The time could soon come in which a publisher has no choice but to pay for its desired audience on Facebook.
In late October, the Social Media giant launched a split feed experiment in six countries outside of the U.S. – Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia – that could mean bad news for small businesses and organic reach.
The test re-appropriates Facebook’s “News” feed, delegating it strictly to posts from family, friends, and paying advertisers. Meanwhile, a second “Explore” feed focuses on posts from brand pages the user has followed, as well as non-promotional items.
But here’s the thing: the Explore button is reportedly exiled to the wastelands of the left sidebar, where mouse clicks go to die.
The news was ominous for websites and publishers that currently depend on Facebook to drive their traffic, as well as those using Facebook instant articles.
Facebook higher-ups were quick to point out that “this is only a test,” and that the intent was/is to examine how users prefer different spaces for personal and public content. There is no plan in place to charge pages on Facebook for distribution in the News Feed or Explore.
Still, the potential impact on small businesses cannot be understated.
Should the change ever be implemented worldwide – and priority granted to those with the wallets to fund it – organic reach for advertisers could become all but nonexistent.
As it stands, many of the countries in which the change is being tested experienced a drastic drop in organic – as much as two-thirds in some cases.
Facebook is nothing if not investigational. It recently unveiled plans to boost transparency throughout the network, spurred by fake news and outsiders’ attempts to meddle in the American electoral process. That development kicked off with yet another test – this one in Canada – in which users will be allowed to “View Ads” across Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger pages, regardless of whether they are part of the intended audience. The current plan is to introduce the feature in the U.S. in the summer of 2018, in advance of election season.
For now, Facebook’s split news experiment is simply that, with no plans to expand globally. Still, it’s never too early, or premature, to begin mapping out a new Facebook strategy. A digital marketing firm can help. No need to go exploring – you can contact IMPACT here.