Facebook’s Explore Feed could be good news for your business

Facebook’s Explore Feed could be good news for your business

Facebook is running out of room.

It’s hard to believe, but in fact, it’s true. Facebook is approaching the point of having more advertisers than advertising space, and that means the company is considering changes to its News Feed.

The News Feed is the primary feed that Facebook users see when they log into their accounts. The News Feed has a mixture of posts from the user’s self-selected Facebook friends, friends of friends, businesses, groups and advertisers. The News Feed is carefully balanced to include what the company believes is just the right mixture of user-generated and advertising content.

In 2016, Facebook began to report that the News Feed would likely reach its maximum advertising content by the end of 2017. Too much advertising content would chase away the users; limited access to the News Feed would chase away the advertisers.

Exploring the Explore Feed

As a compromise, Facebook has been experimenting with the “Explore Feed,” a collection of top-rated, mostly sponsored content. The Explore Feed content looks much like the content a Facebook friend might pass along or suggest. The Explore Feed includes content from all over, with a smattering of material that’s of local interest to the user. The Explore Feed is available on the user’s Navigation menu.

The Explore Feed provides another opportunity to reach out to new friends, using interesting and engaging content. Traditional viral content will certainly have a home on the Explore Feed, but so will short how-to videos, recipes, crafts and entertaining content.

It’s unlikely that the Explore Feed will permanently divide users’ private content from advertisers’ content. Facebook recently conducted a test in a half-dozen countries that did just that. All non-user generated content was send to the Explore Feed, while individual users’ content was sent to the News Feed. The countries in the test included Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka.

According to some published reports, user engagement took a disastrous hit, dropping as much as 75%. Further, journalists in Guatemala complained that the switch made it difficult for users to distinguish genuine news items from fake ones. The journalists fretted that the changes could allow people to be swayed more easily by propaganda masquerading as vetted news items.

Despite the concerns, promoted posts (that is, posts that advertisers paid for) appeared in users’ News Feeds in test countries alongside the users’ private content. Facebook hasn’t said what they concluded from the tests but maintained that the goal of the test was to determine whether users wanted separate spaces for public and private content. The company also says that there’s no current plan to roll out separate feeds for users’ public and private content.

What’s new in the News Feed?

Worth noting in all of this, Facebook has recently rolled out some changes to the News Feed that will make content easier to read and navigate. In addition, Facebook has touched up the Camera feature. Users can now record 2-second GIFs and post them to Facebook. They can also start a live stream using Facebook Camera.

Live streaming on Facebook opens up a host of new possibilities for businesses that are looking for ways to improve their user engagement. Live streaming provides opportunities to enhance organic Facebook content. It allows businesses to stream demos, how-to events, show off new products and engage both new and existing Facebook followers.

At the same time Facebook is making improvements to the News Feed and other features, it is also focusing on the mobile user experience. Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would give preference to News Feed items based on load times for its mobile users. The faster a News Feed item loads to a mobile device, the higher its chances of being displayed for a mobile user.

The converse of that is that Facebook will begin deprecating News Feed items that load more slowly. The slower an item loads after a user clicks on its link, the less likely the platform will be to present the item. That could reduce an advertiser’s reach if they’re not at the top of their game when it comes to identifying and serving mobile users.

As you’d expect, Facebook has a target load time in mind, but it isn’t sharing that with its content providers. In addition, Facebook will tweak the standard on-the-fly, so “fast” has become a moving target.

Using Instant Articles

One of the drivers for fast content loading is Facebook’s article hosting service, Instant Articles. Advertisers have the option of hosting their content on Facebook’s servers, in theory to improve the user’s experience. The question remains, however: is an advertiser’s content more likely to be delivered if the content is hosted by Facebook?

For its part, Facebook says that it’s not making the load-time changes to boost advertisers’ use of Instant Articles. The company says that content on Instant Articles will be prioritized using the exact same standards that are applied to third-party content. That’s not an entirely satisfying answer if you think it might be possible that for other reasons, Instant Articles may have an inside track to users’ News Feeds.

Facebook began offering its content hosting service two years ago, but in large part, advertisers haven’t had a reason to warm up to the service. Many advertisers prefer to drive traffic to their own websites, and therein lies the rub. Not all websites are created equal, and Facebook intends to move the slow movers out of the way. Facebook is trying to sweeten the Instant Articles pot for advertisers by helping IA users generate more advertising revenue. They’re also working on incentives to connect content publishers with subscribers via a paywall.

At this point, Facebook’s plan to address the availability of space on the News Feed isn’t entirely clear, but it is obvious that the platform is testing things with an eye toward improving both the users’ and advertisers’ Facebook experience.

If you’d like more information about Facebook marketing or want to discuss changes to your Facebook marketing strategy, please contact us at (509) 792-3283 or fill out a contact request form.

Is Organic Reach on Facebook Even Possible Anymore?

Is Organic Reach on Facebook Even Possible Anymore?

Organic reach is the Holy Grail of Internet marketing strategies, but recently, Internet marketers have delivered what seems to be bad news: organic reach on Facebook may be dead. A careful look at organic reach statistics over the last five years from Facebook seem to bear this theory out.

Organic Reach for Businesses is almost 0. Yep ZERO!

In 2012, it was possible to claim 100% organic reach on some pages. Today, average performance is in the single digits. Some Facebook marketers have begun to use the term “Facebook Zero,” which refers to the percentage of organic reach the typical page can expect to generate. Yes, that’s 0%.

So what kind of content will allow you to catch a visitor’s eye on Facebook?

  • Highly original, relevant or timely content is always at the top of the list
  • Posting frequency and timing of Facebook posts
  • The blend of content – posts, videos, live streams, etc.

The statistics seem to show, however, that most Facebook content isn’t going to deliver the type of engagement that marketers grew accustomed to from Facebook. Does that mean that you should drop Facebook from your Internet marketing strategy?

You Must Update Your Social Media Strategy

No! It means that you need to update your Facebook strategy! You may need to put more effort into content planning and finding your target audience. You may also need to up the ante when it comes to paid advertising on Facebook.

If you’re wondering what’s behind the steep decline in your organic reach on Facebook, you might be tempted to think that Facebook has made some behind-the-scenes changes to its platform. Could those changes be designed to dampen organic results in order to drive higher advertising revenue on the platform?

Facebook – like Google and other Internet marketing platforms – doesn’t readily share what it’s doing, thinking, planning or testing – but it’s good to keep in mind that many different user groups have a stake in Facebook.

Ultimately, Facebook is what it is because of its user base. Facebook doesn’t readily make changes that are going to irritate its users or significantly change the way they feel about the platform. At the same time, the company needs to make money, and it is finding limits to what it can offer its various constituents.

Users Opinions Matter!

Users end up at the top of Facebook’s list of important constituencies because if the users aren’t happy, the wheels will fall off pretty quickly. Advertisers want access to users, and the more users a platform has, the more attractive it is to advertisers. Advertisers want happy users, so the advertisers are all about the user experience on Facebook, too. At the same time, the service is free to use, so the advertisers pay the bills. They want to know that they’re being taken care of.

Aside from the users and advertisers, there are other groups that have a stake in the relative success of Facebook. To some extent, the user experience depends on third-party developers who can deliver apps and other goodies that keep the users coming back, and keep them happy with their Facebook experiences.

So where does the business user fall in all of this? Business users aren’t really in the same category as individual users. Advertisers want to target individual users. Business users also want to target individual users, but advertisers pay for access and business users don’t.

In some ways, organic reach is a victim of Facebook’s success. Advertisers want space on Facebook because there are so many available users, but too much advertising diminishes the user experience. About a year ago, Facebook execs started talking about running out of space on the News Feed – the default, highly personalized information feed that Facebook users see when they log in.

Facebook is Running Out of Space

For Facebook, “running out of space” means that the company is approaching the maximum amount of advertising content it believes it can post on user feeds, without the users getting fed up and leaving. Facebook has been experimenting with other feeds to see if it can open up new advertising streams elsewhere and/or alleviate the demand for advertising space on Facebook.

In this light, it’s easy to see why preserving organic reach isn’t so important to the folks at Facebook. It also speaks to the dilution of organic versus sponsored content on the average viewer’s News Feed.

So what does this mean for the business user?

It’s ok to continue using Facebook to engage your existing FB user community. The users who have connected with your business have done so for a reason. Attracting new users to your FB community may be a little harder, however. If getting more users to “Like” your business page is integral to your social media strategy, it may be time to become a paid FB advertiser. If nothing else, it ups your stake in the Facebook game and may put you in a more comfortable Facebook relationship with the users who mean the most to your business.

Engaging Users is Most Important

Facebook is working hard to migrate users’ eyeballs from their News Feed to other feeds. In the near future, Facebook may provide advertisers and business users new opportunities to fine-tune their access to the users they really want to reach. A decade or more ago, the “hit count” was an all-important metric for Web pages. Today, Internet marketers understand that the raw number of visitors to a business site is far less relevant than finding and engaging users who are truly interested in the products and services a business offers. In much the same way, Facebook’s efforts to get users to explore new feeds may prove to be the key to Facebook’s continued success.

Contact Spotted Fox Digital for Social Media Strategies that Engage and Convert

If you’d like more information about Facebook engagement strategies, Facebook advertising and social media for your business, please contact us at (509) 792-3283 or fill out a contact request form. Let us show you how to refresh your Internet marketing strategy.