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The 'New' Facebook Explore Feed is a Myth. Here’s What’s Really Happening.

The 'New' Facebook Explore Feed is a Myth. Here’s What’s Really Happening. Blog Feature

November 3rd, 2017 min read

I wrote a blog a few months back about digital intimacy and how personal our digital space has become. Nowhere is that more relevant and noticeable than on Facebook.

News leaks of a potential new News Feed and consumers and professional users panic.

Nine articles. That’s how many I read about this new News Feed.

Each said something conflicting and none seem to be aligned on what was actually happening. What was unanimous is that Facebook was bringing us a new News Feed, an “explore” tab, whether we wanted it or not.

It was also mutually agreed upon that this was bad news bears for marketers and businesses who leverage Facebook for relationships, traffic, and awareness.

But listen -- It’s all just smoke.

Let’s Discuss This Facebook Explore News Feed

My first thought when I learned more about this News Feed, called Explore, was, “Wait - this is what Instagram already does.”

If you’re a hardcore Instagram user like me, ‘Hello, 2 AM browsing,’ then chances are you’ve probably already experienced Explore. It’s the search icon at the bottom of your menu.

In it, you find content from people that you don’t currently follow. Some brands, some personal, some comedians, or for me, some cakes, makeup tutorials, handwriting videos, and lots and lots of Shahrukh Khan. (If you don’t know who he is, you should. Our Content Marketing Manager, Ramona will concur.)

The articles I read were correct that Facebook does have a separate News Feed devoted to suggested content a user can find and engage with outside of their current reach.

I, personally, love this feature on Instagram. I spend a lot of my time on Instagram in that feed. Exploring. Ha. Get it?

But, what does this new News Feed mean on Facebook?!?!

As I tend to do, I decided to go directly to the source to figure it out. Facebook saved me a dozen unanswered emails and Help Requests by publishing an article making an official statement about Explore.

According to Facebook:

“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. There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore. Unfortunately, some have mistakenly made that interpretation — but that was not our intention.”

What this means is that this Explore tab has existed for some time, and in some very specific markets (Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia) they are testing separating personal and commercial content, but there are no plans to bring this global.

In other words, nothing has really changed.

A few more things to know:

  • Your commercial  (page) content is no less likely to be seen on your followers’ News Feeds than it was previously because of Explore.

  • This new tab actually opens your content up to a broader audience - once users start actively using it.

  • Facebook is not forcing you to pay to be seen on the OG News Feed, though since 2015, we know that it is the most effective way to reach your audience. (If you haven’t already, get to know the Facebook Ad Manager here.)

  • Producing content, engaging with your audience, and evening paying-to-play is still a great strategy for brand awareness, it’s just not as easy or free like it was three years ago.

Now, Let’s Discuss What You Should Be Paying Attention To

If you’re not located or marketing in one of the test countries, there are bigger things for us to be thinking and planning for.

The Facebook Marketing Bubble popped for many of us in 2015. Many many small businesses, some who I worked with, really felt the pain of not having the reach to their audiences organically anymore.

There were a lot of bitter feelings toward Facebook because of this. It felt like greed, a business play, a stab in the back of the companies who helped bring Facebook to the place of being a daily app -- but, we know that’s not the truth. Right. Right?

Facebook is, first a business. Just like we do for ourselves, Facebook operates like a business. Facebook’s business is people, and people are fickle.

They know in order to keep their users engaged, enthralled, and logging in 6-10 times a day, their experience has to support that.

Facebook took a firm stance against promotional content that existed solely to benefit the company, along with most recently, fake news and political propaganda. Users said, “no more spam” and Facebook agreed.

As inbound marketers, we should applaud this, though it’s made it a little more difficult for us.

The good news is that Facebook hasn’t banned commercial content, they’ve just created an environment that promotes well-performing (paid) content over organic posts.

This is not a bad thing because if you’re willing to spend money on an ad, you’re going to make sure it’s the best damn thing you could create - at least you should. 

All of this backstory is to tell you that: Yes, you do have to pay-to-play in any real way on Facebook. It’s not a bad thing and right now, if you’re willing to invest, it’s the least expensive way to get in front of your audience.

How to Play-to-Pay on Facebook

Earlier this year, I read an article and watched a few videos from Gary Vee talking about Facebook ads. I immediately connected with what he was saying, but I too was seeing the same thing happen across all of my clients’ industries. Facebook ads are cheap.

Not only are they inexpensive, they can, when done correctly, can be incredibly powerful.

facebook-new-explore-newsfeed.png

For example, we launched three Facebook ads for a client, that after a single week of running, had blown our benchmark impressions and clicks out of the water. Conversions were slow, but that was an indicator of more testing that needed to be done.

For those same ads, we were spending less than 4-cents-per-click. 4 CENTS.

Here’s how we did it:

  • Created personas: Just like with any marketing activity, the best plans come from the ones that start with the person that you’re trying to communicate with. We did interviews, third-party research, and a lot of brain-dumping to understand who we were targeting.

  • Built a solid audience: I don’t want 8 million people who don’t care about my product/service to see my ads - and you shouldn’t either. Using our personas, we build a Saved Audience in Facebook to reflect the users we wanted.

  • Invested in Ad Creative: The ads need to speak for themselves. You won’t be able to stand over everyone’s shoulders and explain why you chose what you did or what you really mean when you say something. We created balanced, visually appealing designs, and created copy that we knew would resonate with our personas. Don’t just quickly write something and get a stock photo to use as your ad; You’re competing for the attention of your audience, earn it.

  • Tracked: As you in see in the photo, we obsessed over the how well these ads were performing. We started by gathering relevant industry benchmark data to compare our ads against. We think they held up just nicely.

  • Knew what to test: With our Reach, Clicks, and CPC as great as they were, I wasn’t about to touch the ads, but our conversion rate was really really poor. This told me that something was happening to our audience when they got the landing page to turn them off of converting. So - we made a plan to address that.

Key Takeaway

Don’t panic about the new Explore feed that already existed.

It doesn’t change anything for you or your audience. Instead, embrace the new age of Facebook for Businesses, set a solid strategy on how you’ll continue to engage with your audience and consider investing in Facebook ads before the market is saturated and it’s too expensive to be worth it anymore.

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