Change is coming to your Facebook feed once again, with the Meta-owned platform looking to shift its focus in line with evolving media consumption behaviors.
According to an internal overview from Facebook app chief Tom Alison, obtained by The Verge, Meta is looking to incorporate more AI-recommended content into Facebook feeds, based on overall engagement and popularity, not your personal connections. . Which is similar to how TikTok sources content from a wider pool than its immediate network, while Facebook is also working to streamline content sharing by bringing more messaging tools into the main interface.
As Meta explains:
“The Home experience will balance both connected and non-connected content. We’re working to clean up the top of the feed and make it as easy to view friends’ Stories as it is to discover new content on Reels. We’re also exploring a Community Dashboard to provide direct access to the communities that matter most to you. Finally, we’re testing a product to give you predictable access to your Connected Feed, with the ability to sort chronologically and filter by Groups, Pages, and Friends. Internally we call him “Mr. T” and I am excited about the progress the team is making.”
Which sounds interesting, but as Mr. T himself once said, “I feel sorry for the fool” who pushes too hard on major product changes, which could put important elements of the core app experience at risk.
The Verge provided its own overview of how the updated Facebook feed will work:
“TThe main tab will become a mix of Stories and Reels at the top, followed by posts that your discovery engine recommends on both Facebook and Instagram. It will be a more visual experience, with lots of videos, with clearer prompts to direct message friends with a post. To make messaging even more prominent, Facebook is working to place a user’s Messenger inbox at the top right of the app, undoing the infamous decision to separate the two apps eight years ago.”
The updated strategic shift is almost entirely influenced by TikTok, which continues to gain more usage momentum, to the detriment of Meta’s own apps. Those trends are now too significant to ignore, and it’s not just the focus on short-form video per se, it’s the broader usual changes this causes, in terms of reduced attention spans and new user habits, reported for TikTok’s compelling ‘For You’. ‘ food.
If it wasn’t already clear that Meta is doing its best to keep up with TikTok, it’s about to become a lot more obvious, based on proposed changes to its main feed.
In her overview of strategic priorities for the app, Alison outlines the proposed shift toward AI-powered content discovery, based on your interests, rather than what your friends share.
“Historically, Facebook has taken an entity-centric approach to discovery. We help you connect with the friends, groups, and Pages you care about most, then updates from those connections are sorted into Feed. Offline content in Feed appeared through the shares of friends, groups, and Pages you follow, but offline recommendations historically weren’t a core part of the Feed experience. However, we invest heavily in discovering unconnected content across adjoining surfaces, meaning through search queries or recommendations, first products like Watch, News and Marketplace.”
The change, which Alison describes as a “discovery engine” approach, will aim to highlight more interesting content in the app, “regardless of whether it was produced by someone you’re connected to or not.”
Meta has already been making investments on this front, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg noting on his first quarter earnings call that:
“While we’re seeing an increase in short-form video, we’re also seeing a major shift in sources from being almost exclusively curated by your social graph or follow graph to now having more of your AI-recommended source, even if the content was not posted by a friend or someone you follow. Social content from friends and people and businesses you follow will continue to be much of the most valuable, engaging and differentiated content for our services, but now being able to accurately recommend content from across the universe that you don’t directly follow also unlocks a wealth of videos and posts interesting and useful things that you might otherwise have missed.
That follows TikTok’s lead in bringing out more content, which is a better experience for creators (who get more views) and users (who get access to a wider variety of content), but it’s a fundamental change that away from Facebook’s long-standing sweet spot. Differentiation: It has the largest user base of any platform by far, which is why it’s so valuable as a connection tool.
TikTok has changed this, and while platforms like Reddit have long capitalized on multi-source recommendations, TikTok’s algorithm has effectively systematized user interests, showing you more of what you like without you having to explicitly communicate it. following certain profiles and/or communities.
That essentially dilutes Facebook’s strength, and while the app remains a key connection tool, it’s now looking to evolve its systems in line with this new paradigm shift.
A key focus in this regard, of course, is Reels, which is Meta’s fastest growing content option.
Camera rolls already account for more than 20% of the time people spend on Instagram, while video in general accounts for 50% of the time people spend on Facebook. And now, per Alison’s outline, Facebook will be looking to lean into this even more.
“The current short-form public video genre opens up new ways for people to create and discover content. While Facebook’s discovery engine is designed to support many different formats (text, photos, video, and eventually Metaverse experiences), our biggest gap today is related to short-form video, and that’s why we we focus on integrating Reels in Home, Watch, In. -Feed Recommendations, and Groups.”
In other words, expect a lot more Reels, in a lot more places, in the Facebook apps.
If you don’t like short-form video, you’re in the minority now, and again, the usual changes that the rise of shorter-form content has caused means that all video platforms must adapt to these new consumer behaviors or risk falling. lose. audience as a result.
This will require a significant shift in Meta’s approach, which, again, until now has been based on providing content recommendations based on your explicit signals of interest – that is, the people, groups, and businesses you’ve chosen to connect with on your apps. .
Switching to algorithmic recommendations is much riskier, as doing it wrong can quickly cause engagement to plummet. But getting it right, as TikTok has shown, can have big payoffs.
Another central risk for Facebook, however, will be the amplification of more controversial and sensational content, which might do well in the algorithms, but might not be the tastiest stuff to show its 2.9 billion users.
This is also an issue on TikTok, as users are regularly shown, for example, highly sexualized videos from young creators, who are incentivized to post them for more likes and reach. In some ways, TikTok gets away with it, due to its focus on younger audiences, but you can bet Facebook won’t get the same leniency if it starts algorithmically amplifying questionable clips.
Putting more faith in algorithms could end up being a big problem for Facebook in this regard, as the platform is already considered a key hive for conspiracy theories and misinformation, largely due to the engagement that sensational content sees. in the app.
Right now, Facebook can argue that these types of posts are largely limited by personal sharing, but an all-encompassing algorithm will change that dynamic and see Facebook send these posts to more users.
Is that a good approach for Facebook? Time will tell, but I’d be willing to bet that more problems and concerns will arise as a result.
On another front, Alison also points out that helping people seize economic opportunity is another strategic focus, as commerce remains a long-term key for Meta and Facebook.
“It’s also strategic for Meta as more on-site trading experiences help us mitigate signal loss from ads. [and] it is one of our main products that fits well in the market with YA. We will continue to invest in both organic and business-driven commerce products, and there is a growing opportunity to integrate delightful commerce experiences into products like Groups, Live and more as part of our effort to democratize economic opportunity on Facebook.”
In short, more Reels, more product listings, and more content from people you’re not connected to in the app.
It makes sense, considering broader trends in web engagement, but there are some major risks for Facebook, which could backfire on the app.