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Facebook is giving users the ability to choose what they see in their News Feeds, after years of relying almost entirely on its special algorithm to choose what to show its 1.44 billion users.

Of course, Facebook won’t be doing away with its algorithm anytime soon, but it is giving more power to the users to customize what they see in their feed. Essentially the update is a redesign and expansion of the News Feed Preferences feature available since last November, but it also includes some big changes for how you use the biggest social platform on the planet.

You can now prioritize the friends and Pages you want to see first, and posts from these profiles will appear at the top of your feed with a star to signify its importance in the upper-right corner.

The new feature also includes a feature which shows the Pages and friends which have been popping up most often in people’s News Feeds over the past week, so you can easily unfollow overposters or other people you’d rather not see. This also has a page which shows recently unfollowed users if you decide to reverse your decision.

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Similar to SnapChat, the update has a new discover section which displays Pages Facebook thinks you might be interested based on your other likes.

The new features are already available on iOS, and will be available on Android and desktop in the next few weeks.

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The best marketing is always informed by data. The more data you have the more you can pinpoint who you should be reaching out to and what they are interested in, and Facebook is making it easier than ever to find out who you audience really is.

Tuesday, Facebook announced it would be granting Page owners access to “topic data” which tells marketers and business owners what audiences are saying on Facebook about all sorts of topics including events, brands, and activities.

Obviously there are some privacy concerns with this type of data, but Facebook says all personal information is being withheld.

With topic data, fashion retailers can see what types and styles of clothing their customers are talking about, and businesses can gauge the public opinion on their brand.

This isn’t the first time marketers and business owners had access to this type of information, but previously they had to use third-party tools to get this level of insight. Facebook also claims that these tools frequently used sample sizes that were too small to be effective and argue it was “nearly impossible” these tools were accurate.

Advertisers should know there is no way to directly use this data to target ads, but it absolutely can be used to craft more effective ads and target them more accurately for your market.

 

Over the past year, more than a few people have predicted the death of Facebook. They cite the shrinking number of teens signing up for the social site and the increasing difficulty for brands to get organic exposure as proof the end is near. But, a new report from Shareaholic show Facebook is still going strong.

Facebook has consistently been the leader in social referral traffic for years, and their share of traffic referrals is only growing especially during the last quarter of 2014. In fact, Shareaholic’s data suggests Facebook may be responsible for nearly a quarter of all traffic online.

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The most popular social media site reached over 25% of the total share of visits to Shareaholic’s network through October and December, however it fell to 24.64% in December. Overall the site gained 2.27 percent since the third quarter.

The report confirms Pinterest’s popularity, as the data showed the site in second place. Still, even Pinterest can’t compete with Facebook’s share of traffic referrals. Pinterest’s share was only 5.06%, nearly five times less than Facebook.

facbook-advertisingThe Super Bowl is quite possibly the biggest single day for advertisers. There aren’t many other times you’ll hear anyone proclaim they are watching something “just for the commercials.” But, it has always been difficult for online marketers to get into the mix. That all might be changing as Facebook has announced a new tool to help online advertisers target people interested in the “Big Game.”

The “Big Game” targeting segment allows advertisers to reach people specifically based on real-time online discussions related to the Super Bowl.

According to the announcement, the segment will go much further than simply targeting football fans. The “Big Game” segment will also include those liking, commenting, and sharing content related to party planning, recipes, or even flatscreen TV purchases in the days leading up to XLIX.

The targeting tool is also designed to be updated frequently, so that ads will be directed based on up-to-date information.

The new tool is a change of strategy for Facebook, who used interests and liked pages to target ads last year.

According to the social media platform, combining ads with live sporting events is a highly effective strategy for reaching specific targeted demographics. For example, it cites a cross-platform Nielsen study that analyzed at a Microsoft commercial that was shown during the 2014 Super Bowl and found Microsoft was able to reach 35% of persons 18 to 49 in the United States during a four-day run of the TV spot.

Using Facebook ads during this campaign allowed Microsoft to extend that reach to 57% of the national target of people 18-49. Among the younger 21 to 24-year-old audience, Microsoft more than doubled its reach, extending its TV reach of 24% to a combined TV-plus-Facebook reach of 53%.3.

The new targeting segment is available starting today for all advertisers. It can be found in the Facebook ads interface within the “Behaviors” section, under the “Seasonal and Events” category.

like-gateTomorrow marks a rather significant change in Facebook policy as they close the so-called “like gate.” As announced in August, Facebook has decided that pages will no longer be able to require likes to enter contests or view content.

Facebook said the change was intended to guarantee people are only using likes on pages they really want to engage with, not due to “artificial incentives.” Interestingly, this is also one of the few changes Facebook has made recently to receive widespread praise.

Most social media and marketing professionals agree like gates were far from the best means of achieving the desired result, often drawing in many who have no real interest in a business. Emeric Ernoult, CEO of AgoraPulse, gave the example of pages which used giveaways of iPads or other popular consumer goods to inflate likes.

“It was too easy to make mistakes,” Ernoult told Marketing Land. “There have been too many people doing things that were actually hurting them but they didn’t realize it.”

Most importantly, the rule change doesn’t ban pages from simply asking for likes, which Ernoult agrees is an overall better policy. “You are asking now, you are proposing. You’re not forcing and that’s a big difference,” he said. “And I think it will force page owners and marketers to think about how sexy they could be and how appealing they could be. Instead of, ‘Of well, they’ll have to become fans anyway so we don’t have to explain.'”

Facebook has long been the favorite social media platform for sharing content, but if a report from the New York Times is any indication content creators may soon be looking for a new platform to share their content while still attracting users to their own websites.

According to the report, Facebook may be considering hosting linked content directly on its own site, and serving ads on that content, rather than linking directly to content creators’ sites. Not only does this mean a drop in traffic from Facebook users, the change could outright cause the site owners to lose revenue from declining traffic and ads on their own site.

The change is supposedly going to be limited to mobile devices, but it has already stirred up quite a controversy with content creators and marketers.

Facebook seems to believe the change could be more convenient to users, but those who create content see it more closely in line with content syndication or even content theft. No matter the convenience to users, many content creators depend on revenue from page views and ads which would be significantly impacted if Facebook does end up hosting content.

In the wake of the controversy, Facebook has even opened a discussion on the possibility of sharing revenue to websites that own the content being hosted. In the New York Times article, Facebook explained its profit sharing proposal:

Facebook hopes it has a fix for all that. The company has been on something of a listening tour with publishers, discussing better ways to collaborate. The social network has been eager to help publishers do a better job of servicing readers in the News Feed, including improving their approach to mobile in a variety of ways. One possibility it mentioned was for publishers to simply send pages to Facebook that would live inside the social network’s mobile app and be hosted by its servers; that way, they would load quickly with ads that Facebook sells. The revenue would be shared.

That kind of wholesale transfer of content sends a cold, dark chill down the collective spine of publishers, both traditional and digital insurgents alike. If Facebook’s mobile app hosted publishers’ pages, the relationship with customers, most of the data about what they did and the reading experience would all belong to the platform. Media companies would essentially be serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns.

The real question appears to be if there will be an opt-out option available. There has been no mention of an opt-out or the potential for the hosting of content to be optional. Even if it is up to the publisher, the change could still negatively impact content creators who choose to host their own content on their page, as content which is hosted on the social platform is likely to look more attractive and convenient.

Facebook-for-Small-BusinessIf you believe everything you read online, you might believe Facebook is only a viable marketing platform if you’re already a big brand. But, a new report suggests small businesses across the country recognize the potential in advertising themselves across the site.

The study from advertising research firm BIA/Kelsey says small businesses are marketing on social media more than any other form of advertising. Specifically, their data suggests nearly three-fourths of all small and medium-size businesses are investing in some form of social media marketing, whether it be paid advertising or organic outreach.

For small businesses, Facebook was easily the most popular choice for social media marketing. More than 55 percent of the businesses surveyed reported having a dedicated business Facebook page, and another 20 percent have run a Facebook ad or promoted post.

Many businesses showed that social media marketing doesn’t have to be restricted to just one platform, as several businesses also cited using other sites including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. Notably, the researchers did say LinkedIn is likely not being used for promotion but for recruiting and general HR purposes.

“We were impressed with the strength of the whole social media category, not just Facebook,” Steve Marshall, director of research for BIA/Kelsey, said in a statement.

The study, originally published on Business News Daily, was based on surveys of 546 small businesses with less than 100 employees.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Facebook has become a bit of a source of conflict among many content marketers as organic reach has plummeted in recent years, however most stick around because the social media platform still has a massive impact when it works.

In an effort to satisfy content creators and marketers, Facebook has introduced a new subpage called Facebook Media that highlights how content can help public figures and organizations connect with their audiences.

Along with sharing success stories, Facebook says they will also share data and best practices which will help other content creators increase the effect of their own Facebook marketing.

The new page, located at media.fb.com, is divided into four categories built around goals typically shared by both content creators and media marketers. Here is a breakdown of each section and what you can find there:

  • Engage Fans on Facebook: Here you’ll see how public figures can use tools like Facebook Mentions to reach out to their fans on their Facebook Page. You can also get insight into different types of engaging content you can share on your own page.
  • Drive Referrals: In this section you’ll see how to drive referrals by doing things such as sharing links on your Page, adding social sharing buttons to your website, and other best practices. “After Bleacher Report increased the number of posts it shared to its Facebook Page, the site saw a 15X increase in referral traffic from Facebook.”
  • Share Videos: This contains information about how to connect with a larger portion of your own Facebook audience with video. It also highlights how using video metrics and call to actions can better engage your audience.
  • Integrate TV and Social Content: If you produce content for other mediums like television, this section has information about how to get your TV audience to engage with you on Facebook. “…like the TODAY Show, which featured trending topics on air to highlight the most talked-about news moments on Facebook”.

It has become a truism that “Facebook is losing organic reach,” almost like it is widely accepted that teens are leaving Facebook in droves. While the matter of teens leaving Facebook is up for some debate, the social media platform has even acknowledged that organic reach across the site is dropping and they explained why.

However there is more to the story. It is widely agreed upon that Facebook’s dropping organic reach is inherently bad, because the majority of businesses and marketers are getting the bad end of the deal. Those succeeding with the new algorithms are probably quite happy though.

A new study from Socialbakers shows that page engagement for successful Facebook Pages has risen 30% since January. That means that although many of us are losing reach, those who have mastered the are of Facebook marketing are seeing more success than ever.

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Socialbakers analyst Phillip Ross wrote:

The conversation that seems to be dominating the Facebook marketing community is all about how algorithmic changes to Facebook’s News Feed are hurting organic reach. Our numbers say the opposite; brands have never had a better opportunity to have their best content placed in front of so many people.

To be clear, Socialbakers’ numbers aren’t refuting the common knowledge that Facebook’s organic reach is losing ground quite fast. This study focused specifically on the 3 million largest Pages, but there are over 30 million active small business pages that weren’t included.

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Still the numbers show the other side of Facebook’s marketing results and helps explain why they continue down this path. With such a huge amount of content being shared every day, Facebook wants to focus on quality rather than quantity. Those with great content and quality marketing are still seeing strong results, but it is undeniably getting harder for the small guy to find some ground to expand with.