Facebook says that it’s time to look beyond likes and comments, pointing out that the company will initiate a new algorithm that will account for “time spent looking” at posts.
Facebook is all about time. When a user scrolls through their Newsfeed, they want to see things that are either popular or relevant. Some users like to see more news-related content while others like to see the things friends and family have shared. Either way it’s sliced, Facebook is about staying connected. However, the social networking giant has found something that they believe is important enough to alter their Newsfeed algorithms, to negotiate for the amount of time spent looking at a post.
This isn’t to say that Facebook doesn’t take likes and comments very seriously, but that they are reworking their system to negotiate for something more important than anything else. Perhaps more important than actual engagement in the site, are the users who watch various posts without getting involved by liking or commenting on a particular post, picture, or video. These users, or the ones who keep refreshing on certain posts to watch the comments, or see what people say – is an entirely untapped market – and Facebook is now recognizing that.
Facebook announced the change to their Newsfeed algorithm in a press release via Facebook. It read in part, “From this research, we learned that in many cases, just because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them.” The post went on to point out that, “here are times when, for example, people want to see information about a serious current event, but don’t necessarily want to like or comment on it. Based on this finding, we are updating News Feed’s ranking to factor in a new signal—how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed.”
Some of the questions that have ensued since this announcement are based on what “norms” these new standards will be based on. As Facebook pointed out, they saw a trend where when they evaluated the amount of time people spent looking at various posts, they saw trends in spaces where people who were engaged with individuals – but not necessarily willing to like or comment – and acknowledged the opportunity.
At this point, it will come down to implementation and how that impacts the overall bottom line. Will Facebook’s Newsfeed be better now that they are making changes to the Newsfeed algorithm? That remains to be seen. However, this is proof that the company is going to take this move seriously and is willing to evaluate new ways to measure how engaged people are with their social network.