Is this the end of organic reach on Facebook?
Another shake-up of Facebook’s news feed could see unpaid brand posts given even less exposure.
The social media giant is currently trialling a new feed called “Facebook Explore”, which will feature content from publishers and brands that the Facebook algorithm determines a user might be interested in.
So far, so good.
The trial has gone further in six countries, where these types of posts stripped out of the main news feed, leaving only posts from friends and adverts behind.
The aim of this test, which is still very much in a trial mode according to Facebook, is to allow users to view posts from friends and family in one feed, and posts from businesses they follow in another.
The trial has been causing uproar, with publishers concerned that the large audiences they have built up on the platform will not be served their content unless they pay Facebook for it.
According to the Drum, brand Facebook pages in Slovakia, one of the countries included in the trial, have already seen their organic reach drop by around 66-75%.
Facebook claims that it currently has no plans to force brand pages to pay to distribute their content, reiterating that the trial is just one of many tests that the platform is carrying out and that it limited to just six countries; Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia.
The trial of Facebook Explore has also triggered concerns about “fake news”, as content from quality journalism organisations is kept in with articles from “preposterous” sites, with priority likely given to whoever pays the most.
Facebook has already come under fire for the volume of fake news that circulates on the platform.
In the US, Congress are investigating around 3,000 Russian-funded ads served by Facebook that were created to influence how Americans voted in last year’s election – set up through fraudulent accounts.
After the devastating shooting in Las Vegas, Facebook’s Crisis Response page picked up a trending fake news story that wrongly identified the gunman and described him as a politically far-left, mentally ill person.
As many of these hoax articles gain their viral traction through user engagement, it’s likely that they will still find their way into the main news feed, while more accurate (but less engaging) stories are relegated to Facebook Explore.
Declining organic reach on Facebook
These newest trials are the latest in a series of Facebook algorithm changes that seem designed to reduce the organic reach of brand posts.
Last year, Marketing Land reported that between January and June 2016, the average reach of an organic post had declined by 52% compared to the previous period. In 2012, posts could reach around 16% of page fans, whereas in 2016 it was below 2%.
The official reason is that there is simply too much content being put out on the platform for every post to be seen. It makes sense – Facebook is just prioritising the content it thinks you’re most likely to be interested in, based on your past behaviour and what’s performing well with your peers. More often than not, that’s content from your friends, not a business.
One way to beat the tide of declining organic reach is to use video, which Facebook has continually prioritised in news feeds, adding autoplay as far back as 2013. Regularly producing video content that’s relevant to your users is great for Facebook reach and engagement, as well as SEO if done properly. There’s also Facebook Live to consider.
Alternatively (or perhaps additionally), if you’re not already doing it, it’s time to think about Facebook advertising. For all the scepticism about the motives behind their algorithm changes, it really is an excellent advertising platform, with very sophisticated targeting and a range of ad formats. Plus, with the vast majority of the population using the platform, there’s great potential to get exposure for your brand.
It’s not time to give up on your Facebook just yet…