Facebook is redesigning their news feed again and this time it looks like a very positive set of changes. The social network has been notorious over the years for making changes that were initially hated by users universally, but this time they seem to be addressing concerns that users have been voicing for a while.
The big problem they may face is with businesses that are struggling to use the platform to get exposure.
There will be three primary changes:
- Bigger pictures, articles, maps, and events will be presented to users in their feeds. This is a good change for most, but those who rely on text status updates may lose a little from the update. Videos weren’t mentioned in their announcement about the change but they are highlighted on the page so that may have just been an omission.
- Sorting and filtering the news feed in different ways is a huge change. Right now, users can only sort by “Top Stories” and “Most Recent”. As can be seen in the image above, the new filtering options will allow sorting by All Friends, Photos, Music, Following, Games, and Groups.
- Consolidated experience on mobile and PC is a another big (and long overdue) change. The same options that are available on PC view will be available on mobile, making it easier for the high percentage of users who check Facebook mostly on mobile devices to experience the social network seamlessly.
It’s in the 2nd change that businesses may need to worry. There have been complaints over the last year that posts from pages are not displayed prominently enough with Facebook admitting that most page posts only reach around 16% of their fans. Many have turned to Facebook advertising to supplement or replace their organic Facebook marketing, but the change in sorting may make that a challenge as well.
The option to sort by “Following” gives users the ability to see the posts from pages they follow. In essence, it appears that they’re going to be giving users easier ways to avoid seeing those posts altogether, so 16% may end up being a higher number than what the future holds. If they can sort their way out of seeing marketing messages, many users will opt in that direction.
How they handle ads in these sorted feeds will pose challenges regardless of which way they go. If they remove them when users sort by “All Friends”, for example, then that will be a large segment of users who will never see sponsored stories. If they include the ads in those sorted feeds, than users who are expecting to only see their friends will be more inclined to unfollow, block, or report these posts as spam.
At this point it’s all speculation but it doesn’t seem like a positive move for business pages. This points to a larger challenge that Facebook faces as a public company. User experience decisions versus smart business decisions are often at odds with each other, meaning that the company has to balance between making their users happy and making their shareholders and advertisers happy. They are rolling out the changes slowly, but we will explore this concern more deeply once it’s available.