Facebook has been experimenting with a new newsfeed that completely hides all organic posts created by Pages. Unless businesses opt to pay for “promoted” posts, their page fans and audiences will never see their content on the main feed. Instead, all that content will be housed on a separate newsfeed, intended just for Pages.
Before businesses start tearing their hair out, realize that the new feature is only being tested in a select few, small countries: Slovakia, Serbia and Sri Lanka. So far, the pilot program has been running for just a few days in these countries, but the results have been dramatic.
Publishers in the tested countries have seen engagement levels take a nosedive in the 60 to 80 percent range. Such a drop in traffic could easily put small publishers in a stranglehold while causing Facebook referral traffic for certain brands to plummet. Brands with a significant reliance on Facebook traffic or without a sophisticated multi-channel strategy would get hit pretty hard if Facebook decided to roll the newsfeed approach out globally.
Yet, Facebook asserts that “We have no current plans to roll this out globally,” so publishers and businesses may be able to rest easy in the meantime. Even still, now is as good of a time as any to take stock in the role Facebook engagement and traffic plays within your business model and how to be less dependent upon the fickle media giant overall.
An Experiment Wreaking Havoc on Brands Abroad
So far, publishers in countries where Facebook’s experiments have taken place really just wish the program would end. “Pages are seeing dramatic drops in organic reach,” journalist Filip Struhárik told The Guardian. “The reach of several Facebook pages fell on Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days.”
The plummet in engagement has affected a broad swathe of Slovakia’s 60 most-popular Facebook pages, practically overnight. Since the feature has only been running a few days, no one is quite sure what the final toll its consequences will have, but they have a fair idea. Without their heavy referral traffic, publishers that create commoditized content like Buzzfeed and Business Insider would essentially slowly starve.
Struhárik noted that if “your site doesn’t have diversity of traffic sources, it will hurt you,” indicating how brands co-dependent on Facebook traffic would suffer the most. Publishers of Facebook videos, which have been providing a fair degree of success, would also see their content hidden within the secondary newsfeed for Pages. Only paying to promote content will bring it back on the default newsfeed that every sees when they log onto the Facebook site or app.
Facebook explains that the fractured feed is a way to reduce clutter in people’s feeds and ensure they see more content from friends and family, but others suspect Facebook just wants to further incentivize promoted posts.
It’s “the classic Facebook playbook,” according to marketing analyst Matti Littunen. “First, give lots of organic reach to one content type, then they have to pay for reach, then they can only get through to anyone by paying.”
On the other hand, the experiment may not be as much of a success with the average Facebook user, either. As Struhárik, describes the change: “Newsfeed without news. Just friends and sponsored content. People will find out how boring their friends are.”
How to Adjust Your Digital Marketing Strategy to Smaller Facebook Reach
Of course, Facebook did something similar last year, and after much public outcry, it turned out not to change the newsfeed too much. Our personal suspicion is that Facebook will not roll out the “two newsfeeds” approach broadly, but they may give people the option to “see more content from friends & family” as an opt-in way to essentially decimate brands’ organic reach.
Even if this isn’t the case, brands should anticipate that the trend of declining organic reach for Pages will continue unabated in some form or another. Brands can fight back with a multi-pronged strategy that:
- Engages loyal page followers to increase the algorithmic chance of content appearing organically in newsfeeds
- Provides value to both new and returning leads through informative and interesting content, encouraging people to seek it out no matter how well Facebook hides it
- Diversifies traffic referral sources to not be dependent on one platform
Want help maintaining your reach or accomplishing the above strategies to weather any Facebook changes? EverSpark is a digital marketing company in Atlanta that can show you how to reach audiences consistently and keep them engaged, no matter how badly tech giants try to get in the way. Contact us today to learn how we can help your business thrive online!