How will the quality and quantity of news consumed on Facebook change over the next couple of years?

I’m a bit of a Facebook geek.

In the picture above, I’m at a Facebook conference in San Diego. On the left is the founder of Tri Swim Coach, Kevin Koskella. On the right is the now former Director of Facebook Small Business, Jonathan Czaja[1]. On the far right is the co-founder of Jelly Skateboards, Sven-Anders Alwerud (one of Instagram’s success stories[2]).

When I started working at 22Social, the first company to live stream on Facebook using Google Hangouts[3], it opened my eyes to the future of this social media platform.

After many conversations with renowned Facebook experts from Facebook software engineers to evangelists including Mari Smith, I took several months to write a book about the future of Facebook[4].

Here’s my explanation of the future of Facebook’s platform with regards to the quality and distribution of news:

People Use Facebook to Discover

Facebook is primarily a social discovery platform (i.e. people go to YouTube to search for specific videos and people go to Facebook to discover media). In turn, the news on Facebook will rarely fall into the how-to category unless it’s also entertaining. The content you see on Facebook will continue to rely heavily on shock and awe because it aligns with the user’s intent to discover content. This doesn’t mean it can’t be valuable.

With that said, Facebook is working hard to implement better search features. The idea is to give Facebook users a search intent because publishers will then have a reason to produce more how-to and informational content. In other words, more quality media.

You can see the difference between Quora and Facebook. There’s more high-quality information on Quora because it’s a search intent based site.

It’s Easier to Create Content

The barrier to entry for creating content is lowering as we adopt new technology that enables us to write with more confidence (i.e. Grammarly, Hemingway App, Google Docs), shoot better video faster, and take high-quality pictures faster (i.e. iPhone). In turn, we’ll get to know our Facebook connections better as they post more about their lives.

Today, you can produce newsworthy content without buying fancy equipment. This means everyone is – in some sense – a journalist. With a decreasing barrier to entry for creating content, people will publish more news than ever before.

The Freelance Economy Demands a Personal Brand

Studies predict that by 2020[5], more working Americans will be freelancers than not. As technology continues to encourage more freelancing, people will gravitate towards Facebook and other social channels for personal branding and business conversation. And to create a better personal brand on Facebook, one must produce more content.

As a result, people will begin to publish more high-value content on these platforms as a way to differentiate themselves and establish their professional brand.

Happy Publishers Produce More Content

Once Facebook begins to let publishers make money[6] off their videos similar to YouTube, we’ll see a huge influx of video content. YouTubers who produce content better fit for a discovery platform will now have a monetary incentive to produce this content on Facebook instead.

As a result, we’ll see much more “social news.” YouTubers who comment on current events in an entertaining fashion will largely benefit from this new source of income. They’ll flock to Facebook to see if they can make more money there than YouTube.

Reward People Who Post Native Content

As Facebook continues to penalize ads and content that takes people off their platform, we’ll see an increase in time spent on Facebook and an increase in the adoption of Facebook’s native creation tools. These tools include Instant Articles[7], Facebook Notes, Facebook Live, and basic status posts.

With new native creation tools, not only will we see an increase in news, but in how it’s told. And because native content gets consumed faster (almost zero load time), more people will consume news as well.

New Ad Formats Provide More Opportunity

From Facebook Carousel Ads to Facebook Canvas Ads, there are many types of ads a publisher can create. With more room to experiment, more publishers will find ad formats that provide them an excellent return on investment.

Here’s an example of a Facebook Carousel Ad:

Notice the amount of creativity and storytelling in this carousel ad compared to a regular Facebook ad.

People who were once struggling to advertise their product on Facebook because of the lack of paid marketing functionality can now test with many different media types.

In many cases, these media types are performing much better than the basic image ad. According to a report by Kinetic Social[8], Facebook Carousel Ads receive 5 – 10X the click-through rate of regular ads.

With advertisers receiving a higher ROI when spending money on ads, you can expect to see more sponsored posts in your news feed.

Complement Products Will Drive Facebook Traffic

As Messenger improves, there will be an increase of traffic to Facebook. As your network on Facebook increases, then Messenger becomes more useful since you can message more connections. In relation, people will have more incentive to expand their Facebook network.

Also, since publishers can now advertise directly to your Messenger feed[9], it gives advertisers a new avenue to spread news.

More Time on Facebook Equates to Cheaper Ads

If a target demographic is rarely on Facebook and there are countless advertisers bidding to get their ads in front of them, then it’s more expensive to do so. Because people are increasing the amount of time they spend on Facebook[10], advertisers are no longer bidding for the same time slots. And if ads are relatively inexpensive, then you can expect more sponsored posts and ads in your news feed.

As the quantity of news increases on Facebook over the next couple of years, then what happens to the quality?

As stated before, there are many new mediums of content creation from Instant Articles to Facebook Canvas Ads. In parallel, the media you consume on Facebook will drastically change.

The good news: Each of these media mediums were created to help better tell a brand’s story and to keep content native to Facebook. Better storytelling results in high-quality content.

Will there still be fakes news stories and click-bait articles?

Yes.

As long as people respond to the content, then creators will have a strong incentive to produce it. Even though Facebook is better at recognizing click-bait content and fake new stories before they go viral, it has a long way to go[11].

You can expect the overall quality of content to increase as Facebook improves its monetary incentives to attract influencers from YouTube and further encourage creation from the influencers already on its platform.

These influencers have access to different tools that enable more in-depth news coverage. For example, 360-degree video may help immerse viewers into news stories like never before. However, the adoption rate is rather slow[12] because videos usually don’t need the extra angles to add value to the viewer’s experience.

A quick look at Google Trends[13] shows us no steady increase in interest for 360-degree video. In fact, it’s dropped since mid-2016.

It’s too early to gauge the effects of many of Facebook’s new features. Still, particular features including canvas ads, carousel ads, and Instant Articles have already shown great promise in increasing the quality of news on Facebook.

It’s not all positive. There will be more experimental, and low-quality content created as people learn these new features. Think of your friends testing out Facebook Live for the first time with little understanding of what comprises an engaging video.

Where does the balance lie?

On the side of quality content because it’s a long-term game.

People stop clicking on content if they’ve experienced one too many negative outcomes.

Even though viral, low-quality content will increase the amount of engagement on Facebook; it’s not a winning strategy. Facebook knows bad content is the result of a bad product.

After all, Facebook’s mission is to connect the world. That doesn’t happen through low-quality content. It happens through more personal sharing of content. And that’s what they’re actively encouraging[14].

It’s exciting to see the increase in friends and influencers sharing news with a social component. Just with Facebook Live, anyone can capture a story worth telling. This is especially powerful for those in the freelance economy trying to develop a personal brand.

It’s an incredible time to be a Facebook user and experiment with all the new features that allow us to connect like never before. I encourage you to leverage the platform to tell your story.

Make it good.


Carousel ad image: Facebook Carousel Ads Examples And How to Make Them Work

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