Facebook was back on its algorithm-change game in summer 2019, which has shaken up video rankings and users’ time spent in the app. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the new algorithm criteria, which rewards authenticity and deprioritizes viral, mass shared video content. With this update, authenticity reigns supreme, meaning viral content holds less authority.
What Is This Update All About?
Facebook wants to provide enticing, appropriate, fresh, and relevant content to users. Many expect (hope) this update will hit hardest on viral videos that hang atop News Feeds for far too long.
Facebook outlined three main criteria for the new algorithm: loyalty, view duration, and originality.
- Loyalty, measured by a user’s view history (past content engagement), with a brand’s Page and posts.
- View duration (how long users actually spend watching a video) is a key metric for understanding what’s actually popular with consumers, as autoplay has led to inflated total view numbers.
- Originality is determined by whether or not a video has been uploaded by a Page before, or if it’s video content that several other brands and users have shared, so brands and creators who rely on content sharing or uploading the same video every month will need to shift their strategy.
This all aligns to Facebook’s larger push to encourage more “meaningful interactions” – something it has said and tried to do many times before. However, past changes that have prioritized “content from friends,” or posts with more shares and comments (meaningful engagements) than just clicks and likes (potentially more misleading metrics), have done little to bump viral content down. Brands in the middle of the pack on fan count have still felt a decline in overall reach and engagement over the past several years/updates.
Why Should You Care?
Likely similar to past “quality content” algorithm updates, users will probably spend less time in the app, which comes as no surprise. When videos no longer rank as high on people’s timelines, they don’t spend time watching them. But why should marketers care? Well, the decline can lead to two things.
First, a performance decline. Brands that do not regularly produce viral content but post original videos that typically get a lot of shares and comments probably won’t experience a change in performance. However, brands should mindfully monitor content performance for any shifts, especially in reach and impressions. But unless you’re a large publisher that relies on social hype and mass sharing, organic performance (think comments, likes, and engagements) will stay the same.
The second outcome is likely more pressing on marketers’ minds: a decline in ad inventory. The deprioritization of viral videos means fewer seconds of video are watched, meaning there are fewer instances for a video ad to appear. As the available inventory for video ads goes down, the demand and cost to get that placement/click goes up. So, brands will need to compete for more for coveted video ad placements. That is until Facebook conjures up more space through user feature enhancements and offerings. Facebook captured 25% of all video ad revenue in 2018, (across Facebook and Instagram), so we know the media giant won’t idle long on a reduced frequency. It doesn’t want brands to reallocate marketing dollars out of frustration.
The Future Is Video
By 2022, 82% of all Internet activity globally is predicted to come from video. So, if a brand isn’t already on the video production train, it should be soon. It’s becoming a tactic that marketers simply can no longer ignore. But development strategies must be focused around originality and freshness. Keep content resourceful so it most resonates. And cut “viral” from your vocabulary.