After a year in which Facebook found itself under growing scrutiny over how it determines what content is displayed to users, Mark Zuckerberg made a simple resolution for 2018: fix Facebook.

It would appear that the Facebook CEO is serious as not two weeks into the new year, the company has announced an update to its News Feed that will impact brands active on the world's largest social network.

Here's what marketers need to know.

Facebook wants to prioritize content “that spark[s] conversations and meaningful interactions between people”

Currently, Facebook looks at engagement metrics such as the number of Likes and comments a post receives when determining where that post will appear in users' News Feeds.

These metrics, of course, can be gamed, so Facebook will now aim to predict which posts will lead to “meaningful” interactions between users. 

“These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to – whether that's a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook's News Feed chief, explained in a blog post.

While Mosseri didn't provide any details about how Facebook will predict which content is most likely to meet this criteria, it seems logical to assume that Facebook's updated News Feed algorithm will be more discerning.

Friends and family will come first

One thing Facebook did reveal is that it will be prioritizing content from friends and family over public content posted by brands and publishers. This shouldn't come as a surprise to marketers given that Facebook has been moving in this direction, but if it wasn't apparent to brands before, it should be apparent now.

Brand Facebook Pages are far more likely to lose out

According to Facebook's Mosseri, “showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

This means that brands active on Facebook “may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.”

But they can potentially mitigate the fall-out

Fortunately, brands that produce the right kind of content may have the potential to mitigate the effects of Facebook's update. Specifically, brands that produce content that users react to and that sparks interactions between friends could still see their content featured prominently in the News Feed, whereas those that publish content that isn't so engaging will likely suffer.

As such, brands will want to evaluate the content they have been publishing to date through this lens and make changes if necessary to ensure the content they create for Facebook going forward aligns to what Facebook is looking for.

See First will grow in importance

Brands can still ensure that their Facebook posts are seen if users select the See First option in their News Feed Preferences. 

The challenge, of course, is that many if not most Facebook users don't know about these preferences and even if they do, it's likely that most brands won't have enough sway to convince their Facebook followers to set their preferences 

Brands will likely be incentivized to pay for reach

To the extent that Facebook's News Feed update reduces the organic reach brands can achieve on the social network, expect some to respond by spending more money boosting their posts.

Of course, with organic reach in what seems to be a perpetual state of decline, savvy brands will evaluate just how much it's worth paying to reach their audiences on Facebook.

Subscribers can download Econsultancy's Social Media Best Practice Guide and Paid Social Media Advertising Best Practice Guide.

Patricio Robles

Published 12 January, 2018 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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