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Facebook’s latest update unveils what is called ‘The Explore Feed’, which is a feed that is separate to the News Feed and will showcase content from Pages you like and also Pages that are popular amongst your friends and other people who share your demographics. What this means is that now, instead of seeing posts from Pages you have already liked on your News Feed, you will instead have to look for them in the Explore Feed. Currently, this does not affect advertising and sponsored content on the News Feed and it appears that there doesn’t seem to be sponsored content on the Explore Feed. It’s important to note though that, if a user shares your post, then that post will appear on their New Feeds and the News Feeds of their friends and potentially of their friends’ friends and so on. So, the focus must now be on creating content that will inspire users to share.

Facebook’s stated purpose behind the new feature is to help users discover more content across the social network, beyond posts from friends and Pages they already like. Sub-textually, however, it may be reasonable to infer that this move is a bid to increase ad revenue by essentially forcing marketers to place more sponsored content on users’ News Feeds to maintain current engagement levels. There are also other complications that this move will bring about for marketers that could increase costs and turnaround times.

So exactly how will marketers be affected?

The biggest issue will be that, since content from Pages now appears only on the Explore Feed and not on the News Feed, organic engagement levels are likely to plummet. This is because users may be less likely to open the Explore Feed as often as the News Feed. So, unless your page already has a large audience that is constantly engaging with you and amongst themselves, the likelihood of your post being seen is now low. This means that to get people to engage with your posts, you must promote the post to a specific target audience. The new feature means, Pages with large audiences will still get some organic engagement but smaller, newer pages are likely to have a tough time of it.

In the Sri Lankan context especially, this new feature could pose a considerable problem for brands as there will likely be a lack of awareness about the Explore Feed among users and they may not pay much attention to it unless they have a particular reason to do so. There will be no incentive for them to visit the Explore Feed regularly given that all the updates from friends still appear on the main News Feed.

One of the features of the Explore Feed that could potentially be a double edged sword is the fact that it shows users posts from pages that they haven’t followed but may be interested in. On the one hand it may cause users to leave the Explore Feed sooner or not look at it at all as a result of being shown stuff they haven’t indicated interest in. On the other hand, it may actually provide marketers with a ripe opportunity to get the attention of users that may have been difficult to reach before as a result of them not following a particular Page.

Can Marketers Overcome This?

Yes! But doing so will not be easy! In fact, after the introduction of the Explore Feed it’s likely that promoting things via Pages will be very tough. The only real way to reach your old audiences and get the organic engagement you did in the past will be to come up with CREATIVE, potentially VIRAL content that is VERY RELAVANT to your specific target audience so that they share your posts. If your content lacks these elements, the only alternative will be to increase your budgets for sponsored content and reduce your reliance on organic engagement. Brands will need to focus on getting their messages out in a way that is very relatable. This is because you will now need people to share your posts in order for those posts to appear on the News Feeds of the user’s friends and their friends and so on. All of this effort may add costs and cause delays, which will be a huge frustration.

Ultimately, Facebook’s goal is to make more money. To make more money they need to keep their users glued to their screens for as long as possible and this is probably the driver behind the introduction of features such as this, which make little business sense, if any. But like with any other development, there is a way to use it to your advantage. Be aware of this as you plan your future posts.

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