Facebook has rolled out yet another update to its Edgerank algorithm, which organises the newsfeed (anyone unfamiliar with Edgerank should take a look at this article for a great explanation). The social media giant has worked out how to identify click bait and will reduce its reach in the newsfeed.
The change comes after extensive consumer feedback and research. Two years ago, Facebook began analysing how quickly users returned to the site after clicking a link. The more quickly they returned, they reasoned, the more likely it was clickbait for uninteresting content. They then analysed thousands of headlines for phrases that are used in clickbait and will filter out links with these characteristics. Cue panic from publishers and brands who are fed up with Facebook’s constantly diminishing organic reach.
However, I believe this grumbling is misguided. It’s true that Facebook has given brands a raw deal in the past: brands were once told to spend their advertising budgets on fan acquisition campaigns, only for Facebook to then change the algorithm and make it impossible to reach most of them.
Whilst reducing organic reach was a slap in the face for brands who spent thousands on page likes, in the long term it was the right move. Five years ago, when there was just a handful of brands on the platform, every promotional post reaching every fan wasn’t a problem. However, as soon as more brands joined Facebook, branded content risked swamping content of true value to users.
Facebook know that they’re the world’s number one social platform because they connect people with friends, family and relevant content. So, over the years they’ve constantly adjusted the newsfeed to make sure it stays this way. If they didn’t, they’d go the way of Twitter.
What some marketers see as a continual attack on their reach, we should see as continual insurance that Facebook will remain a valuable network and, with that, a mine of data that marketers can draw upon. If Facebook prioritised branded content it would quickly lose users. Facebook remaining everyone’s go-to destination and the wealth of data this provides as it trackers its users’ behaviour is far more valuable than a declining platform full of branded drivel!
On that note, Edgerank updates should be an impetus to create better, more engaging content. The definition of clickbait is ‘content that intentionally leaves out crucial information or misleads people in a bid to make them click’. Where’s the value in misleading your fans? A click from someone who is genuinely interested in your content is more valuable than a click from someone tricked into clicking. Facebook’s goal is to ensure users see stories that are meaningful, entertaining and informative. If this isn’t your goal too, then what is?
The moral of the story? Organic reach may be dying, but isn’t dead. Engaging, informative content will win the Edgerank lottery. Good content may not get the reach of yesteryear, but it’ll certainly outperform thoughtless clickbait both in terms of organic reach and value for your brand. Facebook wants to show high quality content: give it some.
What’s your view: is Facebook greedily exploiting brands or simply looking after its users? Has Facebook’s algorithm update affected your reach? Tweet me @AgostinelliAldo.