Facebook: Y U No Like Memes?

Twitter is all about the here and the now. People live tweet events, shows, and meltdowns in 140 characters or less. Mark Zuckerberg and the brains behind Facebook hate this, and are doing everything in their power to make Facebook a center for breaking news.

But at what cost?

Facebook is updating its algorithm to promote high quality content and punish the low quality stuff. (If you take everything we’ve said about Google’s algorithm over the past year and replace it with the word Facebook then the message is still the same.) The problem is that Facebook equates “high quality content” with news and “low quality content” with memes.

Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.

Personally, I’d much rather see meme photos of cats that can’t spell instead of political rants attached to articles posted by old high school acquaintances.

Facebook also plans to suggest other articles when users click and read a story posted in their News Feed. The example they use is from The Atlantic:

DisplayMediaAs much as I love memes, I work in the marketing industry, and I can’t help but get excited for what this means for bloggers.

First, these suggestions keep fans interacting with your brand. If they clicked on an article once and then bounced off of the site after reading it, they might come back ten seconds later when they see a suggested article that looks interesting. This is a second chance for blogs and websites to draw in fans and build loyalty.

The second bonus point for this algorithm update is the potential for outreach and audience building. Let’s use the example above. If I had never heard of the Washington Post before, but closely followed The Atlantic, I would be exposed to this new site due to the suggested stories. Facebook is doing the Facebook marketing for you. Users who are interested in your industry and who follow your competitors can be exposed to your relevant content. The best part is that it’s already something users are interested in. Let Facebook do the work.

What Facebook is and what Facebook wants to be are two totally different things. A few months ago, Mark Zuckerberg compared Facebook to electricity. It’s neither new nor sexy, but everyone still uses it. Countless bloggers have written about the diminishing teen demographic and predict the site’s downfall as the younger generation ages. This is what Facebook is, not what Facebook wants to be.

Facebook wants to be a hub for discussion. When Nielsen started factoring Twitter into its TV rankings Facebook started creating its own measurements. It took Twitter’s hashtags and now it wants to take its news. Mark Zuckerberg wants it to be where everyone immediately goes to talk about anything and everything.

But Facebook is kind of already there. 35 percent of smartphone owners check social media before rolling out of bed. Plus, smartphone users (more than 56% of the general American population) check Facebook roughly 14 times a day.

hater catVia

Turning Facebook into a News Source is akin to Michael Jordon switching from basketball to baseball. It wasn’t too far of a stretch for him to pick up a glove, but he was better off sticking to what he was fantastic at.

A better metaphor might be MySpace: it rebrands itself every few months and tries to make users treat it like the next greatest thing in the music industry. However, very few people see it as that. They see it as the site they wasted their time on in 2005. No amount of rebranding will change that.

Facebook has a long way to go before anyone will see it as a breaking news source, but if the algorithm update is done right then users might start thinking it’s as a site where friends share interesting, high-quality articles

Just as long as they don’t completely kill off the memes.

About the author

Amanda Dodge


  • Memes are forever great. To me, Facebook is still trying with a mighty effort to engage users. I think people tend to get lost aimlessly searching around avoiding awkward photos or thinking of their next best status update.

    I noticed this change a couple weeks back and it really is beneficial. It has lead me to spend some time on other pages or reach related articles on a topic of interest. I think like you mentioned, there is still a long way to go for Facebook, but this is helping. Right now there is a lot of clutter on Facebook. “It’s neither new nor sexy, but everyone still uses it. ” Well said Zuckerberg and fantastic meme Amanda.

    • I think a big challenge will be avoiding duplicate content. I also noticed the change, but it means I see the same news story four times because different friends post it from different sources.

      If it can sync with the “Joe, Matt and three other friends are talking about X” system they have for statuses about Christmas or football then there wont be as much repetition.

  • Really interesting post Amanda. I’m really on the fence about it. Part of me sort of wishes there was no algorithm at all some times. I’d rather just see all of the posts from the people and brands I follow, and leave it up to them if I keep them in my timeline or not.

    • I agree! Facebook has the hide and unfollow options, we could manage what we see ourselves.

      Twitter can be overwhelming with its timeline, but I know if I want to see a specific post I can. Even when you go on a specific Facebook page they have an algo that shows only a few stories.

  • Twitter is great because it doesn’t filter things for people. Sure, there’s the occasional promoted tweet or trend, but it never interferes with other people’s posts. You won’t miss an update from someone just because some crappy algorithm determines that it’s not worth seeing.

    The problem with this, though, is that algorithms can be manipulated.. and there’s no doubt that they will be.

    • Personally, Facebook’s algo is the main part of the site that makes my blood boil. I’m a page admin for a group that I volunteer with and visit their page regularly, but Facebook only shows me about 50% of their posts. If there was any brand updates I wanted to see, you’d think it would be that one.

      Facebook: Your Algorithm is Drunk.

      Thanks for commenting, Jonathan!

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