Earlier this year Facebook made an announcement that it would prioritize posts from family and friends in newsfeeds as a way to promote more meaningful engagement.
To enact this change, the company chose to reduce post reach from companies and business pages while taking steps to have professional news outlet posts display separately in a Explore Feed on the platform, testing this feature in several countries including: Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia, and Sri Lanka.
“The Explore Feed was a trial response to consistent feedback we received from people over the past year who said they want to see more from friends and family in News Feed,” said Adam Mosseri, head of the News Feed at Facebook, in a statement. “The idea was to create a version of Facebook with two different News Feeds: one as a dedicated place with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated place for posts from Pages.”
Users reported that not only did this separation result in a less positive experience, but it also promoted the spread of fake news stories on the Explore Feed. Facebook decided to end this trial run and transitioned back to the use of one news feed for distribution of all content, which was received positively by the users who took part in the news feed separation.
“People don’t want two separate feeds. In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family,” said Mosseri.
Many small media outlets saw a significant drop in traffic and are slowly adapting to the Facebook newsfeed algorithm changes by relying less on the platform to promote content.
“We also received feedback that we made it harder for people in the test countries to access important information, and that we didn’t communicate the test clearly,” said Mosseri. “We’re acting on this feedback by updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them.”
The changes occurred unexpectedly and users weren’t aware of the separation or the functionality of the Explore Feed, which can be attributed to the negative user experience and drastic drop in traffic experienced by many media outlets.
“Separately, we’re also discontinuing the Explore Feed bookmark globally this week,” said Mosseri. “Explore gave people a new feed of content to discover Pages and public figures they hadn’t previously followed. We concluded that Explore isn’t an effective way for people to discover new content on Facebook.”
Despite Facebook going back to a single newfeed, the platform still plans on prioritizing content from family and friends in newsfeeds over posts from businesses and Pages as user time on site is expected to decline in favor of more meaningful interactions and engagement.
Facebook’s changes to its newsfeed algorithm have been met with mixed reception from both users and organizations who actively use the platform.
Negative feedback has been received by influencers and Pages as engagement and reach continue to drop; just as news outlets are looking to become less reliant on the platform to spread content to followers, influencers and Pages are also spending less time on Facebook in favor of other platforms that are producing higher engagement both organically and through paid promotion.
“We [Facebook] think our recent changes to News Feed that prioritize meaningful social interactions better address the feedback we heard from people who said they want to see more from friends and family,” said Mosseri. “Those changes mean less public content in News Feed like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
Facebook is in development of a “Time Well Spent” feature to promote more meaningful engagement and time spent on the platform.
In January Facebook reported a loss of 700,000 daily users in North America, marking the first time the platform saw a drop in traffic in its history as a company.
Frustration over the algorithm changes on Facebook and Instagram have also given way to Vero’s rapid growth in recent weeks as more than three million users are now using the platform as a potential replacement for Instagram.
Vero reports that it doesn’t have an algorithm to decide what content receives higher engagement and displays posts chronologically, which serves as one of the biggest gripes influencers have against Instagram’s latest update.
Facebook’s shift may also stem from Reddit’s success as a content curation platform that draws visitors through easily digestible news content.