See First: Facebook Gives Users Control, Make It Easier to Avoid You

Facebook See First

For years now, marketers have screamed about their decreasing visibility in the Facebook News Feed. “It’s not fair!” they said. “Users want to see our content!” they claimed. “Give them more control!”

I’ve always considered this a bit of a bluff. While Facebook’s News Feed algorithm does favor friend content over brands, it’s not necessarily unfair. It’s consistent with what users actually want to see.

Now that Facebook is quietly giving this control, it will be interesting what happens next: Will people actually tell Facebook they want to see brand content?

[Tweet “Facebook is giving users control to see content they care about first. How will this impact brands?”]

See First

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook launched the “See First” feature. It was a somewhat surprising move, a concession that they don’t always know what users want to see most.

Facebook is giving users the ability to select the friends and pages they want to see first, at the top of their News Feed.

The primary way to do this will be via the mobile app. After clicking the “More” button at the bottom right in the main menu, select “News Feed Preferences.”

News Feed Preferences

That will take you to this new, bright and happy crab who wants to give you control of your News Feed…

News Feed Preferences

Click the first option for “Prioritize who to see first.”

News Feed Preferences

Then you go through and select any of the friends or pages you want to see at the top of your News Feed.

Now when you come back to Facebook, the friends and pages you’ve selected will appear first at the top of your News Feed, labeled with a star. It’s not clear how recent such posts need to be to appear there, but I’ve seen it in action.

I also temporarily saw the option to “See First” when viewing posts from my desktop, however that option is no longer there for me. Others reported seeing it as well.

Will It Be Used?

This all looks interesting, but like any new Facebook feature that is released to give users control, you have to wonder… Will anyone actually use it?

Just think about all of the features Facebook has created to give users control that have mostly gone unused. Adding people to Good Friends lists. Creating interest lists. Choosing to see most or see some content from a user or page. The “Pages” tab.

Very few people use this stuff. So while it sounds nice, will people actually use “See First?”

If it’s buried like it currently is, then absolutely not. Some people will. Marketers will. But the users who like our pages mostly won’t.

However, it’s up to Facebook how much emphasis they want to put on this feature. If they make it an obvious button that doesn’t require digging, it may be used. If a quick tutorial is shown at the top of your News Feed that walks you through it, that might help, too.

But right now, it just looks like another shiny object that we’ll forget about in a few months.

How This Could Hurt Brands

Let’s imagine for a moment that Facebook does highlight this feature. Imagine that people actually do use it. This can’t actually be good for brands, can it??

A quick, honest discussion is needed here. Your brand is amazing. Your content is other worldly. But do you truly believe that users will choose to see your content first over close friends?

Look, there will always be exceptions. But that’s the problem — the best of the best brands may benefit, but the rest (a lot of brands remain terrible at Facebook) will suffer.

Every time a user picks another person or page other than yours to “see first,” it pushes one more piece of content on top of yours. The more a user needs to scroll, the lower the likelihood that your content will be seen by that user.

In my opinion, this feature — if used — only does the opposite of what brands are hoping for: It makes it easier for users to avoid you.

What Marketers Will Do

Unfortunately, we know exactly what marketers will do. With each new Facebook feature or change, brands will find a way to screw it up.

Remember the “Get Notifications” feature? Yeah, this feature allowed users to select people and pages they cared about most. When they published, you’d receive a notification making sure you didn’t miss it.

Since Facebook was being so unfair to brands and their content wasn’t being seen by everyone on the planet, the reaction was predictable. Brand after brand created annoying posts, explaining that they can’t see all of their posts because of the algorithm, and to please select “Get Notifications” to get around it.

I’m sure some users chose that option. But I’m guessing this was largely counterproductive. It annoyed users. Did these brands honestly believe that users would request to be notified whenever that brand posts?

Think about that. Notifications can get crazy. So if you’re going to use that feature, it’s probably going to be for only a handful of people and pages. But unless you’re freaking amazing, you’re essentially expecting people to use this feature for countless people and pages. That’s unrealistic and silly.

That takes us to “See First.” Much of the same can be said here. We know that brands are now going to use this as a marketing technique. They are going to beg their fans to choose to see them first.

Again, how realistic is this? I might add 10-20 people and pages to the “See First” list. But unless your content is freaking amazing, I’m not adding you. And I’ll be pretty annoyed by the request.

The problem is that a very large percentage of brands are going to fall in the group that isn’t “freaking amazing.” So your plea to have people add you first will be ignored. Even worse, users may lose respect for you and hide your content.

What You Should Do

Whenever the question is asked about how something should be used by brands, I ask… “Would a user do that?” If the answer is “no,” then you probably shouldn’t do it.

Think about it…

Would a user share links as a text update with an ugly URL at the end to get more reach, as brands once did?

Nope. No users did that.

Would a user share links as photos with an ugly URL attached to get more reach or engagement, as brands once did?

Nope. No users did that.

Would a user ask friends to add them to the “Get Notifications” list as brands once did?

Nope. No users did that.

So, ask yourself… Would a user ask friends to add them to their “See First” list?

Nope. No users will do that.

I’m not going to do it. If you do, at least be tactful about it. Understand how it can be perceived. Do so very delicately.

Your Turn

What do you think of the ability for users to “See First” certain content?

Let me know in the comments below!