Beyond Story Bumping & Last Actor: The State of Facebook’s News Feed

why-facebook-news-feed-changes-are-badListening to a recent Google+ Hangout with Mari Smith and Mike Stelzner was both refreshing and frustrating. They were talking about the recent changes to the EdgeRank algorithm that controls Facebook’s News Feed. It’s been a few weeks since Facebook introduced story bumping and last actor as the two major changes to its algorithm, and by now, many fan page admins are feeling the effects.

And among those we’ve talked to, those effects are not positive ones.

A Bit about Story Bumping and Last Actor

Story Bumping is designed to show you an update that has received a lot of activity, that you otherwise may have missed due to the time that has passed since you last visited Facebook. Last Actor is Facebook’s tracking of your last 50 interactions. The thought there is those you interacted with most recently are the people and pages you’d probably like to see more updates from.

You Mentioned the Hangout was “Refreshing and Frustrating”?

Yes. Yes, I did. The refreshing part came from the fact that this was the first article or video I’ve watched or listened to that didn’t say “content is king” or “focus on creating really great content” as the magic pill to ensuring your fans will keep seeing your content given the latest algorithm changes. There are a lot of social media managers who have always worked hard at – and succeeded in – producing and curating high-quality, relevant content that targets their business’ core demographic. And these same fan page admins who have been doing all the “right” things and seeing results, saw big drops in Reach, engagement, and for many, the slowing of fan growth, too. All as a direct result of the News Feed changes.

The latest Facebook developments are frustrating for obvious reasons. Facebook already has a lengthy list of hurdles to be crossed into order for a business to be successful on its platform. A lot of businesses have invested a ton of time and money into their fan pages, some even using their fan pages in lieu of having their own websites. (But the dangers of entrusting your entire online presence to a free tool you can’t control is a different post topic entirely.)

Key Takeaways from the Hangout

The Hangout was an hour long and you can listen to it via the link in the introduction. The list below outlines my main takeaways from listening to the video.

  • Facebook’s News Feed is now comprised of 50% PAID content Mari didn’t name specific people, but said she had it on good authority that 50% is the ratio of paid stuff vs. organic right now.
  • You need to set a budget for paid promotions Mike asked Mari for her #1 tip for success in today’s News Feed, and her response was to set a budget to pay Facebook to get your stuff in front of your fans, and to pay to promote content that will entice for your fans to click in order to get them seeing your updates again for a bit.
  • Even the experts are suffering Mari said she has seen a definite decline in her own fan page’s Reach in 2013. So, it’s not just us regular folks.
  • Someecards and quote images are on the ‘outs’ with Facebook Mike suggested that true photographs taken with your camera are doing much, much better than someecards and text-heavy images.

So, what else is new with Facebook?

As if that wasn’t enough to take in, there’s more.

  • Auto-play video ads are set to debut Does this feel like a step back in time for anyone else? Just like with auto-play music and videos on blogs and websites, people will tend to find this more annoying than helpful. From a brand standpoint, how many small business owners have a budget or capabilities to create a video ad for their business? This is a development that favors big businesses only.
  • Facebook made it easier to run contests on your fan page This is especially helpful for the average fan page owner, though likely an unwelcome development for 3rd party app companies.
  • Facebook has killed the viral reach when sharing content from another profile or page It’s disappointing that a social sharing network actively discourages sharing content between connections.
  • Embedding a Facebook update in your blog and getting interaction there, can help your EdgeRank on Facebook I know this isn’t doable for everyone, and I’m really not sure how frequently you can do this without annoying your customers and readers, but it’s a tactic to try.

Besides “paying to play”, is there anything else to do?

  • Ask followers on your other social media networks to participate in the discussion occurring on your Facebook fan page You can do this by sharing the direct URL from your status update.
  • Change the frequency of your updates That would likely mean more effort (and potentially more money) for you, but perhaps going from 2 updates a day to 3 will help get your content in front of more eyeballs.
  • Take a peek at your Insights One great thing about the new Facebook Insights is that you can now see how many people click on your updates besides just the visible count of LIKEs, comments and shares. Even though fewer people are seeing your updates, it’s still a good idea to know what interests them the most.
  • (Re)consider the time spent on Facebook Perhaps it’s best to shift some of your time and money away from Facebook and towards others networks you’re already active on, or a new platform you haven’t yet tried.

No one knows what the next Facebook change will be. We can all hope against hope that some of these recent changes will be reversed in some way. In the mean time, it’s important to pay attention to what’s happening on your fan page, consider paying to promote the occasional post or run an occasional contest, and spend some time evaluating the future attention and effort you give your Facebook fan page as opposed to your other social media networks.

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