After catching this headline, “Facebook Explores Changes to News Feeds,” in the Wall Street journal last Friday, I was anxious to see when and what new changes would take place. The article expressed that the changes would alter the news feeds to resemble that of Twitter and Google+. However, these adjustments were likely to excite marketers.
“The changes are designed to address some of the biggest frustrations by third-party developers and marketers on Facebook: standing out in the News Feed.”
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long to see the first change. Saturday morning, I noticed that my friend’s status updates discussing the same topic were now being grouped in a story in my news feed. The story read as, “[Friend’s name] and [#] other friends posted about [Page name].” The story also linked to the page, even though my friends did not. Announced by Facebook on Monday, this special kind of grouping is called a “Posted About” news feed story.
A Posted About story uses a natural language processing computer story to perform name entity recognition on statuses. Facebook originally experimented with a similar status grouping in 2010. Furthermore, Facebook has also been integrating stories in the news feed that group together your friends who all post on the same person’s wall or friends who add the same new friend.
The main purpose of Posted About stories is that it will help users determine topics that are trending amongst their friends, and spur fan growth for these topic’s Pages. The growth opportunity for businesses with these “social recommendations” is significant. In the past, encouraging users to tag Pages within their updates was difficult. These grouped stories will eliminate this need, as well as, the hassle of tagging. Additionally, the Posted About stories will boost the occurrence of links to Pages in the news feed, improving the potential for organic growth. Getting users to talk about your brand is likely to become a central goal for businesses and Page owners to help grow their fan base.
There is of course a negative side of Posted About stories. The natural language processing program does not detect the sentiment in the user’s statement. Consequently, the Posted About stories may link status’s that highlight Pages that that aren’t actually the focus of the update or that are being talked about negatively. Brands may be hesitant to have a string of posts linked to them that may be negative or off topic.
Like any Facebook altercation, not everyone is embracing this change with open arms. However, I am. Grouping status updates by topic will not only make it easier for me to scan my news feed for trending topics amongst my friends, but also highlight business pages that my social circle indicates are important (great news for a social media marketer like myself!). I am sure I will also enjoy coming across some amusing erroneous categorizations as well.