What’s Driving Facebook’s Algorithmic Changes? We Explore Their Survey Results



Facebook insists we’re “More Together,” and is using survey data to find out precisely how to bring us there.


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For the past several months, we’ve heard about Facebook’s impending algorithmic change, supporting their shift away from News Feeds and toward more intimate venues for communication like Pages and groups. But how are they driving these changes? We took a closer look at some of their user updates, and have determined some of the key factors that will impact how Pages and groups—perhaps your Pages and groups—appear for users.

Identifying Close Friends

Historically, Facebook has looked for signals like frequency of interaction, general sentiment of interactions, and engagement behaviors like tagging, liking, and commenting, to determine who your friends are. But a recent surveying initiative saw them asking people who their closest friends on Facebook were. Combining this “zero party data” with first-party data obtained through observation, Facebook believes it can customize a feed that prioritizes the posts of friends you want to hear from and interact with.

Lest folks be worried this will turn their feeds into an echo chamber of sorts, they caution: “This doesn’t mean News Feed will be limited to posts from only certain people and it doesn’t mean you will necessarily see more friend content. Rather, you will likely see posts from those you have close relationships with higher up in your News Feed.” Further, they promise that their prediction models are updated regularly, checking your stated preferences against your behavior.

Clarifying Interest in Groups and Pages

As Facebook has said in recent months, the Facebook experience is moving away from a News Feed model and toward the semi-private communication that takes place on Pages or in groups. This means that Facebook has had to do an audit of sorts for how people value their participation in these spaces. Supplemental surveys were deployed, and again the zero-party data was combined with engagement metrics like length of time following a page, frequency of engagement with said page, and how active administrators or other members/followers engage.

The results of these surveys, combined with badging initiatives that mark group or Page users with honorifics like “Conversation Starter” or “Visual Storyteller,” will likely go a long way to help people prioritize their role and contribution to these spaces…just as Facebook prioritizes their support efforts to growing and supporting these elements of the platform experience.

Clarifying Importance of Groups and Pages

Sometimes, a user may not post somewhere often, but the posts they do craft and share mean the world to them. As such, gauging the level of interest in a group or Page by frequency of interaction may not be correct. For this reason, Facebook’s guiding surveys also inquired about which groups or Pages were most important to a user. Looking for these markers as well as others listed, “they will prioritize content from the Pages and groups we think you care about most so that you see them higher in News Feed.”

So What’s Next?

All of these changes will allegedly create a Facebook experience that prioritizes people and connection, particularly those that are impactful or meaningful to individual users. It’s a noble goal to pursue, and in many ways will affect the polarized atmosphere that has frequently been associated with the site. At the same time, what could a social media platform where groups of people—who may be congregating based on beliefs or values—are pushed to their respective corners by design? The site’s latest campaign insists it can help us be “More Together,” and this emphasis on what we care about is a version of that. Whether this will solve the other challenges that the platform faces, remains to be see- and will be interesting to watch.

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