Experts are calling it the biggest drop in organic reach ever seen. It’s the new Facebook Explore Feed, an experiment that Empire Zuckerberg rolled out in six countries over the weekend.
Facebook users in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Guatemala, Slovakia, and Serbia saw their news feed transformed over the weekend, when Silicon Valley implemented the new ‘Explore Feed’ section. The move relegated business page posts to the experimental section of newsfeed, while leaving posts from friends and sponsored posts in the main feed.
Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik broke the news over popular blog platform Medium, where he detailed the experiment’s affects on regional and national media outlets, noting a 400% decrease in traffic for small publishing groups.
What does this mean for your business?
The experiment is already setting off alarms stateside, where Mashable, the Atlantic, and TechCrunch are scrambling to assess Explore Feed’s potential impact on the world’s biggest economy.
The Atlantic: “Publishers outside these six countries could breathe a sigh of relief. The effect of this kind of drop in traffic, particularly in the fourth quarter, when many (American) publishers have sold through a higher percentage of their “inventory,” would be devastating.”
TechCrunch: “Facebook’s tests of an alternative News Feed dubbed the ‘Explore’ feed have progressed to a full rollout, the company now confirms.”
Mashable: “With multiple feeds, Facebook creates more places to hold users’ attention. The hope for Facebook is more money. With multiple feeds, Facebook creates more places to hold users’ attention and therefore show them ads.“
According to TechCrunch, the new Explore Feed displays content like articles, photos, and video from pages users have not followed yet. Explore Feed uses algorithms based on your previous interests to display that content.
The new section is currently buried under a menu on mobile devices and found on the left sidebar of desktop computers. Current Explore Feed users report that ad content is not being served in the section at this time, though we are only now in the beginning stages of its rollout.
If the rollout moves stateside, the Explore Feed is likely to affect not only publishers like Fishing Tackle Retailer who utilize the social media to spread news, but small business owners as well, who frequently use Facebook Advertising and business pages to communicate with customers and drive eCommerce and foot traffic.
Publishers and business owners could see Facebook sapping ever-more resources from their digital marketing budget to reach its users.
A global news source
The move to Explore Feed is a clear evolution of Facebook’s desire to position itself as a global news source. In a 2014 Business Insider interview with company CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Our goal is to build the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re trying to personalize it and show you the stuff that’s going to be most interesting to you.”
In the years since, Facebook has dramatically shifted the landscape of global information, garnering praise for connecting communities and condemnation for influencing global politics, notably the 2017 U.S. presidential election.
Silicon Valley’s latest move could increase the amount of time users spend on-site or in-app, thus delivering more advertising opportunities (and dollars) to the now publicly traded social media empire.
Facebook users and advertisers appear to be at the mercy of evolution here. While software rollouts are not unusual—there are thousands of versions of Facebook running at any given time across the globe—Explore Feed represents a major shift in the way Facebook wants user to consume its content. Additionally, it represents an initiative to clean up newsfeeds as user demographics skew older, and social media trends gravitate towards more private and less chatty networks like Snapchat and (Facebook-owned) Instagram.
Quartz called Explore Feed the “distillation of everything bad on Facebook.” And, perhaps, they summed the news up best:
“Facebook’s algorithms decide exactly what you need to see right now. It’s usually a mess of marriage proposals, baby photos, news stories (which may or may not be fake news), political rants from distant family members, ads, and random viral content your friends have shared.
Apparently Facebook thinks this experience is not torturous enough for you.”
For U.S. business owners, that torture is likely to come with an even higher price tag once Explore Feed hits America.