Facebook Announces Overhaul of Newsfeed: What Does It Mean for Nonprofits? | Beth's Blog

Facebook Announces Overhaul of Newsfeed: What Does It Mean for Nonprofits?

Digital Strategy, Digital Trends, Strategy


Yesterday was my birthday.  And the one great thing about social media, particularly Facebook, is that you get to hear from many people wishing you a happy day because the platform alerts them.  This year I had a tsunami of birthday wishes.

Towards the end of the day, the New York Times published a story about a big announcement from Mark Zuckerberg about a change in the algorithm and newsfeed that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. While tweaks to the newsfeed are not new, this shift is a major change.

According to the article, the intent is to maximize the amount of content with what Zuckerberg calls “meaningful interaction” and social media strategists call “engagement.”   According to the article:

“The goal of the overhaul, ultimately, is for something less quantifiable that may be difficult to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.”

Some worry that this shift will create an even more pervasive “filter bubble,” where people only see content that reinforces their own opinions and views.

Facebook has been criticized for its role in spreading fake news and influencing elections.  There has also been a growing swell of criticism pointing out the connection between mental health issues and how Facebook’s interface is designed to addict users. These concerns are coming from researchers as well as technology leaders, including some former Facebook high level employees.

The newsfeed change will also impact nonprofits and others that rely on their Facebook Brand Page to reach their audiences and stakeholders, so de-prioritizing their content or “organic reach,” will require them to invest more paid social.  Many nonprofits, specially small organizations, do not have the resources.

According to the article, this change might be in conflict with Facebook’s revenue model and business objectives of getting users to spend more time on Facebook. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s hopes to have people spend less time on Facebook, but if they end up feeling better about using the platform, they will ultimately benefit.

The social media pundits were swift with posting their analysis on Facebook.

Social Media examiner posted this 10 minute video breaking down the news about the newsfeed.

Mari Smith posted this “translation” of Zuckerberg’s statement. The big takeaways:

  • Facebook newsfeed will be focused on content that sparks conversations between people on Facebook
  • Brand content that creates *community* will be favored (Social Media Examiner in the video above said that days of posting links from blog posts to your page to generate traffic are over.  Paid social and bots and decreasing posting frequency will be more important and training your community to use “see first” option)
  • Facebook will continue to aggressively grow it’s Watch digital television platform and favor content in the News Feed from shows and live broadcasts, particularly regular episodic content
  • Facebook is gearing up to establish large, vibrant, engaged, realtime communities watching the same events simultaneously
  • Organic reach is dead, the algorithmic apocalypse or “Facebook Zero” and it will become necessary to invest in advertising

Also, Julia Campbell did a quick video sharing her thoughts on the Facebook announcement and impact for nonprofits.

The plethora of birthday wishes really was due to the newsfeed as it will be implemented in the next few weeks.  Facebook has given us a heads-up and you can probably hear social media marketing screaming and pulling their hair out across the world.

How will you rethink your nonprofit’s use of Facebook?


9 Responses

  1. Interestingly, I don’t celebrate birthdays, yet I cannot turn off notifications about mine and others birthdays (Skype/Microsoft are the worst offenders) nor prevent the influx of birthday wishes (created by users clicking a button on a notification).

    The problem isn’t filter bubbles. The problem is the reduction of human interaction into trivial and stereotyped pro-forma abstractions. We don’t discuss, we like and share.

  2. Kelli says:

    Any suggestions for how we can combat this change without spending more on Facebook advertising and boosted posts? I’ve already seen our reach decreasing in the past few months and I worry that a change this significant could have negative repercussions for our organization and my job security, as it is my job to engage on social media.

  3. Beth Kanter says:


    I would take minutes and listen to the video that Social Media Examiner shared yesterday. That was the raw reaction, everyone is rethinking.

    You need content that is going to generate conversations between people — comments in the thread, paid social, and video.

  4. Beth Kanter says:

    Yesterday, even Google knew it was my birthday and showed me a birthday version of its logo ….

  5. Tim McDonald says:

    A key reason why building a strong community of passionate supporters is something that can overcome algorithm changes, crisis management, and paid advertising.

  6. Beth Kanter says:


    Absolutely – so that is the content to be creating. Engagement is still important.

  7. I follow a few conversations about this change in a few facebook (ha!) groups. In one group we talked about advertising in FB becoming more professional – and what it means for small advertisers. There were also some notes about different needs of users of different ages. It will be interesting to see how one algorithm rules them all.
    Personally, I run a page about internet and social change, related to my blog, in Hebrew, without payed advertising, and I wonder if there is a point to keep it alive.

  8. Mary Lou says:

    I’m somewhat alarmed that people are saying these changes will favor bots. I’m guessing they mean bots responding in the comments, the same sort of thing that allows trolls to get an upper hand in a comment section. I wonder if this change will push more small nonprofits to create FB groups?

  9. Jason Freeman says:

    I think this is a necessary change. It’s good to have challenges for entrepreneurs from time to time. This forces innovation and a shift in attitudes for a lot of businesses which rely on Facebook.

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