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A Guide to Facebook's Changing News Feed for Brands and Businesses

It's not hard to predict what kind of content the average Facebook user sees in their News Feed. A friend's kid is doing something cute, a colleague's puppy is doing something cuter, and there's an awful lot of chat about the world we live in (covering everything from politics to selfies). This type of content is personal, engaging, and the bread and butter of a platform like Facebook. Typically, this personal content is mixed in with posts from social-savvy brands and businesses, including videos, promoted posts, news stories and carefully-curated copy.

But changes are a-coming. In a Facebook post, the platform's CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed users, explaining that they can "expect to see more from [...] friends, family and groups", and ultimately, "less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media".

The change, Zuckerberg said, was informed by research that shows the "well-being" of users is better served by connecting with friends and family, than by "passively reading articles or watching videos." The end-goal is based on a focus area for the company in 2018, which Zuckerberg explains is "making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent."

So, what does this mean for brands and businesses?

Firstly, understand that this doesn't mean the end of public content on Facebook. It simply means that the platform is changing the way that public content is consumed within the News Feed.

So, fear not: your content won't disappear from Facebook altogether, and the way that posts appear on your own business or brand page are likely to not be affected. The rebalancing of the algorithm simply means that posts which stimulate interaction (such as comments and shares) are more likely to appear in users' feeds. This means that more personal moments and conversations are likely to populate the feed, as opposed to public posts.

Brands may also now want to look at the way they work with paid-for-content. According to CNN Tech, Facebook VP Adam Mosseri has said that the change "shouldn't affect ads in general" as this operates on a "separate system". The site states, therefore, that "businesses may be able to sidestep this shift by putting money behind their content."

Why is Facebook making this change?

Zuckerberg explains in his Facebook post that an increase in video and public content "has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do -- help us connect with each other."

"As we roll this out," he adds, "you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people."

So, what kinds of public content could work well under the changes?

If you want to help your chances of appearing in the news feed, try to stimulate conversation and aim for maximum engagement.

Simply sharing an informative piece of content might not have the same impact it once had. Think of your social content as a conversation, rather than a lesson. Try creating content that asks questions, seeks opinions and gets people talking, instead of content that merely seeks to inform.

Brands should be striving for an active experience, with good quality content that encourages users to participate and share, rather than passively consume. Don't simply tell your audience which books you love reading, or which designers you're excited about, or which events you're backing. Ask for their opinions, too. Get suggestions, get talking, get engaging.

What's the takeaway here, and are more changes likely to come?

Put simply, it's likely that less public content will appear in News Feeds. Personal moments are the ones which stimulate engagement and conversation, and this fits in with the reasons Facebook was created. In his post, Zuckerberg reminds us that "we built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us."

But that doesn't mean that publisher content is out completely. Now, more than ever, it needs to be well thought out, attractive and compelling, so that audiences want to engage and share.

Words by Rebecca Monks

Image by @alessiolr for Facebook Blueprint, produced using Whalar.