On January 11, Mark Zuckerberg announced new policies governing Facebook news feeds and their organization. He wants to scale back the amount of marketing content and news that makes it onto individual news feeds and instead prioritize more pro-social content. He wants news feeds to be primarily made up of content from friends and family and other individuals. He also hinted at more similar changes to be announced in the year to come. And this change to the news feed means change for everyone.
Coming out of nowhere as it is, especially after a few years of businesses investing heavily in their Facebook advertising, this seems pretty scary. And it is scary; it’s a big change. If you believe most coverage of it, it’s nearly apocalyptic. But it’s not a tragedy. Facebook’s new policies and their change of priorities are a challenge for marketers to overcome and an exciting opportunity to be taken advantage of.
“The soul-searching Facebook is doing is something a lot of companies could afford to go through,” says Jason Hennessey, marketing director for Los Angeles DUI Attorney. “He’s slowing down, listening to the feedback he’s heard from critics, and contemplating what he can do to really bring more benefit to his customers.” This is a chance for forward-thinking CMOs, in overcoming the challenge of this policy change, to follow Zuckerberg and take some bold steps into more pro-social advertising and content production.
A New Facebook for a New Year
Zuckerberg’s decision to start de-emphasizing content from brands and media companies is a brave, risky choice, that has already seen Facebook’s stock price take a hit. It’s clear that it’s not a business decision but a personal decision motivated by values-a legacy decision, one might say. Zuckerberg is now a father, which may have had as much effect on the direction he’s taking this year as the last year of politics has.
Facebook has taken heat for exacerbating political divisions and polarization and for failing to curb fake news. So these changes to Facebook are also an attempt to respond to these criticisms and perhaps live up to the social responsibility Facebook has by merit of being such a far-reaching and influential media platform.
Zuckerberg is drastically reducing the amount of public content that will make it to news feeds, which necessarily means huge recalculations for companies whose marketing strategies are focused on Facebook. But the point is to give more space to the content that deepens relationships, fights loneliness and brings people together, that isn’t just fun but also “good for people’s well-being.”
But Zuckerberg makes a careful distinction. He dismisses simple news or video content that provides “just a passive experience.” However, he notes that there is other media content that builds entire communities around the shared experience of that content. And even as he assures consumers they will see less of many types of public content, he sends a clear, important message to marketers still hoping to participate in the Facebook platform: “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Following Facebook Into the Future
This announcement came out of a courageous moral decision, not concern for Facebook’s bottom line, so maybe this is a chance for us to take a similar leap of faith. We should take stock of our companies’ own social footprints and responsibilities. How is our brand perceived? What value is our product bringing to consumers’ lives, but also what value is our advertising alone giving consumers?
This Facebook policy change is a wake-up call to media companies that have put all their eggs in the Facebook basket that it is time to diversify. But it’s also time for us to reevaluate our marketing strategies and try to put the well-being of the customer first. We should prioritize content that truly engages people, not just with the content but with other individuals.
It’s time for marketers to focus on producing content that is quality content first and foremost and advertising second. Active social media profiles that interact with users and create conversations are better than bland, passive videos. We want to inspire conversations, build communities around our companies based on the shared interests and passions of our customers, and make connections. We can show our customers we’re serious and better build their trust in our brand if we follow Zuckerberg and make a real commitment to putting their well-being first.