Brands and Feeds

Since last September, Facebook has been testing in Serbia along with five other countries if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. In these six countries, all non-promoted posts were moved to the Explore Feed, causing a lot of headache to publishers and businesses. Although the company says it currently has no plans to roll the test out further, some in the industry warn that the news feed split seems inevitable so it is better to begin preparing for it. We had a Q&A session with Aneta Nedimović, Junior Digital Account Manager of New Moment Serbia about what this split means for brands.
 
How did you learn that the test was launched in Serbia?
 
We became aware that Serbia was one of the six countries along with Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia selected for the test at the end of September. Facebook did not inform us directly, we found out about it following industry news. We do not know if other agencies or clients were contacted, but it is more likely that Facebook sent out a press release to tech/industry news platforms like AdWeek. So the responsibility fell on agencies to be informed about the test.
 
We anticipated that there would be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the event, so we published a blog post that explained the changes and suggested how to navigate through them. The feedback received about this guide from our colleagues, clients and the wider marketing community was very positive.
 
Why was Serbia selected by Facebook? A spokesperson said that there are no other Facebook tests currently running in the country so these experiments also help them understand the local audience. Is there any additional reason?
 
We do not have any official information but suggest that Facebook selects smaller, non-English speaking countries in order to test reactions without creating wide-scale negative PR in English. 
 
Does Facebook help agencies during the test period?
 
No, they do not assist us and I imagine that most agencies are in a similar situation. It is the responsibility of agencies to forecast how the change will affect brands and consumers.
 
Did users receive any information from Facebook about moving news and brand content to the Explore Feed?
 
They were sent several notifications in their News Feed. For example, the brands they interact with the most appear with a call to action urging users to look at their content in the Explore Feed. Therefore, users are well aware of the change. However, the reactions are as predicted: they rarely use the Explore Feed.
 
How do brand pages work now? According to medium.com, pages in test markets reported a drop in Facebook engagement of 60 to 80 percent. What do brands do to boost reach?
 
The organic reach of all pages regardless of sector has drastically declined while paid reach is still at the previous level. Clients have to boost most of the posts and increase advertising spending to reach users – in Serbia they have raised their budget by at least 30%. Allocating ad spending for sponsored content is the most efficient use of resources. We also recommend our clients to cooperate with influencers, bloggers and celebrities with a large follower base on Facebook to boost organic reach.
 
The frequency of posting has remained the same or has been reduced. There is less need for creating content if it is not boosted or to run like campaigns. Therefore, we do not recommend more than 2-3 posts per week on Facebook now. However, these posts should be engaging more than ever! Facebook’s algorithm predicts which content users want to interact with and the more interaction it generates the higher it gets in the Explore Feed.
 
To increase their reach, brands have started to use also other platforms such as Instagram. They capitalize especially on Instagram stories, which is the most viewed content at the moment.
 
How does the test affect social media agencies?
 
There have been no changes in the social media department or in our business model. Social media teams are increasingly important in the digital age and, in fact, this event has strengthened the view that businesses cannot keep up with changes without the guidance of social media teams. It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our knowledge and to show clients that we always stay abreast of the latest trends and can guide them through these changes now and in the future. 
 
What is your opinion about the split of the two feeds?
 
It is good for consumers because they receive more content that is relevant for them. On the other hand, while it is harder for advertisers to reach consumers, the CTR and ROI is higher when they reach users. So in the scheme of things it is more good than bad. However, it is much harder for smaller businesses with smaller budgets to compete with the big players to have their ads seen.
 
Böbe Barsi
 
With special thanks to Mariann Forgács, Founder and Managing Director of Be Social (Café Communications)