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5 Facebook updates in Q1 2017 that affect content creation

April and its showers have arrived, which means it’s a brand new quarter. The new quarter coincides with the arrival of spring; a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, realignment, and retargeting.

You probably have your content strategy mapped out for the coming quarter, but you should take some time to revisit what happened in the last quarter. Don’t just look at your own content and your own data; look more broadly at what occurred across the digital landscape.

For example, you may be unaware that Facebook made 5 significant updates to their algorithm in the first quarter of 2017. Facebook is by far the most popular social channel, which means it’s a sure bet that your marketing campaigns, to some degree, will involve Facebook content.

These changes made by Facebook will impact how you create and publish content to the channel. What are these updates? Let’s look into that.

1. Video Completion Rates Affect News Feed Content

Facebook announced in January that, moving forward, video completion rates will impact what video content appears in people’s news feeds. Rather than score videos based solely on the length of the content, the new algorithm weighs the percentage of content viewed during the sessions, assigning value for both short and long videos.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook analyzed user interactions with video content. The platform’s algorithm has previously weighted clicks, pauses, and other forms of engagement on videos. They also analyzed whether the content is streamed through Facebook Live to determine what to feed into user news feeds.

In a statement issued upon the release of the new algorithm, Facebook Product Manager Abhishek Bapna said there’s value for Facebook, and brands that publish to the channel, in analyzing the percentage of time spent watching all video content, regardless of length.

One of the signals we look at is “percent completion” — the percent of each video you watch — to help us understand which videos you enjoyed. If you watch most or all of a video, that tells us that you found the video to be compelling — and we know that completing a longer video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one.
— Abhishek Bapna, Facebook

How does this affect your Facebook content strategy?

There’s been a conscious shift by brand marketers towards shorter video content. Studies like those conducted by Wistia emphasize the long-standing belief that “length matters” when it comes to video content engagement.

Source:  Wistia

Source: Wistia

The data in the chart above indicates that there is a significant viewership drop-off in the window of 2-3 minutes. However, Facebook’s new algorithm will evaluate the people who remain engaged for longer periods of time. The goal is to help marketers engage with users consuming more long-form content by directing related videos to those users’ news feeds.

Another reason for the new algorithm was teased earlier in the year. Facebook included mid-roll video ads in specific types of video content beginning early in January. The mid-roll ads, as described by Business Insider, will appear in videos at least 90 seconds in length and only to viewers who watch at least 20 seconds of the content.

The video completion rate algorithm is presumably part of Facebook’s attempt to build more engagement with mid-roll video ads.

2. News Feed Videos Play with Sound On by Default

Facebook announced in February that video content in news feeds will automatically play with the volume on by default. This is a significant departure from the company’s position on video content in news feeds, which previously played with the sound off by default.

The announcement is the culmination of a six-month study conducted by Facebook on video autoplay with sound. According to Mashable, the tests began in August 2016 and were initially restricted to Australia.

When Facebook rolled out “sound on” autoplay en masse, the company confirmed that Facebook video content will not play on top of music or audio from sites like Apple Music or Spotify. Dan Rose, VP of Partnerships at Facebook, did clarify that audio from Facebook videos will only play if the device scrolling the content is not set to silent or vibrate.

We’re going to honor the sound settings on your phone. If the sound is on your phone, we’ll default to sound on rather than off.
— Dan Rose, Facebook

What does this mean for your Facebook video content?

Marketers previously factored sound off by default as a creative consideration when creating Facebook video content. The new format switches those considerations around.

When creating new Facebook video content, recognize how sound on by default benefits your potential to connect and engage with people. Audio will now play on your videos as people scroll through your content.

This means the sounds included in your content should keep people more engaged with the visuals you want to be seen in the video.

3. Reactions Have More Impact on News Feed than Likes

March was a busy month in the Facebook realm of the digital universe. The company announced at the beginning of the month that they are once again tweaking the news feed algorithm to prioritize content and related content that earns “reactions” from users over “likes.”

The Like button has been the default reaction on Facebook for nearly as long as the platform’s inception. But in February 2016, the company added emoji-style reactions to Facebook posts, allowing people to respond to Facebook content in a variety of creative ways.

Reacting to Facebook content with emoticons provides more valuable data about what users really think about that content. In a statement issued to Mashable when the new algorithm was announced, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that responses in the form of “reactions” are more indicative of what content to feature in social news feeds than “likes.”

Over the past year we’ve found that if people leave a Reaction on a post, it is an even stronger signal that they’d want to see that type of post than if they left a Like on the post. So we are updating News Feed to weigh reactions a little more than Likes when taking into account how relevant the story is to each person.

Will this change how your content appears in Facebook news feeds?

The more reactions that you can earn through your content increases the likelihood that your brand will appear in Facebook news feeds. You’ll want to create content that is sure to earn you reactions over likes.

To increase your potential for reactions, you need to increase the amount of shareable content you create and upload to the social platform.

Source:  FlashStock

Source: FlashStock

Marketers are tasked with the challenge of creating enough content to boost awareness, engagement, and conversion rates for their respective brands. These tasks are often challenged by limited creative budgets, but the reward of earning more reactions and generating greater visibility is a valuable trade-off to the creative costs.

Teams in need of a vast library of social content can significantly benefit from new solutions that help marketers create lots of social content at scale.

4. Seasonal Greetings Atop News Feed

March 20th was the 2017 spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, and the 2017 fall equinox in the southern hemisphere. Coinciding with the first day of the new seasons was a release by Facebook, introducing seasonal greetings above social news feeds.

Source:  TechCrunch

Source: TechCrunch

The seasonal greetings are animations of birds perched in full green trees to symbolize spring, or animated leaves falling to the ground in depictions of fall. According to Facebook, the greetings will occur at the change of each season. On the date of the launch, the greetings were only viewable on mobile and Facebook has not said when or if the greetings will be seen while scrolling through content on desktops.

How can the seasonal greetings impact your plans for content?

Facebook has stated on the record that they’re concerned about the declining number of personal posts shared across news feeds. When people click on the seasonal greetings, they are prompted to create a Facebook post describing their feelings about the change in season.

As a marketer, seasonality should already play a role in your plans for content. But the seasonal greetings give you an even greater opportunity to connect with people who share content and their own opinions about the changing atmosphere.

Plan your Facebook campaigns, including organic postings and paid advertising, around the change of the season. Customize your message with language and visuals that reflect the time of year. You can trigger emotional feelings in people who see your content by tying your brand and your promotional material to how people perceive the time of year.

5. “Facebook Stories” Arrive in Mobile

Facebook Stories formally launched at the end of March and closely resembles stories features already in use by Instagram and Snapchat. Each user can share photos and videos that tell his or her own unique story.

Like Instagram and Snapchat, the stories disappear from social feeds after 24 hours.

This was an interesting move by Facebook. The company acquired Instagram in 2012 and introduced Instagram Stories to challenge Snapchat in this new category. Over 150 million people actively used Instagram Stories in the first six months that the feature became available.

Facebook presumably detected a similar opportunity to launch stories on the parent app. Similar to the seasonal greetings feature, Facebook is betting that the stories option will increase the amount of personal content published by their nearly 2 billion users.

In a statement released on the day Facebook Stories went live, the company said the stories feature represents how people are choosing to share and engage with content - visual and video formats are taking over.

The way people share today is different to five or even two years ago — it’s much more visual, with more photos and videos than ever before.

Why will Facebook Stories impact how you create content?

Simply put, Facebook is placing greater value on high-quality content that is more visual or in the form of video. The company recognizes that people are more likely to interact with content that is visually stimulative, and will share those captivating pieces of content with friends or followers who will enjoy the moments.

Strategies to create content on Snapchat are already in place for marketers, and similar creative guides for Instagram are also in the formulation process. The tactics used to create content for those two channels - greater emphasis on customized visuals and videos - must now be applied to Facebook for stories that boost awareness, engagement, and conversion.

We’ve come up with a number of strategies to help you increase your creative output with custom visual and video content that you can use across Facebook and any other social platform. Register and download our webinar recording of “How to Scale Content Creation for Digital and Social Channels” for advice on mobile behavior, technology’s role in the creative process, and new solutions to create high-quality content at scale.