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Change has been afoot at Facebook and Twitter, but most users won’t have noticed these changes as of yet. In a series of blog posts over the past two weeks, both networks have made some pretty significant announcements that will impact business owners who use their platforms.
Here are some of the most significant changes you should be expecting to see over the coming weeks and months.
Facebook Tackles Spam
Perhaps the biggest change that will impact business owners on Facebook was their recent announcement of a News Feed overhaul aimed at tackling spam. While Facebook claims these changes won’t impact the majority of page owners, I’d encourage publishers to keep an eye on the reach of their posts over the coming weeks.
The changes we should be expecting cover three specific elements, summarized below.
Like-Baiting: Posts that explicitly ask fans to ‘like’, comment or share a post are known as ‘like-bait’. A common practice has been for page administrators to request these actions in order to increase engagement; thereby increasing the visibility and prominence of the post in users’ news feeds.
However, Facebook is now cracking down on these types of posts, stating that their surveys show the relevance of these types of posts are actually less than other posts with the same levels of engagement: “[W]hen we survey people and ask them to rate the quality of these stories, they report that like-baiting stories are, on average, 15% less relevant than other stories with a comparable number of likes, comments and shares.”
Frequently Recycled Content: Sharing other people’s content on Facebook is nothing new, but Facebook is cracking down on pages that share frequently-circulated content to the exclusion of any of their own.
They state: “People and Pages on Facebook frequently re-share great content, but people tell us there are occasionally instances where photos or videos are uploaded to Facebook over and over again. We’ve found that people tend to find these instances of repeated content less relevant, and are more likely to complain about the Pages that frequently post them.”
They go on to say that pages engaged in this type of behavior will be “de-emphasized”, leading me to believe that any action taken by Facebook will be at the page level rather than at the post level.
Page owners should therefore continue to feel confident sharing other people’s relevant content with their fans, so long as they don’t do so at the exclusion of sharing their own original content.
Spammy Links: These are essentially links that take users to a website or page that doesn’t meet their expectations. The example Facebook gives is a link that promises to take a user to a photo album, but instead takes them to a page full of ads.
As Facebook monitors engagement levels of users who click on a link, they are able to tell how relevant the page is to the link that was posted. For instance, if 100 people click on a link, yet no one ‘likes’ or shares the page, Facebook may deem the link as being ‘spammy’, and the post may lose its prominence in the news feed.
A New Look for Facebook Ads
Facebook ads will soon be bigger and will mirror the look of regular newsfeed images. To compensate for the increased real estate in the sidebar, fewer ads will be displayed. In tests, these more prominent ads have shown up to a 3x increase in engagement.
This is great news for advertisers, although it will be interesting to see if advertising rates go up due to the increased competition for fewer spots.
Twitter Becomes…Well, Facebook.
Over the coming weeks Twitter users will begin seeing significant changes in the layout and design of their web profile. The new layout will boast easier navigation and filtering, and will give far more prominence to videos and images.
Here are some of the most significant changes you can expect to see.
- Customizable header (1500×500 px OR 1252×626 px)
- Bigger profile pictures (400×400 px)
- 3 column layout
- Tweets with more engagement will be larger, making them more prominent
- The ability to pin a tweet to the top of your page to increase its visibility
- The ability to filter tweets by: Tweets, Tweets with photos/videos and Tweets and replies
Another possible change that can be seen on the sample profiles on the Twitter blog are a ‘Tweet to’ button which allows users to tweet directly without having to use the @ symbol. This feature doesn’t appear to be included in profiles that have already been updated, so we’ll have to wait to see if or when this change is implemented.
Twitter Users Receive Real-Time Notifications
Users will soon receive pop-up notifications when others are engaging with them on Twitter. According to the Twitter blog, users who are logged on to Twitter.com will see live notifications when another user:
- Replies to one of their tweets
- Favorites one of their tweets
- Retweets one of their tweets
- Starts following them
- Sends them a direct message
When one of these actions is taken, a notification box will pop up on the screen, allowing users to respond directly.
To ensure you’re prepared for this new feature, go to your Settings page, and then customize what types of actions for which you’d like to receive notifications. Mobile Twitter users can also adjust their settings on the Twitter app.
Overall, I see most of these changes as being potentially positive ones for general users and business owners. Twitter’s redesign will almost certainly make for a more enjoyable user experience, and allowing for easy filtering of tweets will be a highly useful feature.
We’ll have to keep an eye on Facebook’s steps to fight spam to ensure our already severely limited post reach isn’t hurt even further. It will be interesting to see what percentage of pages and posts are impacted by these changes.
For guidance in using Facebook and Twitter for your business, see my articles, How to Maximize ROI on Your Facebook and Twitter Campaigns and How to Build a Winning Twitter Strategy in 2014.