Facebook, photo content and the News Feed

Keeping up with the changes around Facebook’s News Feed algorithm can be daunting, with new articles constantly coming out around changes in the type of content that Facebook prioritizes. Are photos still getting the best organic reach? Or is it statuses now? But if it’s statuses why do I keep seeing so many posts about how visual content marketing is everything? As with all social media there is unfortunately no magic answer that will work now and continue to work forever; the best strategy is a mix of best practices combined with what you already know about your audience and enough experimentation to keep learning about any changing demographics and/or interests. With that said, we dug around a little to see how we could best understand how the Facebook News Feed algorithm really works and the best approach for brands to take that isn’t so of-the-moment it will be instantly outdated.

The most recent changes and what they mean for brands.

This summer Facebook released several algorithm changes for News Feed that were written about at length: Time spent on story (stories that may not be “likeable” are still prioritized in a feed if friends spent time reading them), more criteria for video (considering users turning on sound or making video full-screen, instead of just counting likes/comments/shares), and “See First” which allows users to directly prioritize which friends and Pages they see content from in their feed. Brand takeaway: “See First” means brands shouldn’t be shy about asking fans to prioritize their content if it’s something they enjoy seeing and interacting with. Facebook also announced a growing interest in visual content for a global audience (emphasis added):

“People everywhere are embracing visual communication formats, like video, at a staggering rate. More than 50% of people on Facebook in the UK, Brazil, South Korea, Singapore, Israel and the UAE watch a video every day. In Asia-Pacific people are spending more time creating and consuming videos, including ads. In fact, in just one year, the number of video posts created per person on Facebook increased 75% globally, 52% in Australia, 36% in South Korea and 138% in the United Arab Emirates. People in the Middle East now consume more video per person than any other region in the world.”

Brand takeaway: Pay close attention to Page demographics and test content based on this information if their audience matches; brands might be surprised how widespread their audience is and there is potential to strengthen relationships with untapped audience.

UM photo post on FB
A recent photo post on the Union Metrics Facebook Page. You can follow us there for more robot visuals. 

But does this mean brands should definitely prioritize visual content? TIME has a thorough piece on how, exactly, News Feed works with this important takeaway:

“Around 2011, Facebook moved on from EdgeRank to a more complex machine learning system that better individualizes each user’s experience. Instead of assuming that all users enjoy photos, the algorithm would adapt to users’ behavior so that people who click on photos see more pictures and people who don’t click on them see fewer. This is the algorithm that’s currently powering your News Feed, and the one Facebook’s engineers are constantly tinkering with. ‘You have a lot of impact,’ Steinberg says about working on the News Feed. ‘When that team makes a change, the rest of the company is going to be paying attention.’”

Brand takeaway: Does your audience like photos? If you don’t know that answer, now is the time to start experimenting, and that doesn’t even have to take a ton of resources. For example, select a piece of content for re-marketing and present valuable information from it in multiple forms: Photos yes (try photos with captions and photos with text superimposed on them), but also short videos, status updates, links to related pieces, shares from Instagram. Pay attention to the response on each type of content and use that information to plan going forward.

What’s always true for brands.

Having the latest industry data and keeping up with best practices gives every brand a great benchmark to start testing from, not to create a rigid content marketing plan from. Why? Because every audience is unique and might not necessarily respond to industry best practices. Brands should test new content types, timing and other factors regularly to see what types of content their audience responds to the best, and build an ongoing dynamic strategy from there. It always takes hard work and research to listen to your audience, but when you really know what they want they’ll be way more likely to stick with you.

Need help listening? Check out our comprehensive Facebook analytics, available through the Union Metrics Social Suite