Google and Facebook Emphasize the New and the Now, For Better or Worse

Do recent changes to Google and Facebook affect political and marketing communicators? Potentially a lot, so let’s take the sites in turn.

First Google, which announced today that it’s making major changes to its search algorithms to update its main search index more frequently. Also, results pages for many queries will feature more recent content (including breaking news) over information that might have grown stale.

Overall, this change in emphasis is potentially really useful for users, particularly if Google can follow through on the idea of separating searches for evergreen content (“learning from Obama online campaign PDF“) from those for ephemeral content and recent news (“Herman Cain harassment suit“). One implication for political communicators: this emphasis on the new and the now gives us even more reason to jump on news stories quickly, since Google’s main search function should have a better chance of highlighting relevant recent content. Crank up those blogs and rapid response machines, kids: catch a news wave, and your words might spread far and wide.

Next Facebook, which revamped itself yet again back in September. As Farhad Manjoo points out in Slate today, Facebook’s latest changes emphasize recent content in users’ news feeds over posts from people you might actually like (i.e., friends with whom you’ve interacted with regularly). I’d also argue that the “improvements” appear to be featuring visual content over written, because my feed is now cluttered with photos posted by people I barely know. Manjoo’s article focuses on how the new feed emphasis is leading certain LOLCats-style word/picture combos to go viral, which may be useful for some advocacy and electoral campaigns to know, but it also suggests that our substantive content is LESS likely to get noticed now than before. Great!

Facebook’s solution is to have you “subscribe” to feeds and to set the amount of information you receive from them. Next up for political communicators: begging followers to “subscribe” and to become bosum buddies rather than distant acquaintances. Once again, it’s time to wonder how much it’s worth paying for advertising to get new supporters to “like” your page, potential email list members though they may be. Perhaps the company’s new marketing bootcamps will bring us around to their way of thinking — or else.


Written by
Colin Delany
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