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How to Adapt to Facebook’s “Personally Informative” News Feed


By   |   August 16th, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism

We take a look at Facebook’s latest change around emphasizing “personally informative” stories in the news feed.

Another day, another update. Facebook’s latest update promises “more personally informative” stories to appear in the news feed.

What does this mean? Stories will be ranked through Facebook’s Feed Quality Program, which will include crowd-sourced surveys to rank just how informative content is. Facebook’s algorithm will then predict which stories each individual will find the most personally interesting, by also taking that person’s engagement history into account.

Facebook has already been implementing numerous changes to the news feed. In June, they gave more prominence to friends-and-family change in the newsfeed and less to publishers and brands. Then, last week, they announced a plan to reduce clickbait headlines.

So what should publishers and content producers do with this latest shift toward “personally informative” stories?

Remember, Content is King

If the Feed Quality Program favors informative stories, then your content better deliver. This means having a thorough knowledge of who your audience is, and what content matters to them.

How do you find the stories are resonating with them right now?

NASA viral Spike

This story from NASA about astronauts preparing for a spacewalk was getting big engagement on Facebook and Twitter in the hour after it was posted. 

What’s the content that has your target audience liking, sharing, and commenting on Facebook? What matters to them? Since it’s unlikely Facebook will let you peek behind the curtain at their Feed Quality Program, you’ll have to find other ways to do this.

Creating a RSS aggregator of the sites your audience regularly read can give you insights into what stories are popular and relevant with your followers, or creating Google Alerts for certain topics. 

But to see the stories going viral in real time, and to compare which of your competitors are driving the biggest engagement numbers, you can use a content intelligence tool like NewsWhip Spike.

Olympics Spike screenshot

These were three of the top Olympics 2016 stories of the past 24 hours (August 15th)

With Spike’s customizable panels, it’s easy to monitor the stories that matter to each of your target audiences, whether they care about broad topics like politics or sports, or niche topics like body positivity or FinTech. We can narrow those to a particular country or region, or dive into a specific social media platform.

Beyond monitoring, we can use the time range to discover which content trends and stories are going viral.

For quick access to the latest topics taking off around the world, Spike’s Discover tab makes it easy to keep up on new stories with pre-made panels for trending topics and events.

spike discover August

These are some of the latest panels in Spike’s Discover tab, which take you to today’s most relevant stories in just a click.

By keeping up on what your audience is responding to, and finding the story ideas that you know will matter to them, you’ll have the necessary tools for creating those personally informative stories.

Peer-to-Peer Sharing Will Reign

With every update, Facebook moves closer to content that’s as real and genuine as possible. Each change shows they’re emphasizing an organic person-to-person news feed over anything else.

Some publishers are finding another way to do this, by having their writers build out personal communities that follow their individual writing. This leads to more expansive social distribution.  

INSIDER travel, who we recently analyzed for their viral Facebook videos, attributes each video post to the writer.  

insider travel Facebook attribution

The video’s top comment provides a link to the author’s Facebook page. This author, Alana Yzola, is active on Facebook and links to the content she produces.

alana yzola facebook

This shift to authors being social distributors encourages a community around each author and their stories, and their peers’ stories as well. The author can share more thoughts about their stories and behind-the-scenes details that weren’t originally included. Readers can ask questions and have a direct line to the writer.

From this new trend, authors build up a following of readers who trust and value their stories. This can only help their ranking in the ‘personally informative’ algorithm.

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Be Genuine, Treat Your Readers Right

Again, the latest change is another move in Facebook’s war on clickbait. As we saw with Facebook’s pledge to reduce clickbait in the feed, the headlines and stories that are conversational and descriptive will be favored over those that are sensational.

Genuinely interesting stories that don’t give the readers a sense of being tricked will fare better in the Feed Quality Program.

Headlines like, “What We Found Was Shocking” or “What Happens Next Will Surprise You” are not particularly informative to readers. Instead, as we identified last week, headlines that are either descriptive, speak to personal experience, or are compelling, will be favored in the news feed.

good vs bad headlines

The same goes for all of the content. From the headline to the kicker, the story should leave the reader satisfied and not regretting they clicked through.

What to Remember

Each change may feel like Facebook is arbitrarily making hoops for publishers to jump through, but at the heart of each of it, each of these changes favors your audience. It raises the bar for open, genuine content that is of value to the reader.

By meeting this change, not only does your audience appreciate your content more, but it can increase trust in your publication’s brand, and increase engagement.

For a look at the stories engaging your audience right now, take a free trial of NewsWhip Spike

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