Facebook Strikes Again: The Battle Between Users and Marketers

In the battle between social media users and marketers, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the archers safe from the chaos, raining down arrows on the poor souls below scrambling to stay alive. Their newest blow, Facebook announced recently, is their new, enhanced News Feed filter with an algorithm that shields users from posts made by brands and businesses.

To quote the Facebook press release directly,

Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family. That is still the driving principle of News Feed today. Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook. That’s why if it’s from your friends, it’s in your feed, period — you just have to scroll down. To help make sure you don’t miss the friends and family posts you are likely to care about, we put those posts toward the top of your News Feed. We learn from you and adapt over time. For example, if you tend to like photos from your sister, we’ll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted while you were away.

As an avid user of all social media I find this spectacular, however, as an aspiring PR professional, this is a horrific nightmare that raises many important questions.

What does this mean for the PR profession?

What are the loopholes, if any?

How long do we have until it spreads to other platforms?

This new update will result in an increase of paid social media content, forcing many PR practitioners to increase their social media budgets, in order to reach preferred audiences through promoted and boosted posts. In fact, David Kellis, director of PR and social media for Clorox Co., told PR News that almost 90% of their published social media content is paid. Think on that a minute.

While consumers will be seeing less content coming directly from a brand, high concentration has been placed on creating ads that can be shared among consumers. This strategy is beneficial for larger, older brands that have already established a strong, loyal consumer base. However, for companies and brands striving to raise awareness about their brand, or those creating their own social media content, the uphill battle is just beginning.

Facebook is not the only platform adjusting their feed filters and restrictions. Instagram just this year drifted away from the chronological feed, and has updated their algorithm to base the user’s feed on what they seem most interested in. This places a higher value on a user’s friends’ posts, and lower value on posts of businesses and brands. While, again, this is extremely beneficial to users, it is detrimental to PR practitioners, because it eliminates the value and priority of live-posting. Instead, it won’t matter at what time you post a photo, it will matter how intriguing it appears to your followers.

While this news creates more conflicts for content creators, it does present a silver lining for PR practitioners. With the rise of restrictions for brands and businesses in social media the importance of media relations has resurfaced. Mentions of a brand or business in the media has developed strong influence over consumers, due to the information coming from reliable sources consumers choose to place their trust in.

How will this new shift affect your strategy? Will you find new ways to collaborate to cross-promote and maximize your brand’s exposure?

Sarah Voiselle

My name is Sarah Voiselle and I am a sophomore at the University of Georgia. I aspire to earn a bachelor's degree in Public Relations and Marketing.