A lot has been said about Mark Zuckerberg losing $3.3bn after announcing changes to the way in which Facebook curates content.
The changes to Facebook’s news feed are intended to change the current sentiment that posts from businesses and brands are drowning out the personal stories.
The aim of these alterations, in his own words, is “changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
On an anecdotal level, most Facebook users can agree that the amount of content they view generated by their connections is a drop compared to the slew of content generated by advertisers.
Bill Gates wrote in a 1996 essay that content is king, and indeed that has been the case for what we know as the internet and social media. Rich content garners the most engagement, and evergreen content gets people returning again and again.
However in 10 years time, how many Facebook users would be able to look back at actual content created by either themselves or their peers – I would argue very few.
Facebook shares fell 4.4% on the announcement, as investors worried over the businesses ability to generate advertising revenue when publicly announcing plans to curtail the influence of advertisers. However to keep this in perspective, at the time of writing (Jan 2018) Facebook shares are still trading upwards of 40% year on year – perhaps this is not as big a blow to Zuckerberg as the headlines are attempting to suggest.
Added to this, there is a general sense of “short termism” surrounding many investors concerns. The planned changes to way the news feed operates is intended to create longer levels of engagement with more user generated content. It can be argued, that in the long run, not only will increased user time on the platform allow for advertising impressions, it would also allow for more meaningful data to be collected, and thus allow for better targeting of advertising in the future.
The move could also position Facebook favourably when it comes to large scale socio-political events. The possible impact of the allegations of Russian interference with the US election and Brexit, has made it more of a priority for Facebook to vet and control its feeds. Establishing itself as the world’s umpire policing what is real vs. fake news is most likely not what Facebook wants to be. However, Zuckerberg, and Facebooks stakeholders, will be more than aware that for the brands image, it cannot be seen to be providing a tool that facilitates large scale social manipulation.
It does seem as though Zuckerberg has decided to take a short term hit for a long term gain. However whether these changes really benefit the Facebook user experience more-so than it does advertisers remains to be seen. Facebook at the moment does not have much in the way of competition, and so advertisers cannot exactly “pack their bags” – and investor worries that they will are a little unfounded. This could genuinely be an earnest step towards creating a more meaningful and personal social platform for the future.