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Facebook’s experiment with the “Explore Feed” – where organic content from brands and publishers was hidden away in a second feed – has come to an unceremonious early end.

After less than four months, the social platform has announced the Explore Feed has been discontinued after early feedback showed that “people don’t want two separate feeds.”

The concept was one of Facebook’s biggest recent changes designed to prioritize content from friends and family (and paid advertisers) over content published by liked Pages. While users initially seemed excited at the possibility of decluttering their feeds, the actual implementation went largely unnoticed – except by businesses relying on organic reach to market their brands on Facebook.

In the face of continuously declining organic reach in recent years, the second feed felt like the final nail in the coffin for brands who have so-far refused to buy into Facebook’s ad platform.

All of this came together to make users unhappy with the separate feed. Facebook says recent user surveys found that users were “less satisfied” with the posts they were seeing, and the second feed failed to make the platform feel any more personal.

Many also felt the change made it harder to find information and that Facebook failed to explain the change to users. For example, it was unclear the second feed was just a test until it had been shut down.

“We’re acting on this feedback by updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them,” writes Facebook in its announcement.

Don’t think this setback will change Facebook’s direction, though. In its announcement, the company reiterated its commitment to prioritizing “meaningful social interactions” and reducing the reach of non-paying Pages. The announcement goes as far as plainly saying “those changes mean less public content in News Feed like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

 

Facebook is making some tweaks to Page Insights that might make Page owners a bit frustrated but are actually valuable changes in the long run.

The biggest update is in how Facebook will calculate organic reach for content. In the past, reach has been measured based on how many times a post is loaded by a user’s device. However, this caused an issue where posts were counted as “viewed” despite never actually making it onto a user’s screen.

Now, Facebook has begun calculating reach based specifically on when a post is shown on a person’s screen. That means your view counts are likely to drop in Page Insights, but you’re only losing false-impressions.

The numbers you’re seeing now are a more accurate and consistent measurement of how often your content is being seen.

To help Page owners and administrators get used to the shift, Facebook is still showing the old metric in the Page Insights overview section. It is unclear how long it will remain present there.

In addition to the change in how Facebook measures organic reach, Facebook is also revamping the Page Insights layout for mobile users. The changes are mostly surface, focusing on adding the most commonly used metrics to the top of the screen, including:

  • General Page diagnostics, such as number of likes, reach and engagement
  • Results of actions recently taken, such as recent post performance
  • Preview of new Page engagement, such as demographic information on new followers

People have been proclaiming that organic reach on Facebook is dead for years, thanks to moves that increasingly prioritize paid ads over regular Page posts. However, now might really be the time to start grieving. Facebook has announced sweeping changes to its News Feed that will make organic Page content even less likely to be seen.

According to Facebook, the change is ostensibly to prioritize the “social” part of their platform by putting posts from friends and family at the top of the News Feed. As this happens, “public content” (or content shared by Pages, rather than individual accounts) will be removed or pushed deeper down the feed.

However, there is a caveat that Page content that “spark conversations” will also be prioritized.

It is unclear exactly how this will be measured or enacted, but it implies that brands or publishers will have a harder time reaching users unless their content regularly receives a large number of comments.

Facebook explains the changes in a blog post, saying:

“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses…Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.”

Facebook is largely trying to downplay the impact on businesses or publishers, but Zuckerberg’s own blog post acknowledges that he expects “some measures of engagement will go down” for publishers and small businesses.

Unsurprisingly, this creates more incentive for brands to buy into Facebook’s ad platform to ensure their content actually reaches their audience.

Facebook’s Adam Mosseri recommended several steps small business or brands can take that rely heavily on video content – particularly Facebook Live.

“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook — in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”

These changes and the continually decreasing organic reach across Facebook may make it tempting to try to manipulate or goad users into engaging, but Mosserri says this will get you in even worse trouble.

He says “using engagement-bait to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”