Digital Marketing

How Facebook’s New Explore Feed and Ad Transparency Will Affect Marketers

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Like any good company, Facebook is constantly adapting and changing to the world around us. And while some of the changes leave me standing on my front porch, yelling at kids to get off of my lawn, many have me excited, both as a user and as a marketer.

Old Man Yells At Cloud Meme

Whenever a new update comes out, I instantly go into pro-active problem-solver mode: “How will this change things for our team? How will our strategy need to adapt in order to stay ahead? What exciting opportunities does this present for us?”

So when the news spread about Facebook’s latest; testing two separate feeds, one dedicated space for friends and family and one for pages, I immediately started thinking about what this would mean for my marketing cohorts and how we would need to adapt our strategy. The two feeds are currently being tested in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia in an effort to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. Though Facebook was quick to clarify that they have no plans to roll this out globally, the reality is organic reach for Facebook has been on the decline for years. Additionally, Explore Feed rolled out globally on October 23 with the goal of allowing users to discover more content beyond posts from friends and pages they like and while this isn’t the exact same as the testing going on in six countries, it’s always good to be prepared.

How can marketers stay ahead of Facebook’s changes, should the two newsfeeds roll out globally? What organic best practices can we utilize now to make sure we’re thinking ahead? Four experts from our digital team were able to offer not only insights but potential solutions.

Implications For Advertising

Scott Minor, Online Marketing Program Manager, says, “I’m glad to hear this isn’t planned to go global. I wonder to what extent Pages (Brands) could counter this move by having employees and influencers share posts to increase organic reach? From the advertising side, I’m more concerned with how crowded the News Feed is becoming. That has been our most effective placement for ads. Particularly for our smallest, most targeted audiences, we may have to deploy more placements like Instagram, Audience Network, and others.”

“To me, this sounds like Facebook is inching closer to a Google Adwords approach—a bidding war between advertisers. Big companies may not feel a difference but I imagine that this will greatly impact small businesses. It’s already difficult to advertise against competitors online with a minimal budget. What differentiated Facebook from search engines was the fact that you can like a page. Even if they’re not advertising or spending heavily, SMB pages have a better chance of being seen if they’re able to achieve a user’s Like. It sounds like, through the introduction of a separate news feed, small pages’ paid posts will sink under big-pocket competition and organic posts will never see the light of day again. I myself like several pages and enjoy their content but it doesn’t mean I remember or am willing to check said pages on a daily basis to see if they posted anything new recently. Out of sight, out of short-attention-span mind.”—Favian Castillo, Digital Marketing Specialist

Social Strategy and Explore Feed

“Organically, business pages have seen a decline in reach on Facebook for the last few years. However, there have been ways we’ve been able to increase organic engagement, namely Livestream, events, and funny or motivational videos, which do not directly make Facebook money. If this is widely implemented, it could have a significant effect on small businesses that won’t be able to pay the costs needed to get their posts seen.

The way I see it, the new Explore Feed could go one of two ways: users could adopt it as a news aggregate similar to an Apple News feed that they check for updates, blogs, and articles to share, or they could completely disregard it and treat it as a spam folder.

Facebook ultimately is in the business to make money. What will most likely happen is a default to the “Explore Feed” for organic posts, and an additional charge to be placed in user feeds. We’ve been all too eager to pay to play, so businesses will most likely have to pay even more to get out of the “explore” jail.”—Lisa Marcyes, Senior Social Media Manager

Organic Best Practices

Tristan Esposo, Social Media Specialist, had some great insights into what marketers can do to make sure their organic Facebook strategy is aligned with best practices.

Be Consistent and Timely

First rule-of-thumb: post frequently. For us, this means at least twice a day—it’s a good place to start but it’s always important to test to see what works for you. We normally schedule posts every morning (6am-8am) and around noon (10am-1pm). Posting frequency is key for your business especially when you want to build engagement and post impressions. The average Facebook feed generates hundreds of content from favorites companies to friends. Without overdoing it, posting at least twice a day guarantees consistency and a higher chance to be discovered.

Keep Your Posts Short and Specific

We typically like to keep our organic posts to about 1 to 1 ½ lines in desktop view,  2 at most, but that too could also appear lengthy. Keeping our audience’s attention is our most important goal and adding a few extra words to the posts could mean the difference. Most of the big-name brands have seen success with shorter, concise content. According to Jeff Bullas, “40-character Facebook posts receive 86% more engagement over others. 80-character Facebook posts receive 66% more engagement over others.”

Understand Your Audience

All of our social media channels have different audiences, so it’s crucial that we format our messaging with them in mind. For LinkedIn and Facebook, we ALWAYS look to change the message, despite having the same asset. For us, it’s important we study our audience and know how to target them. So knowing their age, gender, region/location, etc.  Ultimately, it’s about figuring out what content works best for our audience.

Utilize the Video Feature

We love adding videos to our feed. According to Facebook, “videos earn 135% more reach than posts with only an image.” For us, we’ve noticed videos generate a good amount of viewership, from comments to shares.

Transparency in Advertising

Facebook has also announced ad transparency and authenticity features. According to Rob Goldman, VP of Ads in a press release from October 27, “people will be able to click “View Ads” on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger—whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad. All Pages will be part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Page as part of the ad creation process. We will start this test in Canada and roll it out to the US by this summer, ahead of the US midterm elections in November, as well as broadly to all other countries around the same time.”

The feature will look something like this according to the press release:

 

Aimed at political transparency during election cycles, this feature is in line with a similar action Twitter has taken with their Transparency Center. For marketers, this can be an interesting way to look at the competition’s digital hand when creating your strategy, and something to consider when creating multi-tiered promotions and offers. It also might make you think twice before writing a scathing ad trashing your competition.

Ultimately, time will tell how these changes will affect marketing. As an adaptable group used to responding to, and driving, change, I’d love to hear how you might be changing your strategy in response to Facebook’s latest testing and ad transparency changes. Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments.