The end of January is always an interesting time in social media.
It is at this point of the year when we hear just how much more dominant Facebook has become when it releases its results for the previous year.
The one that most businesses focus on, whether they are travel companies or from another sector, is the amount of money Facebook is making from advertising. If you are in marketing, you might suspect this already, but Facebook makes a ton of money from advertising. In 2017, it made a whopping $12.8 billion. What is perhaps more interesting is that this figure is 48% – yes you read that correctly – up on 2016.
The other headline figure that people focus on is the number of users. Once again, this has gone up sharply. The average number of monthly active users is 14% up year on year to 2.13 billion; the number of people who use the network daily is now 1.4 billion, also up 14%.
Despite this, Facebook is having an existential crisis, thanks to a perfect storm of fake news, interference from nation states and public debate about the effect that social media is having on its users.
In a statement timed to coincide with the announcement of the results, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started to address this.
“Our focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn’t just fun, but also good for people’s well-being and for society. We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content. Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent. In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.”
So what is it doing to change how it is perceived?
It is going to make it harder for businesses – the very ones who have poured billions of dollars into its coffers – to make their voices heard through the Facebook news feed.
Zuckerberg says the site’s algorithm is being updated to prioritise “meaningful social interactions over passive consumption of content”. He added, “In the last couple of years, the ecosystem of public content like video, news, and posts from businesses has grown massively – to the point where it’s crowding out the personal connection people value most.”
“As a result of this update, you will now see more content from friends, family and groups that lead you to interact with people, and less public content that leads to more overall time spent.”
Zuckerberg admits that the changes will mean that pages run by businesses “may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease”. The worst affected will be those businesses which make posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on.
It is not all bad news for businesses – their page posts are not going to be shovelled into another feed as some feared.
However, marketers using Facebook will need to change their approach.
There needs to be an increasing focus on posts that encourage users to engage in back and forth discussion rather than simple likes or shares.
Live video is going to be a key part of this. The company says that live videos get, on average, six times as many interactions as regular videos, for example.
Marketers can also do more to ensure they are seen. You can encourage Facebook users who truly love your business and are happy to see your content to choose click See First in their News Feed preferences to make sure they always see posts from you.
2018 will be a scary year for Facebook marketers nonetheless.