Swapping rage for relevancy: Did Facebook’s algorithm just get… nice?
Every time we glance at our phones or check our Facebook feeds, we’re met by irate posts, or rage-inducing headlines. Pure anger.
We carry it in our pocket.
We mindlessly scroll through it before bed.
We even check it whilst we’re walking the dog.
We know we shouldn’t, but we do.
But this anger? This focus on the polarising or the down-right-controversial?
It’s not accidental. Someone designed it that way.
Facebook’s algorithm has been crafted specifically to push engagement driving content to the forefront. Every single second, Meta makes a variety of predictions for each piece of content that users create, trying to guess with increasing accuracy how likely a given person is to engage with a post and find it meaningful.
Engagement in this context is meant in the most technical form: a click or a swipe on the platform. A comment, a share, a reaction.
With this in mind, it’s clear why the feeds look like they do at the moment. Anger is more valuable, simply because it holds more attention and drives more clicks. An angry reaction leading to a six-comment argument thread with someone that lives half way across the world is far more valuable to the platform than you just putting your phone down and sticking the kettle on.
But there does appear to be a little light at the end of the tunnel. It might not be a large one – more akin to a struck match in the darkness – but it’s there, flickering away.
Just this week, Facebook has added a new filter to the algorithm related to who sees what content.
The new format goes something like this:
WHAT DO WE HAVE TO WORK WITH?
What content has been posted? What posts are available from friends, other creators and Pages that we can show?
WHO ARE WE SPEAKING TO?
Who might like this content? We consider a multitude of signals such as who posted the content, when it was posted, what was the topic and past user behaviour, among others.
WILL PEOPLE ENGAGE WITH THIS?
How likely are people to engage with the post? We try to predict how likely a given person is to engage with your post and find it meaningful. We make a variety of these predictions for each piece of content.
WILL PEOPLE BE INTERESTED IN THIS?
How interested will the audience be in this post? Based on all of the data we have gathered on the post, which pieces of content should get priority?
The last one, the interest category, is the newbie.
Facebook now says that it will start to really emphasise what an audience is interested in, and give them more of it. Removing some of the engagement-bait style content in favour of things people generally want to read or hear more about.
Think: A space enthusiast is now more likely to see a post from NASA of new images taken by the James Webb telescope, rather than a meme about the flat-earth conspiracy theories.
A basketball fan might be more likely to be served video content of the best last-minute buckets, rather than click-bait headlines about transfer rumours and players’ personal affairs.
So, we know what that means for us as users – but what does it mean for brands?
It means that these three pillars continue to be essential. Meta has reiterated that the following three things are the best way to get your content seen in this new-era of the algorithm.
– Original content is key. Creators receive the greatest distribution when they primarily post content that is filmed or created by them. Original content contains your unique voice and demonstrates the unique perspective you bring to Facebook. Original content is distinctive, engaging, and preferable to users.
– Optimise for shares. Make content that other users want to share. This kind of content can spark meaningful dialogue, respectful discussion and attracts more likes and reactions.
– Get recommended. Make sure your content complies with their integrity rules and guidelines for recommended content. These guidelines outline what they will and won’t recommend.
We’re not expecting this to resolve the problem overnight – and we’re keenly aware that the new category still ranks below engagement in the algorithmic rankings. But it seems like a step in the right direction towards the creation of a more positive space online.