Facebook's newsfeed changes

In a rather understated press conference today, Facebook revealed three new changes to its newsfeed.

Rather than the major re-vamp of the newsfeed algorithm that many were expecting, there were three fairly small tweaks to the way that Facebook posts are consumed.

Story Bumping
If a Facebook user missed seeing a post in their newsfeed, it’s eligible to be bumped up to the top of the feed.

Previously, the news feed would rate all the stories published since the user last logged on, and show users only the ‘best’ (i.e. top ranked) ones when they did log on.  With Story Bumping, Facebook draws from the back catalogue and considers ALL the posts the user hasn’t seen, basically helping show users more new material.

According to Facebook’s initial testing of 7,000 users, story bumping leads to 5% more likes, comments and shares on stories from friends, and 8% increase in interactions for stories from Pages. Overall, there’s an increase from 57% to 70% in total stories read.

Last Actor
The Last Actor feature keeps track of the last 50 people or pages you interacted with and gives these people or brands a small bump in relevance. Brand pages will want to try and stay in that magic 50 to increase the likelihood of their posts being seen by fans. Facebook’s Lars Backstrom stated that for the results were positive for the 1 or 2 percent of users in AB test for Last Actor.

Chronological by Actor
Facebook users have always been keen to see updates in the order they were posted. Facebook will attempt tackle this with chronological tweaks, so that you see posts from the same friend or brand in chronological order. Useful for following live, real-time updates for a sports match, TV programme or similar.

This fits with Facebook’s increased focus on getting involved in real time conversation – the introduction of hashtags for example. Backstrom said the chronological changes currently lead to less engagement, and Facebook is tweaking this.

As We Are Social’s Global MD, Robin Grant says:

Facebook’s announcements today certainly weren’t mind blowing. Rather than significantly revamping the newsfeed, it seems more likely Facebook is trying to pre-empt a bad public reaction to how these changes might effect brands’ reach and engagement. It would give them the chance to stay one step ahead of criticism and say, in effect, we told you so.

Story Bumping appears to be aimed at people who visit Facebook less often, so that they avoid missing important updates that were posted since they last visited. Perhaps a sign that Facebook is getting worried about decreasing user engagement, so they’re changing how the newsfeed works to try and stem the tide.

Last Actor doesn’t seem to be a change at all, as a recency mechanism was commonly understood to have already been part of EdgeRank. But if it does change things, it’s again aimed at making the newsfeed more relevant to users, to stave off decreased user engagement.