Facebook is evolving, and one of the trends has the attention of the CEO of the world's largest social network.

Facebook users are sharing less about themselves and Mark Zuckerberg is personally imploring his staff to reverse the trend of what the company internally refers to as "context collapse."

According to The Information, by the middle of 2015, users' sharing of original, personal information had dropped 21% year-over-year, and has declined by 16% so far this year.

Facebook says "the overall level of sharing has remained not only strong, but similar to levels in prior years," which means that if The Information's figures are accurate, Facebook users are sharing more non-personal content, like news articles and blogs posts published by third parties.

At the same time, industry observers suggest that personal sharing activity has shifted to other platforms, like Snapchat and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

For brands active on Facebook, this trend is worth noting as it could eventually affect their efforts on the social network.

The good

The good news for brands is that Facebook users are using the service to share non-personal content on a large scale.

This bolsters brand content marketing campaigns on Facebook, a good number of which rely on the company's paid ad offerings.

If sharing of non-personal content was not being embraced, it's likely that some brands would question the efficacy of their campaigns on the social network and scale back their efforts as a result.

Branded content goes well on Facebook

econ facebook post

The bad

While brands almost certainly benefit from users' willingness to share non-personal content, the bad news is that over the long-term, less personal sharing could change user behavior in ways that don't benefit brands.

Ultimately, if Facebook's "context collapse" drives more and more personal sharing to other networks, Facebook users might engage less frequently and deeply with the service, over time reducing the value of Facebook sharing activity.

Put simply, if a healthy balance between personal and non-personal sharing is lost permanently, Facebook could become less productive a platform for brands.

Are baby pics becoming more common on Instagram?


The ugly

Facebook is likely concerned about that balance, and while its efforts to restore it appear to be focused on encouraging more personal sharing, the risk for brands is that Facebook might eventually need to employ stronger tactics to do that.

Hypothetically, these tactics could involve changes that favor personal over non-personal content. For example, there's nothing stopping Facebook from tweaking its algorithm to more frequently highlight personal content.

Given that many brands already struggle with organic reach and invest considerable sums into paid campaigns to more broadly reach their target audiences on Facebook, any changes that make it even more difficult or costly to stand out on the world's largest social network would not be welcome news for marketers.

Patricio Robles

Published 14 April, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)

Peter Harrington

Peter Harrington, King of the Mountains at Always Riding

Let's face it, the average Facebook wall is a disaster area of weird videos, memes, gifs and friend suggestions for people you have never met. Would anyone really care if it disappeared tomorrow? Probably not.

over 2 years ago

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