they see it. It is a matter of when, not if.
‘The emphasis still remains on the users’: Karan Gupta, Chief Executive Officer, Andbeyond.media
Traditionally, users on Facebook gave their buy-in to be served content that they were interested in and wanted more from the publisher/brand they engaged with. Facebook has taken corrective steps following YouTube’s decision to restrict fake news and protect the authenticity of content generation to restrict the same to family and friends. From a digital advertising standpoint, I would like to see creative storytelling as a part of Facebook’s ecosystem and let the content marketing continue since users have been given the choice to opt in to that content. We could anticipate a dip in the reach and engagements at one end and Facebook might also experience a loss in revenue from advertising but it is very early to gauge the situation since users would not necessarily change the behaviour towards content that they want within Facebook as long as it is
There is a certain amount of understanding among the digital advertising world that the platform will change and we will adapt to it. The emphasis still remains on the users, and content shared and commented by users will appear on the news feed. Therefore, the centrepiece of anything is content — content that resonates with the audience. Social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat are already aligned to the friends and family concept; brand marketing is a much smaller agenda for them. Replicating a similar strategy for such platforms is not foreseeable in the near future in the current scenario.
Users will be king for Facebook’s new friends and family news feed. By logging in to their settings, users will be able to select and give preferences to websites that they would like to see publish first on their page.