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Facebook “Story Bumping” Could Mean Real Issues for Brands

As a digital marketer whose job it is to live and breathe social media, it’s rare that updates to Facebook algorithms irk me as often as they irk the general public. Most of the complaints made by my friends and family lean more on the side of the user not understanding how the platform works than actual changes to the platform itself. For example, I often see status updates bemoaning an irrelevant ad served up in the News Feed.  That’s poor targeting by incompetent marketers – not from Facebook.

Like many of my peers, I was thrilled to see an update from Facebook earlier this week that demonstrated that they’re starting to apply a quality filter to the content that is shared. I’ve been vocal about brands who game the algorithm formerly known as Edgerank for the better part of the last two years. Frankly, I am a bit surprised it’s taken Facebook this long to address the issue. To be clear, this is only scratching the surface, but it’s an important step nonetheless.

In their news release, Facebook talked about users’ preference toward links that came from high quality sources over links that were memes hosted outside of Facebook. A lot of press covered this, but what I didn’t see covered is the fact that Facebook consistently mentioned this change predominantly for their mobile audience.

But there is another update that had me and most of my social/digital marketing peers quite irritated.  That’s the update of the story bumping algorithm to include a bump whenever someone comments on stories that piqued a user’s attention.  My issue with story bumping as a whole is that the algorithm is not in line with the real-time nature of social interaction across devices.  When I’m at work accessing Facebook from my laptop, Facebook is mostly its usual self.  But when I access it from my mobile device, it’s like an entirely different world.

fb example mobile bumpingOn a Wednesday, I’ll see a real-time status update from Sunday’s Packers game.  On Thursday, I’ll see weather conversation from Monday.  One of my favorite examples is the one to the left, which showed NPR’s noontime status update about Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19) to me on my mobile at 9:30pm on September 20 – 36 hours later. Had I not known about the holiday, or noticed the very light grey lettering indicating the date and time, I would have walked around thinking that the 20th was really Talk Like A Pirate Day.

That example is harmless enough, but you know what this screams to me as a strategist? Problems for brands.  If I’m posting a flash discount or promoting a contest, I could have a lot of angry customers flooding my page if they go to participate or click-through to my site only to see they missed out.  What if a brand had posted about a real-time issue such as a recall or security breach? Facebook’s ineffective story bumping could lead to reputation management issues or PR problems, too.

I’m one of the few people who is an avid user of the Lists feature on Facebook, so I tend to ignore a lot of the News Feed as a whole, and dive in only to those lists of which I’m most fond. The average user, however, isn’t even aware of how drastically use of lists can enhance their experience, and I think the latest bumping algorithm is a major disservice to the audience.

What do you think?