A new update to Facebook’s News Feed is the latest in the social network’s attempt to woo users and advertisers. In a blog post, Facebook engineers Erich Owens and David Vickrey wrote that the new algorithm would help to determine which posts are relevant at any given time and boost such posts accordingly. The new update seems to be an attempt to make Facebook posts more real-time, much like competing micro blogging platform Twitter.
Facebook said that the new algorithm would take into consideration two factors. The first will be trends in News Feeds. Facebook will begin to show more timely content high up in the News Feed so users know exactly which stories or topics are trending and what their friends have to say about the topics. So, when a friend comments, likes or shares a post about a trending topic, the post will more likely be seen higher up in the News Feed.
“Early testing of the feature shows a 6 per cent increase in the engagement of users with these trending posts in the forms of sharing, commenting, or liking the post,” said Facebook in the blog post.
The second factor that will be taken into account is the rate at which other users are liking or commenting on a specific post. If the new algorithm sees that a post is not getting any engagement after some hours, it will take it as a sign that it is no longer relevant.
For marketers, this means that their communications will now have to be centred on current happenings. Twitter has for long portrayed itself as a medium for engagement around events as and when they happen but Preetham Venkky, Head of Digital Strategy & Business at KRDS Asia feels that the new update could position Facebook as a “fantastic” option for marketers. “What Facebook’s new update will do is create relevant content for users which will also increase the rate of interaction. This has been long pending. Where marketing communications were planned on a monthly or weekly basis, they will now need to be planned on an hourly or daily basis,” he said.
Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO of Social Wavelength, also agreed that the new update would boost “newsy” content that is good for marketers and brands. However, he does not see this as a direct challenge to Twitter.
Both Twitter and Facebook have been constantly trying to tweak their platforms in order to position themselves as the premier destination for digital advertising. Facebook seems to be currently the favourite but Twitter has also been making a number of initiatives. For example, recently, Twitter announced that it has opened up its analytics for everyone. These analytics tools were earlier only available to paying advertisers. However, Gautamm Mehra, Social Media Head for iProspect Communicate2 pointed out that the analytics are still far behind that offered by Facebook. “They still don’t provide location-based and other demographic data,” he said. Still, the availability of analytics for all was in general favourably received by most brands and agencies.
Will a more real-time and newsy Facebook be a genuine threat to Twitter? It will be interesting to see how Twitter responds to this.