Facebook's 'Story Bumping' update to the News Feed has aimed to make the content users see more relevant to them and help make sure that they don't miss posts.
Facebook claims that in early tests the Story Bumping update has resulted in a five per cent increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends and an eight per cent increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Pages and the fraction of stories read increased to 70 per cent from 57 per cent.
The Drum highlights some initial reaction to Facebook's latest move from those in the industry.
A persistent concern for brands is that as people ‘like’ more and more brands, and accumulate increasingly more friends, that brands’ messages/campaigns become increasingly buried and therefore seen and engaged with less and less.
With Facebook now boosting the prominence of organic posts based on user engagement signals, a persuasive piece of content/messaging will get more prominence in people’s streams – the cream will essentially rise to the top. This change affects only organic posts so it is unclear whether a similar engagement model might be used for paid-for advertising on Facebook too. Ultimately, brands creating captivating content should benefit hugely.
Facebook's announcements certainly weren't mind blowing. Rather than significantly revamping the News Feed, it seems more likely Facebook is trying to pre-empt a bad public reaction to how these changes might effect brands' reach and engagement. It would give them the chance to stay one step ahead of criticism and say, in effect, we told you so.
Story Bumping appears to be aimed at people who visit Facebook less often, so that they avoid missing important updates that were posted since they last visited. Perhaps a sign that Facebook is getting worried about decreasing user engagement, so they're changing how the News Feed works to try and stem the tide.
Last Actor doesn't seem to be a change at all, as a recency mechanism was commonly understood to have already been part of EdgeRank. But if it does change things, it's again aimed at making the News Feed more relevant to users, to stave off decreased user engagement.
The News Feed has clearly been the key to Facebook's success over the last two quarters. It seems like such a natural feature to be in a social network, but it has truly revolutionised our personal communication and proved to be the revenue driver that Facebook was searching for since it's IPO. The News Feed is where we instinctively go to get the latest information about our friends, but also about the world. Often we find out about greater news events because of the reactions to news stories by our friends and family. If YouTube is our custom picked media channel, then the Facebook News Feed is the media channel our friends pick for us. All of the content is picked by others yet it retains a very high degree of relevancy to us, making one of the best information recommendation and discovery engines out there.
Advertisers are taking note, as we see from Facebook's record earnings and rising share prices. By getting into the News Feed advertisers are tapping into a proven media channel on both mobile and pc interfaces. Advertiser data backs up the trends. A recent study by Adotomi looking at data from eCommerce companies shows that News Feed ads have a CTR (click through rate) 15-20x times higher than ads that appear on the right hand side of Facebook. Advertisers who are targeting well can push their messages into the News Feed and expect high engagement rates with the ads. The data also shows that News Feed ads have a conversion rate 41.9 per cent higher than the right hand side ads, making them a more effective ad unit as well. (Data methodology; data spans multiple geographic locations, primarily the US and Europe. The data set covers more than 500 million ad impressions.)
News Feed improvements like "Last Actor" and "Story Bumping" are going to make newsfeed content even more targeted and relevant for users which is a great benefit. For advertisers they should look to focus more on ads in the newsfeed and less on page posts to Fans as ads will allow for better targeting, larger reach, and the ability to better control the duration of the message.