Digital Dash: Facebook algorithm panic & more

1. The big News Feed freakout: one week on
2. Instagram betrays its USP with text-only Stories test
3. Amazon’s new ‘blended reality’ smart mirror is the reason we won’t need fitting rooms anymore
4. Facebook test happening now: communal videos for groups
5. Giphy offers Instagram users a treasure chest of transparent GIFs for Stories

1. The big News Feed freakout: one week on
Last week’s Digital Dash was halted minutes before publishing so we could tell you about some breaking Facebook algorithm news.

Mark Zuckerberg had just announced that Facebook would be overhauling News Feed to prioritise content from friends and family over content from publishers.

ICYMI, here’s what we had to say at the time, in full.

While people everywhere flew into a panic, convinced that brand posts would be doomed forever, our initial reaction was a little less… hasty. With so many details unconfirmed and so much speculation around, we reassured you that ads were unlikely to be affected and that brands producing high-quality, fan-focused content probably weren’t in the line of fire.

So a week on, what’s changed? Were we right to stay cool?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is:

The news sparked an instant avalanche of discussions, articles and live video debates. Everyone and their aunty weighed in, meaning there’s a ton of information (and even more opinions) out there.

Here’s our take on the key things to know right now:

The update is not that shocking: as Jon Loomer points out, Facebook has made several News Feed changes over the years (including the very recent anti-engagement-bait one) that were all designed to improve News Feed for users and make businesses work harder (or pay) to be seen. There’s been talk about the decline in organic reach for years, so while the announcement last Friday is arguably the most bold of the lot, it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

Organic content is at risk: realistically, your content could suffer organically going forward. The extent to which will depend heavily on the quality of your content and the type of engagement it generates (see more below).

Paid media is safe: it’s official – ads won’t be directly affected, at least for now – although there might be knock-on repercussions from the organic reach hit. Let’s face it, Facebook’s not about to bite the hand that feeds it by turning its back on advertisers. In fact, if anything, this could be a bid to get more businesses paying to play.

‘Passive engagement’ is out: content attracting certain forms of ‘low-quality’ interaction will be devalued in News Feed. These could include regular video views, passive scrolling and maybe even Reactions.

‘Meaningful interactions’ are in: use of live video, Messenger (including bots) and Groups will raise your chances of getting seen as these are considered to produce better quality interactions. Long, thoughtful comments are set to become algorithm gold – and pages generating plenty of these will do well.

Although we’ve learned more this week, this is still very much a wait and see situation. The advice from us is still: don’t panic! Just make sure you’re producing high-quality content that your fans will love. Ideally, get stuck into producing some great live videos too.

We’ll let you know as soon as there’s more to know.

2. Instagram betrays its USP with text-only Stories test
Bit tired after that epic Facebook update? Don’t worry, we’ll keep this one short and sweet.

Instagram – the platform that’s best known for its stunning visuals – is testing a new ‘Type’ feature that lets users create and share text-only stories. Think Facebook’s colourful photo-free status updates, but vertical.

The option, which can be found beside the Live button, offers a fun selection of backgrounds and fonts to choose from.


Type versions will last for 24 hours before being archived, just like regular stories.

This is an interesting move from Instagram. On the one hand, it’s introducing a novel new feature that is likely to be enjoyed by users.

On the other, it’s another move away (Stories being the first) from the stunning, high-quality visuals that have defined Instagram since its arrival.

3. Amazon’s new ‘blended reality’ smart mirror is the reason we won’t need fitting rooms anymore
On 2 January 2018, while most of us were busy grappling with back to work blues, Amazon was granted a patent for a smart mirror that will use ‘blended reality’ to combine your reflection with an artificially transmitted image (e.g. t-shirt) into a single display.

I.e. it will show you how an item of clothing will look on you, as if you’re actually wearing it.

Although this isn’t the first smart mirror to appear on our radars, it does seem the most sophisticated. Plus, it’s owned by Amazon, which means we’re automatically taking its adoption potential very seriously.

Amazon_smart mirror

We’re probably jumping the gun a bit by suggesting that the mirror will eradicate fitting rooms for good. In fact, before they make it into homes, fitting rooms might be the first place they’re seen.

But domestic use definitely seems to be where the mirror could have the greatest impact, especially for ecommerce.

Every online shopper knows the struggle of receiving an item that doesn’t look, fit or feel right. On top of having to decide if you’re too busy/lazy to return the thing, you now have to live with feeling super angry at the website model who wore it so well and convinced you that you could too.

Amazon’s smart mirror could solve this problem, and also be the remedy online retailers have been waiting for to returns nightmares. But it will all depend if the price point is affordable enough – and with such complex technology at work, that could be a challenge.

Something really important to take from this is Amazon’s pursuit of the fashion industry, and its ability to radically disrupt it. You can read more on that (and the tech behind the mirror) here from Quarizy.

4. Facebook test happening now: communal videos for groups
While 99.9% of Facebook headlines this week have related to the big News Feed shake-up (see news bite #1), there’s more to tell you about – like the new video viewing option being tested for Groups.

‘Watch Party’, as it’s called, lets group members view and discuss a published video together in real time.

Facebook_Watch Party

If you think this looks/sounds just like a live video, that’s because it does. Live videos generate up to 6 times the interaction of regular videos, and it looks like Facebook is keen to see how important the communal element is to engagement levels. A key difference from live videos though is that only group members will be invited to attend a Watch Party.

Facebook has been increasingly putting more emphasis on Groups, including launching Groups for Pages in mid 2017. This has only been furthered by the News Feed algorithm change of last week, which will no doubt favour the high investment from group members in content. The Watch Party feature plays into the update perfectly by encouraging lots of discussion in the comments section.

5. Giphy offers Instagram users a treasure chest of transparent GIFs for Stories
Facebook’s not the only one with a bunch of new features up its sleeve.

In addition to Type for Stories (see news bite #3), Instagram is also testing another Stories update, which would give users access to a library of transparent GIFs that can be overlaid onto base videos/photos.

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It seems that you would be able to access the library via a special search engine developed by Giphy in collaboration with Instagram – although nothing has been officially confirmed yet.