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Facebook News Feed changes to benefit retailers?

Amendments made to Facebook's News Feed ranking algorithm last week could have a positive impact on the social media strategies of retail brands, according to search engine optimisation company Greenlight.

Organic stories posted on the social networking website that people did not scroll down far enough to see can now reappear higher in a user's News Feed if they are receiving lots of likes and comments from the site's wider audience – and Greenlight COO Andreas Pouros said this can be good for those retailers using Facebook to engage with their customers.

"A persistent concern for brands is that as people 'like' more and more brands, and accumulate increasingly more friends, that brands' messages/campaigns become increasingly buried and therefore seen and engaged with less and less," Pouros remarked.

"With Facebook now boosting the prominence of organic posts based on user engagement signals, a persuasive piece of content/messaging will get more prominence in people's streams – the cream will essentially rise to the top."

After a recent test with a sample of its users, Facebook said the change resulted in a 5% increase in the number of likes, comments and shares on the organic stories people saw from friends. There was also an 8% increase in likes, comments and shares on the organic stories they saw from Facebook Pages.

Commenting on its Facebook for Business page, the social network site indicated that, previously, people read an average of 57% of the stories in their News Feeds, but when the unread stories were resurfaced this increased to 70%.

For Page owners – many of which are retailers looking to engage with their customers or offer deals to entice people in-store – it means their most popular organic page posts have more chance of being seen by a wider audience.

At present this change only affects organic posts and Pouros suggested that it is unclear whether Facebook may use a similar engagement model for paid-for advertising in the future.

"Ultimately, brands creating captivating content should benefit hugely," he argued.

The News Feed algorithm on Facebook responds to an individual's specific behaviour patterns, such as how often they interact with a friend, Page, or public figure who has posted an update. Other influencing factors include the number of likes, shares and comments a post has received from the world at large and from users' friends.

Pouros warned: "Retailers will need to ensure that their organic Facebook posts better reflect their followers’ likes and interests as there will be a need for their posts to enjoy the maximum level of engagement in order boost them in News Feed rankings.

"Retailers therefore need to analyse and understand their Facebook following in terms of demographic, time zones, age group, overlapping interests etc., to create content and messaging that will resonate with the highest possible number of people."   

Facebook said that it will continue to adapt the way its News Feed operates based on user feedback.