I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.

Entries in Facebook (16)


09.09.13 — Facebook Changes Again

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Because they weren't self-evidently about marketing or new ways to make us more mindful of 'brands', recent changes to Facebook have slipped a little under the radar. Mainstream media coverage was slim. 

Buzzfeed's John Herman was the exception from what I was able to find (and if you consider Buzzfeed 'mainstream'). He took a thorough look at what Facebook has been up to in its battle with Twitter — yes, Twitter:

Last year, Facebook spent a lot of time and energy making the case that it should be a publicly traded company. This year, Facebook is making a new case: That its users’ data is ready to go public, too.

The gist of this new campaign is that Facebook, not Twitter, is home to the most important real-time conversations on the internet. This is counterintuitive for most people who use both services, and Facebook knows it. To whatever extent that there are important and centralized real-time “conversations” about news, politics and entertainment online, they seem to exist on Twitter.

Mr. Herman is talking about Facebook's announcement this week of two new APIs it hopes will push to center stage Facebook conversations on matters other than parties, kids, selfies and cats: the center stage in this case being Facebook media partners — Buzzfeed, CNN, NBC’s Today Show, BSkyB, Slate and Mass Relevance.

The two APIs — 'public feed' and 'keyword insights' — will let media organizations broadcast public Facebook conversations on trending subjects, aggregate "the total number of posts that mention a specific term in a given time frame and display these results based on gender, age and location."

Your public Facebook comments can now become part of any emerging news narrative.

Which I don't mind.

Assuming the conversations aren't manipulated to mutate the truth of a story — okay that is possible, if not likely, with some 'news' sources — they may add a little texture or heart, a bit of common sense judgment and some crowdsourced information, even knowledge.


The Pace of Change is Crazy (Facebook)

(First in this series on changes was yesterday.)

For the majority of people Facebook is just the place where they follow a newsfeed with updates from their friends and occasionally a brand or two they like. But Facebook is always trying to do more, usually for obvious business reasons.

Two updates to Facebook in the last month, the most recent yesterday, demonstrate that the platform never stands still:

Graph Search

Despite the odd name — who but geeks know the Facebook term 'social graph' — the new search functionality (currently only available to a small number of users in beta) is ground-breaking. Although it is search as we know it, it is fundamentally different from web search:

Instead of a Google-like effort to help users find answers from a stitched-together corpus of all the world’s information, Facebook is helping them tap its vast, monolithic database to make better use of their “social graph,” the term Zuckerberg uses to describe the network of one’s relationships with friends, acquaintances, favorite celebrities, and preferred brands. (Steven Levy writing in Wired) 

(Image originally posted on Wired)

It is true 'social search' in the sense it allows you to look for people, photos, videos, places and subjects of interest based on plain language terms such as 'restaurants in Toronto that my friends have liked'. And it has the additional capability to refine the search on such criteria as gender, name of current city, school, hometown, employer etc., with reported esults based on the strength of the relationship or connection in your social graph (your Facebook friends and connections.)

The primary impact on companies, non-profits or brands is likely that they will have to refresh their Facebook posting strategies to offer more interesting and complete content — more frequently — and to continue to work on engagement with their connections so there is simply more 'stuff' for 'Graph Search' to find.


This is a much subtler change than 'Graph Search', but still with considerable punch. Facebook has started to reveal more information about its EdgeRank algorithm, which 'decides' what shows up in peoples' news feeds on Facebook pages.

The EdgeRank decision at its most basic is established by such criteria as the number of 'likes' or connections and the extent of engagement with posts.  Chad Witman's summary of a discussion with Facebook’s news feed product manager Will Cathcart is a valuable primer on these EdgeRank criteria that are used to move content into a person's feed. 

Of particular note, though, is Witman's conclusion that "These insights confirm that Facebook has indeed made a significant change to EdgeRank, and the change is rooted in the impact of negative feedback." Facebook defines negative feedback as a user clicking 'hide', 'hide all, 'report spam' and 'unlike' on a page, the most common of course is 'hide'

The implications for companies, non-profits and brands are clear: Your page has to meet your fans' expectations, provide valuable content regularly and make them feel connected to you through on-platform interaction. Otherwise, EdgeRank will punish you.