Facebook’s News Feed Changes May Be Reducing Impressions, Increasing Feedback for Page Posts

Since Facebook combined the Top News and Most Recent tabs into a single, hybrid news feed last week, we’ve been watching for fluctuations in the volume of Page posts and other content types seen on the site’s home page. A study by EdgeRank Checker shows that impressions per post are down 33% but that Likes and comments are up 17%. However, there hasn’t been enough time or data since the changes to make an accurate assessment of the impact of the changes.

But if this data holds true over time, Facebook may have succeeded in making the news feed more engaging. Brands trying to reach the biggest possible audience with institutional marketing through their Pages may be hurt by the change, while those aiming to drive clicks and discussion may be helped by the new hybrid feed.

We’ve also seen steep increase in the presence of reshared content, particularly single photos. This may be due to Facebook showing the number of times a post has been reshared next to its comment count, and the increased display size of photos shared to the news feed.

Before the news feed change, Facebook users could choose between a Top News feed of the most relevant content and a Most Recent feed of other posts in reverse-chronological order. Page updates would frequently appear in the Most Recent feed. This meant more savvy users who switched between the two tabs had a place to go to absorb lots of Page update impressions, but novice users who stayed on Top News might only see the occasional Page update

The hybrid feed combines these two tabs, generally showing more popular content while minor updates are displayed as activity stories in the home page’s right sidebar Ticker. It means users who don’t act to filter their news feed may see more Page content, but more experienced users may see less. In the first days after the change, it seemed like the news feed had very little Page content in it, but that those that did appear were generally very popular and compelling.

EdgeRank Checker’s study seems to confirm this hypothesis that Page updates are appearing less frequently but that they’re being targeted better such that they reach users more likely to think they’re relevant and so leave feedback. The study looked at 1500 randomly selected posts over two time periods, from September 14th to 19th and from the 23rd to 28th, and selected to measure impressions, Likes, and comments before and after the news feed change on the same days of the week.

As the study uses both a small sample size and total time frame, the statistics should not be taken as fact. Another Page analytics company would not disclose data, saying it was too early to make an accurate comparison. However, one of our Pages was seeing increased feedback and reduced impressions that approximate EdgeRank Checker’s findings — and the size of the impact makes it worth writing about now.

EdgeRank Checker believes the difference may be in part due to Facebook causing posts to decay faster. This means the news feed is giving more prominence to recently published updates than it did before.

We believe this increased time decay may cause Page posts to quickly drop down into the “Recent Stories” portion of the news feed if they don’t see much engagement, reducing impressions. Compelling and relevant updates by Pages may be tagged with the Top Story blue corner, and therefore be given prime placement near the top of the feed, causing users to take the time to read and engage with them rather than skimming by them once they start scrolling.

Another contributing factor may be that if a user hasn’t logged in to Facebook for a few days, they’ll only see massively popular or relevant posts at the top of the news feed, and Page posts don’t usually have such as high EdgeRank score. Therefore, the top spot may be less likely to be filled with a Page update now than before, reducing impressions.

Increased Presence of ReShared Photos

The other most noticeable change we’ve seen in the news feed is the presence of more reshared photos. We don’t have data to support this claim, but single reshared photos seem to be appearing in the news feed much more frequently .There are several factors that may have contributed to this:

The increased feed prominence of single photos makes Facebook a more powerful viral distribution platform for photo-based memes. Facebook even took advantage of this itself to spread a photo debunking the myth that it might start to charge users for access in the future.

However, the increased prominence has also given rise to spammy apps that publish photos tagging multiple friends. This is because reshares of these photos include links back to the apps that help them grow. One called My Friends DNA by Shoutflow quickly rose to 41,000 DAU but has since dropped to nearly zero, indicating it may have been temporarily shut down by Facebook.

Facebook has plenty of data on the volume of different content types in the old news feed. With time, it may try to align new content volumes with the old ones, or improve the EdgeRank news feed sorting algorithms to favor posts that are frequently Liked, commented on, and reshared, rather than simply viewed.

it will take some time before enough data becomes available to conduct accurate analysis of the impact of the news feed changes. There is a chance that Facebook has decreased the EdgeRank of Page posts, but brands and Page management companies should consider holding their concerns until more data becomes available.