In recent years, we’ve regularly covered claims by digital marketers that Facebook posts from their pages are seeing their ‘organic’ (i.e. not paid for) reach decline. Less of their fans are seeing their posts unless they pay to boost their reach.
But now imagine a world where page posts are scrubbed from Facebook’s main news feed completely. Tests that the social network has been conducting in a few countries sparked a hubbub about that prospect yesterday.
The Guardian reported on the tests, which have taken place in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia. It sees page posts moved into a secondary news feed called ‘Explore’, leaving the main Facebook news feed “focused entirely on original content from friends, and adverts”.
The story notes that some of the biggest Slovakian Facebook pages have seen their organic reach drop by between two thirds and three quarters since the test began.
Reactions to the story were so strong that Facebook’s head of news feed Adam Mosseri published a direct response in the hope of calming marketers’ nerves.
“Some have interpreted this test as a future product we plan to deliver globally. We currently have no plans to roll this test out further,” he wrote. Except… “The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further.”
So the test won’t expand, but depending on its findings, this separation of personal and public feeds may be introduced globally at some point. Is this a reason to panic or start an online pitchfork mob? In a word: no.
The decline in organic reach of Facebook page posts has been a long-term trend, and many music marketers long stopped complaining about it, in favour of mastering tools like retargeting and custom/lookalike audiences to get the most efficient *paid* reach on Facebook.
So yes, the Explore tests are a reminder that even Facebook Live streams and 360-degree videos, which have ranked highly on the social network’s news-feed algorithm, won’t be a free-reach bonanza forever.
But for any music marketer who’s been getting to grips with Facebook ads, the prospect of separate personal and public feeds isn’t such a disaster.
The fact that it’s so thoroughly spooking the news-publishing world shows that if anything, the music industry is ahead in understanding and operating within the commercial dynamics of Facebook.