Lauren Kaye

Facebook recently announced new updates to its News Feed algorithm to further improve user experience on the network. Marketers should pay close attention to these changes, because they could further limit the reach of organic content shared by Pages on the network.

Facebook warns these changes could result in post reach and referral traffic declines.

The official blog post from product manager Max Eulenstein and user experience researcher Lauren Scissors outlined three major changes this update will have on the volume and type of social content shown to users:

1. Multiple posts from the same source

Facebook is lifting a ban that prevented multiple pieces of content from showing up in a user’s News Feed. The rule was a precaution meant to ensure diversity and keep a small pool of highly active users from over-saturating feeds, but some users reported it was leaving their feeds sparse. Now, people who don’t follow many accounts or pages can receive more than one piece of content from the same source.

If you have loyal fans who are highly engaged with what you post, this could mean even more Facebook real estate.

2. Posts from your top friends get first priority

The site is also striving to better understand your relationships with users and prioritize content from the sources you prefer. Specifically, Facebook said status updates, photos, videos and links from the friends and Pages you interact with most? will show up at the top of feeds so this important content doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

This doesn’t necessarily mean all personal updates, all the time, for all users. Rather, it’s an attempt to give each person the best content balance, based on individual preferences. If someone is highly engaged with a news source or brand page, Facebook implies this algorithm update will reflect this proclivity in News Feed results.

3. Fewer alerts about what friends have ‘Commented on’ or ‘Liked’

Facebook is limiting promotionsFinally, the algorithm is expected to limit the number of updates you see about what friends have ‘Liked’ or ‘Commented on.’ These notifications aren’t necessarily going away, but they will be pushed to the bottom of News Feeds so there’s room for more content that you want to see, according to the announcement.

What’s good for users isn’t always good for companies. Marketers have generally benefited from this feature. Their posts get added visibility among fan’s social circles when Facebook distributes notifications that people have Liked and Commented. That’s reach they’ll have to gain through another organic or paid approach in the future.

It’s clear Facebook wants to hold onto its user base by providing them with the best experiences on the site. These algorithm updates were developed based on feedback from users themselves. Facebook encourages brands to continue sharing content their audiences ‘will find meaningful,’ however, this feels like another nudge in the direction of paid ads.

Is Facebook a pay-to-play network now?

Over the past year, the social network has pared back the amount of organic visibility brand posts receive. On average, companies were reaching just about 1-2 percent of their audiences without promotion – and skeptics said this was a way to encourage ad spend.

In his first-ever public town hall, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this isn’t the case and that it’s still possible for brands to see success with organic social media marketing campaigns with quality content. (Check out the full interview here.)

It’s true that sharing valuable and engaging content is the best way to generate social marketing results whether you’re running organic or paid campaigns. An online ticketing company shows just how this works with its hybrid content and social media strategy: Writing for social media: Visual topic nets thousands of shares.

As the algorithm takes effect and marketers see the impact on their referral traffic and reach, they will need to decide if they should recalibrate their strategies by exploring new ways to reach customers organically, like contests, investing in more sponsored options or focusing on other social networks.

content for social ebook SmallTo learn more about what each network has to offer and how to build marketing strategies that help you reach your goals, download our free eBook: Content for Social: Join the party that’s right for your business