Facebook is rolling out major changes to its News Feed in order to give users more control over what they see. However, small businesses could be left in the lurch if they aren’t careful.
As part of the Facebook update, users of the social network will now be able to prioritise what they see higher up in their News Feed and more easily unfollow people and pages that annoy them.
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The new algorithm means people choose their top 30 friends or pages, with all other users and pages hidden further down the screen.
Facebook’s product manager Jacob Frantz said in a statement the update is designed to give users more control over what kind of content they interact with.
“We know that ultimately you’re the only one who truly knows what is most meaningful to you and that is why we want to give you more ways to control what you see,” Frantz said.
“Today we are announcing even better tools for you to actively shape and improve the experience. We’ve redesigned and expanded Facebook’s News Preferences to give you more control.”
But social media expert Dionne Lew told SmartCompany the update could see some small businesses drop to the bottom of people’s news feeds if people choose not to prioritise them.
However, Lew also points out the changes present an opportunity for businesses to jump to the top of people’s screens, which is good news for brands that have spent time and effort connecting with their customers online.
“I think this is a really good change to the algorithm,” Lew says.
“People have been unhappy about the decline in reach as a result of the changes with the last News Feed update and there’s been general unhappiness – from people using it personally, but also businesses who have seen a significant decline in organic reach.”
Lew says because the changes will give Facebook users more control over what they see, small businesses need to act quickly in order to reap the potential benefits.
“You are only allowed to select 30 accounts that will always appear in your News Feed but you can change those,” Lew says.
“So for marketers who have a relationship with their customers, and for customers who have a relationship with the brand, that will be a good thing. It’s going to work really well for those brands who’ve put the effort into building relationships… it will be an advantage.”
As for whether businesses should ask their followers to prioritise them in their News Feed, Lew says it depends on the kind of business and the existing relationship they have with their customers.
“For some brands it might be appropriate to ask directly for some people to prioritise them,” Lew says.
“But it’s a bigger ask. When it was a click of a button [to like a page] it was just click and off you go. But what you’re saying here is we know you have limited space and you’re actually going to have to find that option in your settings. It’s not something that’s as easy as clicking a button – it needs to be a more thoughtful ask and you need to give them a bit of a reason and a call to action.”
The Facebook updates are available on iOS devices and will be rolled out on Android phones and desktop in coming weeks.