In the midst of Facebook’s announcement today on major overhauls to the newsfeed, another policy change related to news feed images and sponsored stories is also taking hold. What’s interesting is that Facebook is now trying to solve a problem it created.
In 2012, Facebook rewarded images with higher Edgerank value. We saw amazing content being shared in a visual format and suddenly all brands were scrambling to create custom images for Facebook. The timing was great because Facebook images could have extended lives on Pinterest. The future for marketers looked bright and full of 180x180 images.
But it seems Facebook thought the new content posed a problem for users in the form of spam and cluttered newsfeeds. At the end of September 2012, Edgerank changed and it was the sad trombone heard around the community manager world. Images were now tanking in reach, strategies were now shifting and pivoting, and brands and agencies were getting frustrated.
Today, the frustration continues.
Facebook’s new policy states, “For ads and sponsored stories that appear in News Feed, the amount of space the text in your image takes up may not exceed 20%.” The plan will be enforced by a piece of software that scans any image uploaded to the newsfeed and is then sponsored. The challenge here is that all brands are being limited and punished for other people’s bad creative. And in what’s become typical Facebook style, the policy is not very clear. Cone Communications’ New and Social Media team attempts to add some clarity, and created the following list of typical sponsored content that would be limited by the new policy:
1. Infographics – Infographics are inherently text-driven. By instituting a 20% rule, is Facebook killing the infographic? If the shoe fits…
2. Cause promotions – It’s common today to have brands support a non-profit by featuring an share-to-donate image. These calls-to-action require a certain amount of text to explain the issue, non-profit relationship and terms and conditions of the cause promotion. By sponsoring these types of posts, serious issues get more exposure and engagement, ultimately driving support. These new changes put simple fundraising efforts for non-profits at risk.
3. Public safety announcements – Unfortunately in today’s world, Facebook has become a bulletin board for missing animals and people. These images are often accompanied by very important text indicating last place seen, visual identifiers and contact information. Desperate families often promote these types of posts, and this new policy could take away valuable time from their efforts.
4. Newspaper and magazine covers – as the former Social Media Strategist for USA TODAY, I know just how valuable milestone newspaper covers are on social media. Post an image of a major sporting event win, political election results or Kate Upton, and shares go through the roof. With a new software scanning these images, will they inadvertently block content that the media is trying to highlight? This remains unclear and would be a loss to the media community.
We’ll have to wait and see what the overall brand repercussions are. Facebook is at an interesting time right now, particularly as it clearly defines the role of brands on its platforms. We hope Facebook remembers who helps pay the bills.
--Alex Nicholson, Vice President, New & Social Media