By Abigail Diers

An announcement by Facebook last week has the tech industry buzzing.  The News Feed is being retooled to focus more on personal interaction and less as a platform for news and media.

Small businesses should be concerned about how this will curtail their reach to customers, especially businesses that operate with zero to minimum marketing budget.  With these changes, they may struggle to reach new audiences.

What’s Different?

Facebook announced its intention to step back and remember its roots as a platform for connecting friends and family.  Posts from individuals will rise to the top of the News Feed as posts from organizations – known as Pages – will show up less.

Media outlets from BBC News to Buzzfeed have churned out so much content that posts from friends and family have been crowded out.  This has made the user experience passive as people scroll through memes and auto-played videos.  Facebook is planning to remove this raw consumption and encourage an active environment.

Too Much Public Content!

Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a statement, “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

As a casual user, I hope so.  I don’t know how anyone can subscribe to a major media publication.  A while back, I subscribed to The Guardian.  Immediately, my news feed consisted solely of Guardian posts.  Neither other content nor posts from my friends were visible.  I unsubscribed five minutes later.

There’s data to back this experience.  According to NewsWhip, Fox News alone posted more than 49,000 times in December.  That’s more than one post per minute.  No human can consume that amount of information in general, let alone news.

Users appreciate a news feed with less businesses, brands, and media, and more of their friends and family.  Perhaps we’ll even reconnect with the people in our lives when we can actually see posts about their lives and thoughts.

Small Businesses Get Pushed Out

As a small business, however, Facebook is a way for us to stay connected with our community.  It’s also an avenue of affordable advertising.  ThrottleNet creates videos to let our community know what’s relevant to them in tech news, as well as tips on how to improve your basic computer use.  Other small businesses, from restaurants and shops to local community centers, create content on what’s relevant to their audiences. 

That access is about to go away.  Facebook Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri stated, “We’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

Well that cuts small organizations right out of Facebook.  The limited real estate will be dominated by major outlets that evoke comments from thousands of followers.  Sorry, Missouri State Parks, your page doesn’t make the cut.

Limited real estate also means the cost of advertising will rise, making it prohibitively expensive for small businesses.  Since major brands and media outlets will appear less on feeds, they’ll be willing to pay more for those ad spots.

The new algorithm will favor content that draws comments – with the goal of creating “meaningful interactions,” – rather than posts or videos that may be popular but don’t conjure up conversations.  If a local business makes a video but no one bothers to click that like button?  The video won’t show up on News Feeds, which means no one will click like… It’s a downward spiral, and small businesses will have little hope of getting exposure.

The New News Feed

Facebook says the process of redevelopment will happen over the course of this year.  Zuckerberg added, “some measures of engagement will go down.”  Wall Street thinks so too – Facebook dropped 4.5 percent the day after the announcement.

This bold change demonstrates Facebook will be user focused in the future.  It recognizes the need for paring down the volume of public content.  “Research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being,” said Zuckerberg.

Connecting with friends is why I joined Facebook ten years ago.  So in a way, this isn’t a retooling of the News Feed.  The platform is returning to its roots and why it was successful in the first place.

Small businesses will have to adapt.

Abigail Diers is Digital Marketing Manager at ThrottleNet