Facebook has been running some tests on what it called its “explore” feed, which caused mass panic among social media managers everywhere. In a nutshell, the “explore’ feed currently sits at the bottom of your menu and features content from pages you don’t follow. Facebook curates that content based on other pages you do follow and content you’ve engaged with. It’s pretty obscure and not many user know it’s there. Now, the test saw all the organic content from pages that users do follow moved from their main news feed and buried in the obsure “explore” feed.
And therein lays the bombshell – no organic content from brand pages in anyone’s news feed, even the people who like your page – and brands and companies having to pay to promote every piece of content they post. It is no wonder the death of organic reach was proclaimed far and wide and the internet mob took up its pitchforks and marched on Facebook HQ. After all, no one is going to go to a totally different feed on their Facebook page just to get content from brands that they may or may not follow.
But then came the response: Facebook confirmed it ran some tests in six countries, but said it wasn’t rolling out the changes, which left a lot of people scratching their heads. So just what is happening, and what does it mean for you and your social media strategy?
Well, the truth is … we don’t know. What we do know is that Facebook carries out these tests with a view to improving user experience and growing its revenues. In a very superficial way, explore probably looked a great way to achieve that. Less branded content for users, leaving more space for friends and family, less bad branded content – clickbait and fake news – and companies being forced to spend more to get engagement.
But there are problems with that model. For example, many people choose to view and engagement with branded content. Facebook users are also consumers too who choose to get information about their favourite companies, brands and products via that platform. Removing that would actually make their experience poorer, not better.
Add to this the fact that explore would affect other valuable publishers too – vital local news outlets and local authority news, schools, doctors’ surgeries and emergency services, and you start to see that explore would have been as bad for users as it would brands.
Also, by being forced to promote every post, some brands my leave the platform altogether, either out of protest or because it simply becomes unviable to them, and that will hit Facebook’s revenues.
But does that mean Facebook has abandoned all plans to change its algorithm and encompass some of its learnings from the explore tests?
Probably not. Facebook is about the user first and foremost, and user generated content, because it is this that gives it volume, and that, in turn, brings value to advertisers. And with a continual quest to improve user experience, it is likely there will be some kind of purge on organic brand content, particularly bad content, coming along sometime in the not-to-distant future.
So, what, if anything, should you be doing different? In our view, you should be redoubling your efforts to ensure the content you are creating and promoting is high quality and what your target audience wants to see. Think about how to entertain them, how to educate them, how your brand solves their problems, and think about the medium – is your content best served in a video, infographic, blog post or white paper?
As with Google, the best way to future proof your brand against any Facebook algorithm change is to produce content that people want to connect with. When you do that, you remain relevant not just to your target audience, but to the social media platforms that host your content too.