Update: Facebook announced that the test was a failure and they they’ll also be removing the explore feed altogether!
You may have seen the headline ‘Facebook moving non-promoted posts out of news feed in trial’ bouncing around your feeds recently. The story began when a journalist at a Slovakian newspaper discovered his page’s organic reach drop by over two-thirds with four times fewer interactions in two days.
He discovered that in Slovakia, posts by pages had been moved out of the newsfeed and into the more hidden Explore feed. In the main newsfeed was just friend and sponsored posts.
The news sent the social media world into a bit of panic — is Facebook finally twisting the neck on organic reach?
Well at, least, not right now. Facebook’s Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri explained shortly after:
There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore. Unfortunately, some have mistakenly made that interpretation — but that was not our intention. Source.
While you can relax for now, the rationale behind a test like this is interesting when you dig a little deeper.
Facebook has a content problem
There’s no shortage of content — in fact, there’s too much of it. According to Facebook’s own internal data, we scroll through an average of ninety meters of content a day. Despite this mass consumption, the number of potential of stories that you could see still exceeds the amount of content that you actually consume.
As a company Facebook is constantly testing new features on a small scale — your feed will almost certainly look different to the person’s next to you. In fact we’ve been told from Facebook internal sources that there’s over two billion ‘versions’ of Facebook in the wild at any one time. Typically when a small scale test is successful, it’ll then be tested at a larger and larger scale until it becomes standard or fails. This is known as feature flagging, you can learn more about it from the Engineering team themselves.
What this recent test tells us is that at least one faction at Facebook wants ‘public’ content out of the main feed. It also tells us that Facebook is worried about how brands will react with the test being rolled out in markets less essential to the company; Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia.
If successful the test may roll out to other markets a few weeks or months down the track. Or it may not.
What you can do about it now
What we do know is that the number of brands posting content on Facebook is increasing faster than consumption. Inevitably, each page’s organic reach will continue to decay as this happens.
Facebook needs to serve the most relevant content to its users to keep them coming back. To keep your organic reach up you should only be only posting content you know will engage your audience. One poor performing post (or ad!) can affect your future reach.
Whether we like it or not, Facebook is the gatekeeper to most brand’s audiences. This is particularly true for events and entertainment where a majority of ticket sales are driven directly by the ecosystem.
Where organic page reach might be dying, other channels are growing. Facebook are now concentrating on improving community groups with new group features just announced. There’s also large push for messenger features such as in-chat payments and further support for bots.
So, do what you’re doing right now and do it well but don’t be afraid to try and move your efforts into other places — outside of just your page. Think about Messenger, try out groups, improve your instagram or get people into your very own content platform.
While this might have been a false alarm, the impact here is just how reliant brands have become on Facebook’s feed, and how the slightest change could entirely derail a communication strategy. If the platform does decide to cut organic reach overnight, then that’s that. Those that are agile and have managed to find their audiences elsewhere will exceed and the rest will be stuck buying their reach.