Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Facebook changes and how it affects our use of the platform

Just when we think we've semi-figured out the best way to use Facebook for social media weather nowcasting, Mark Zuckerburg changes things up again.  We've blogged before about how many most of our Facebook fans (no less than two-thirds of them) are not seeing our updates, no matter what we post or how we post it.  We employ various techniques to reach as many of you as possible, but there seems to always be a cap on how many of our fans will see our information.

Changes to Facebook Fan page algorithms

Today, Facebook announced a few changes for Fan Pages that will require us to continue studying how many of our "likers" actually see our content and what types of posts work best.  However, the main points continue to be the main points if you are on the receiving end and want to see all of our content.  You can substantially increase the chance of seeing what we post by engaging our posts (i.e., liking, commenting on, clicking on, or sharing).  The more you engage our posts in the ways mentioned above, the more you'll see.  This includes engaging the different types of content we post to see more of that type of post (i.e., text updates, links, pics).  Also factored in are things like how often any of our fans, and even YOUR friends, engage our posts.  The more engagement, the more eyes see the content.  Facebook uses all of this information to try and determine what you are most likely to want to see.

A couple other things you can do to make sure you see all of our posts:

  • Get notifications. After liking the MWN Facebook page, hover over the "Liked" button on our page and select "Get Notifications." (Note that your little red notification icon will light up every time we post. Use this if you want to know every time we post.)
  • Create an Interest List. These are like friend lists for personal pages, but they are for fan pages. You can place MWN in an Interest List, then select that list to see everything posted by those pages that are in the list you created. More on Interest Lists

Again, check out this previous post for more detail on increasing your chances of seeing our posts.

One of the big changes introduced today is that Facebook will begin placing older Fan page content back near the top of people's News Feeds, to increase the chance it will be seen.  There is an inherent risk with this that applies directly to what we do, which is provide chronological updates of weather information.  Lifting old content back into a News Feed means you might see information in your recent feed on storms that are long gone.  We have been, and will continue to, timestamp all nowcast updates that are perishable, or aren't valid after a short period of time, and will re-double our efforts to make sure we do that given these changes.  The last thing we want you to see is a "take cover" Tornado Warning statement that you don't realize is a couple of hours old.  Just know that you MAY see old content in your feed with the latest changes.

So what do we do?

All of this causes us to again pause and take stock of how we use social media, in this case Facebook.  It is no secret that we strongly prefer Twitter to Facebook for what we do.  It's clean, orderly, chronological, unfiltered, brief, easy to share, and simply preferred for "news" sharing.  Facebook is great for personal socializing and works for us for content that is not perishable (despite the fact that a neat picture might only get seen by one third of our fans).  It does not work well when you need a chronological, unfiltered feed of information.

For now, we will make no changes to our use of Facebook, despite these fallacies.  However, we STRONGLY ENCOURAGE anyone that follows us on Facebook and has a Twitter account to follow MWN on Twitter as well.  In fact, we like Twitter so much that we think that it's worth you opening a Twitter account just to keep up with current news and weather information.  The ability to mobile follow (especially our automated StormWatch warning feeds) is icing on the cake.

If you don't want to open a Twitter account, but want to see our unfiltered, chronological updates from our Twitter feed, you can either view our auto-updating Twitter app that is embedded within our Facebook page (thus allowing you to remain on Facebook, even though you are tied to a single Facebook page), or check out our Twitter feed in the MemphisWeather.net iPhone or Android apps. Both are great ways to follow and know you're not missing anything, especially during severe weather.

A word on multiple sources of information

It is unwise (and that's saying it nicely) to rely on a single source of weather information, during severe weather in particular.  All sources have fallacies and may stop updating. This includes our nowcast feeds and mobile apps.  Commercial TV, radio, multiple weather apps, or NOAA Weather Radio are all good sources of information.

Our biggest fear is that someone solely relies on our Facebook feed for severe weather updates and Facebook decides not to serve up the Tornado Warning post to their feed. God forbid someone gets injured or worse because they relied on Facebook EdgeRank (or even a Twitter feed for that matter) to deliver their warning information.  We're reliable, but make no guarantees!  We appreciate it if you use MWN as a primary source, but have a couple of backup sources and check them regularly during severe weather.

Thanks for being an MWN Facebook fan!  We'd love to know your thoughts or comments. Feel free to post them on our Facebook page or leave them in the comments section below.

Erik Proseus
Owner, Cirrus Weather Solutions, LLC
Meteorologist, MemphisWeather.net

Follow MWN on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
Visit MemphisWeather.net on the web or m.memphisweather.net on your mobile phone.
Download our iPhone or Android apps, featuring StormWatch+ severe weather alerts!

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