Facebook is testing, in six countries, an Explore Feed totally different than in the rest of the world. Facebook Explore Feed just launched globally last week, and most of the users can find it in the "Explore" section of Facebook and can use it in order to find new content. Normally, the Explore Feed consists of popular posts of pages users didn't Like yet. But in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia, the Facebook Explore Feed works differently: ALL pages' posts are hidden from the newsfeed and found in the Explore Feed. Meanwhile, in the newsfeed shown on screen the moment any user logs in, there can be found only friends' posts and sponsored posts.
Yes, in these six countries, you log on Facebook and everything you see is your friends' posts and sponsored posts. In order to have access to your Liked pages' posts, you have to access the Explore Feed. If you want your pages' posts to be seen in the old newsfeed, you have to pay. The consequences? Facebook pages are dramatically losing organic reach, this being described as the "biggest organic reach drop ever". The organic reach of different Facebook pages from Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia went down by two thirds after the change was implemented, compared to previous days.
The Facebook pages of the biggest 60 media outlets in Slovakia now have 4 times fewer interactions (likes, comments, shares) than before the newsfeed change. The effect in Guatemala and Cambodia is similar. Slovakian journalist Filip Struharik says that, after a few days with the new Explore Feed, the total traffic of the biggest media sites in his country didn't change significantly, because they attract readers in several ways other than Facebook: through powerful homepages, notifications, newsletters etc. However, smaller media sites in Slovakia were devastated by Facebook's changes.
The Slovakian journalist, who was the first one to write about the Facebook change, found some bugs too: for example, the majority of users probably don't see in the new newsfeed the posts of people they follow but are not friends with. These posts are still hidden in the old section Pages Feed, which was not yet deleted. Moreover, some can't find the Explore Feed in their Facebook menu, so they can't see any other post besides those of friends and sponsored ones. Struharik says that, in his country, some users have the new newsfeed since a couple of weeks ago, while others got it last Thursday when the Explore Feed was officially launched worldwide. Facebook stated, through a spokesperson, that what happens in the six mentioned countries is a "regional test", but didn't specify when it will end.
The opinions regarding the new Explore Feed from Facebook are divided. Some voices think it favors brands because their posts would appear in the Explore Feed of users who didn't Like their page yet and might be tempted to follow them (by Liking those pages, they would move in the classic newsfeed). On the other hand, there is the argument that Facebook makes this move precisely to earn more money from brands, in case their unsponsored posts would be taken out from the newsfeed, as it currently happens in the six mentioned countries. Basically, the question everyone asks themselves, both users and brands, is this: globally, will the Explore Feed look like in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia (it includes ALL posts except the sponsored ones and those from friends) or like in the rest of the world (where it includes popular posts from pages users didn't Like yet).
There are four possible scenarios:
1. The worst case scenario - Facebook pulls out all posts from the newsfeed except the sponsored ones and the friends' ones. This is the worst case scenario for brands, as it means the only possibility their posts would be viewed by the public at large is if they pay.
2. The best scenario - Facebook abandons the experiment. The fact that Facebook tests this newsfeed on six smaller markets shows that they aren't sure themselves about the impact it could have globally, so the experiment could be abandoned. Moreover, in the case of a massive decrease in organic reach, a lot of brands could decide not to pay Facebook, but to join other, more predictable, social media platforms.
3. Possible scenario - Facebook implements changes, but traffic stabilizes. We saw this scenario before: Facebook changes its algorithm, brands adapt and traffic stabilizes. If users will migrate from the newsfeed to the Explore Feed, and the latter becomes more popular, brands will not have such a big problem with organic reach from Facebook.
4. Possible scenario - Facebook makes new changes. Facebook continuously tests different variants and it could decide to change the newsfeed and Explore Feed again if the actual variant doesn't work for them.