Facebook to Brands: Get Visual

Like it or not, get ready to see more images and videos from big brands and publishers in your News Feed. In its ongoing quest to boost user engagement, Facebook announced today that it now plans to show users fewer text updates from pages.

When users see text updates from friends in their news feeds they seem to like it, Facebook said, but the same can’t for text updates from pages. Perhaps that’s because they’re often from brands like Costa Coffee asking inane things like “How many Likes can one post about coffee get?” Or from Burger King shouting about how “The best things in life come with a side of Satisfries.”

“We are learning that posts from Pages behave differently to posts from friends and we are working to improve our ranking algorithms so that we do a better job of differentiating between the two types,” Facebook’s News Feed ranking manager Chris Turitzin wrote in a blog post. “This will help us show people more content they want to see. Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates.”

Brands have spent the past couple of years complaining the content they publish is rarely actually seen by users that like their pages. Of course, Facebook wants those brands to pay for ads. But Facebook also said it doesn’t want brands alienating its users with annoying updates asking people to like things or to share.

In recent months the company has been more transparent about how its algorithm works, however, which has been applauded by marketers. Today’s message is simple: Posts featuring images or video content are more likely to show up in users’ feeds than those without.

Most brands and publishers have already figured out that posts with images generate more interaction than those without. But even if page owners just want to share a link, they’re better off using Facebook’s link-share feature that at least pulls in a thumbnail from the source, the company said.

“These posts get more engagement (more likes, comments, shares and clicks) and they provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds,” Turitzin wrote.

In other words as Facebook becomes increasingly visual, data shows that users are interacting less with text-only updates from pages. Presumably they’re much more excited by close-up shots of cheese, or baskets of dirty laundry.