It may become more difficult to drive organic engagement for your branded content on social media in 2018 ... unless you pony up the cash, that is.
Facebook just announced they are testing a separate News Feed for Publisher and Branded (unpaid) content called Explore.
This means, Facebookers would engage with one News Feed to see content from family and friends and would have to click on Explore to see content from the brands they follow.
Of course, paid content will still appear in the friends and family News Feed, which will no doubt force brands to increase their budgets for promoted posts.
Facebook has already removed posts from Branded Pages in the original News Feed and relegated them to Explore in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia. And, the move is expected to roll-out in other countries, including the U.S., next year.
This means Facebook's main feed will no longer be a free playing field for publishers and brands - a place where creativity is rewarded with engagement.
Instead, it's a game of "pay to play," where the more dollars you spend, the more your brand will appear in the regular News Feed.
Of course, this won't end organic and creative social media marketing. Content will still need to be developed and shared and communities will still need to be managed in the Explore News Feed, but the only people who will see that content will be your current followers - making organic growth a thing of the past. This will undoubtedly alter how we engage with audiences online and will limit viral amplification through discovery of new content.
A Facebook spokesperson explained the move to Mashable,
“With all of the possible stories in each person's feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful. People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages."
At this point, we can only hope that Facebook drops this plan based on the poor results the test has generated so far. Over the past couple days, publishers saw interactions on posts by the 60 biggest Slovak Facebook Pages fall dramatically.
We can only wait and see if Facebook moves ahead with this plan. Stay tuned for updates as the story progresses. And, as usual, feel free to email me directly to learn more.