How FB’s New Rules Might Actually Increase Polarizing Content

Meaningful engagement – it’s the new standard by which posts will be evaluated for inclusion in your news feed. For brands, this means organic reach will continue to drop, while FB shifts to featuring “meaningful” content – ostensibly one’s family and friends – in the news feed.

At the same time, they are promising to reduce low-quality content, focusing instead on content that engenders engagement and conversations. So far so good. But some social media agencies are sounding the alarm that this could backfire in an interesting way.

“The risk could come once brands find loopholes in the algorithm,” explains Seb Joseph in Digiday. He spoke to Chris Pearce, CEO of digital agency TMW Unlimited, who agrees.

“I can see brands that tap into authentic conversations with a credible point of view will do well,” Pearce noted, “whereas others will be tempted to be increasingly controversial or polarizing in order to stimulate conversation.”

Brands have two options now – pay to appear (and FB’s ad rates, incidentally, are up about 35% over the past few months, Joseph notes), or get much, much better at having “meaningful” conversations as part of an overall campaign strategy.

Meanwhile, just because Facebook says it’s returning to its roots as a social network rather than a news platform, that doesn’t mean the “partners” will play along.

Maybe getting called to testify on Capitol Hill opened their eyes to the fact that their platform could be used for good as well as evil. Recognizing it is one thing; fixing it is quite another. As James Vincent explains in The Verge, the company is starting to talk more publicly about the obvious problems.

Vincent quotes Samidh Chakrabarti, Facebook’s product manager for civic engagement, who talked about the issues.

“He points out many positives — that the company helps keep people informed about politics, and that it’s a venue for debate — but cautions that the company will never be able to completely stamp out its problems,” Vincent said.

As for fake news and misinformation, Chakrabarti is clear: “Even with all these countermeasures, the battle will never end.”

I don’t have a lot of insights to offer brands on how to manage their FB presence; our ship sailed away from that port a while ago. But I do offer some thoughts on how to get in front of your audience in a way that builds trust and strengthens the relationship.

Traditional media is moving the barometer to the good: Recent Edelman stats show us that consumer trust in traditional media improved. And trust in social media continues to erode.

Brands that want to leverage their trust are realizing they can’t do it on social alone; the trust gap on digital is just too great. As the pendulum swings back, traditional media is looking more and more like the safe harbor in this storm.

Instead of figuring out how much more money to throw at Facebook, brand marketers could do worse than look to print ads in traditional media.