The world’s largest social network has unveiled an update to its news feed that allows users to select the friends whose posts will always appear at the top of the most valuable real estate in the social media universe.
Those preferred friends can include brands whose pages users have liked.
According to Facebook, the new functionality is designed “to help prioritize stories, and make sure you don’t miss posts from particular friends and Pages,” but the functionality is also likely to be welcomed by marketers who have struggled to reach their fans on Facebook due to the company’s user-focused algorithm.
By some estimates, many brand pages have seen their organic reach drop to single digit percentages over the years. As a result, many brands have found it impossible to build a successful presence on Facebook without purchasing ads.
While paying for reach is now to be expected on just about any online platform, some marketers who jumped on the Facebook bandwagon early and invested heavily in garnering likes for their pages have used the phrase bait-and-switch to describe how Facebook’s marketing proposition evolved.
For that reason, some are skeptical about Facebook’s news feed update and believe it could be too good to last. Forrester Research’s Nate Elliott told Bloomberg,
In 2007, Facebook said, “Buy ads from us so that people will like your page, and you can deliver your message to them” and then they slowly whittled away that bargain. Now in 2015, they’re going back to marketers and saying, ‘Buy ads so you can get your message to them.” We’ve heard this promise before.
Of course, given how heavily so many brands have invested in Facebook, it will probably be difficult for marketers to ignore Facebook’s news feed changes and those that are actually able to come up with ways to convince their fans to prioritize their posts could find that they come out ahead, even if Facebook’s latest changes aren’t the last they have to deal with.