February 6th, 2018

Facebook Changed How It Ranks Videos in the News Feed

Lindsay Cosner

Over the last few months, Facebook has announced multiple changes to its algorithm that will have a significant impact on what content appears in the News Feed and with what frequency. Mark Zuckerberg himself summarized this recent spate of updates in a much-analyzed announcement that indicated the News Feed will now be prioritizing “time well spent.” The reprioritization of engagement, when directed at video, means longer videos may get a boost in visibility.

Updates to Video Completion Rates

Percent completion (how much of the video is watched) is one of the signals Facebook has been using to determine which videos show up in a user’s News Feed. Facebook also takes a number of other factors into account, such as whether someone turns the sound on, taps to go full screen, or turns on high-definition, and whether or not the video is live. Recently, Facebook came to the conclusion that the percent completion signal specifically needed an adjustment.

Because it is far easier to watch the entirety of a short video compared to a longer video, Facebook has now started weighting the percent completion signal based on the length of the video to avoid a programmatic bias allowing shorter videos to acquire better metrics by default.

Of the change, Facebook said, “Longer videos that people spend more time watching may see a slight increase in distribution on [the network]. As a side effect, some shorter videos might see a slight dip in News Feed distribution.” That doesn’t mean, however, that longer videos will perform better just because of their runtime. There is also no set length on what constitutes a longer video under this new construct. When applying this update to your content strategy, Facebook affirms that the best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people — and this will vary depending on the story you are telling.

Takeaway: Brands can stop obsessing over making videos as short as possible, and instead let content dictate the length. Of course, with attention spans getting ever shorter, concise storytelling is still paramount.

Updates to Video Distribution and Monetization

According to another recent announcement, Facebook’s algorithm shift, while looking for a way to quantify content’s relevance and value, will prioritize serialized programming and videos garnering repeat viewership on the platform. For publishers, this move is yet another signal that the short, silent video format that has come to dominate the News Feed is no longer a priority for Facebook. Products such as Watch and mid-roll ad breaks have been designed to push video producers to create longer, episodic programming for the platform — all to get more users to stay longer and come back more frequently.

“Publishers who are creating content that will drive retention will start doing better,” said Fidji Simo, VP of Product at Facebook. Simo, however, was careful to also acknowledge that one-off videos that earn a lot of views and engagement will continue to do well in the News Feed.

Takeaway: This shift, and the others rolling out simultaneously, push brands and publishers to be more thoughtful while creating content to inspire quality, intentional engagement.

As these changes take effect, Facebook recommends utilizing Page analytics to learn what is working best for your brand and how these changes are impacting your paid and organic content so that your strategy can evolve to meet the new platform expectations.

If you have questions or would like help with your content strategy, please get in touch.

Tags: Content Marketing, Data & Analytics, Facebook, mobile, ROI, Strategy, Tools, Trends

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