Facebook “People talking about your brand” update

A few days ago I posted on the new “People talking about this” content on the new Facebook brand Pages. The verdict is in, and I’ll summarise briefly.

  • The content appears when a user is viewing your brand page AND a friend of that user has posted content that mentions your brand by name.
  • An extremely complex search algorithm is at work to determine this relevance – theoretically complex enough to distinguish between a mention of Red Bull and a mention of a red bull.
  • This search algorithm is not in real-time, and trawls through a long history of content – one colleague of mine saw a friend’s post about a brand from August last year.
  • The feature cannot be turned off or moderated – though it is appearing on your brand page, it is not considered content under your curation (regardless of how it may appear to the user).
  • The visibility of the content is limited to the audience/privacy conditions for which it was originally intended, making it almost all invisible to page admins, with therefore no opportunity to respond.

Facebook’s justification is that your Page is a public space – you don’t own it, you’re curating it – and their motivation for this is producing the most relevant possible content to Facebook users. Fair enough. The problem is that because of the placement of that content on your brand Page, it appears to the casual observer that it is in fact part of your community content. And if it is a complaint, it will appear as a complaint that has been left without response, possibly for months. And even if the user is aware that it’s not Page content, there is still the potential for a psychological association of that negative feedback with your brand.

Facebook does not appear to have given a lot of thought to the feature’s practical effects on a brand Page experience. This is perhaps understandable, with so many changes rolling out and the emphasis on sponsored stories, new mobile Facebook newsfeed offerings, etc. But I think it’s going to become a matter of some concern for a lot of brands.

I don’t think that Facebook should necessarily nix the content entirely, but I do think it would be helpful for everyone involved for that content to be more clearly distinguished from the rest of a Page’s timeline. Perhaps a slightly different colour or shade of boxing around the content to imply some distance between it and the surrounding Page’s likes, posts by others on the Page and Page posts themselves.