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Until recently, the conventional wisdom in social media circles was that all a small business had to do to start pulling in new customers was set up a Facebook page and populate it with engaging content. Add a few posts on a regular basis, maybe add a fun photo or a video from time to time, and you’d be well on your way to getting plenty of Facebook followers – as well as plenty of new business.
But that’s not the way Facebook works any more – even the biggest media companies creating the most engaging content possible are complaining that their organic reach on Facebook is shrinking. In short, any content that they post may only be seen by a tiny percentage of fans and followers. Even worse, they’ve been forced into paying to have their content seen by their own fans on Facebook. It’s just simply not possible to live off of organic traffic alone, so they’ve had to sponsor posts in order to guarantee them being seen.
The dual news feed solution
The good news is that Facebook seems to recognize that there is a potential problem. Facebook’s fear, of course, is that advertisers and brands will start to walk away from the platform if they feel it is not serving their needs. So, as a result, Facebook is experimenting with different options.
One option is a dual news feed. Yes, that’s right, Facebook users would see two different news feeds when they go their page or open the app. One news feed would be updates from friends and family, while the other news feed would be all the content from brands and pages that you’ve liked on Facebook. By paying a fee, of course, you’d be able to get your content moved from the “brand newsfeed” to the “friends newsfeed.” Any guesses as to where you’d rather be?
As of now, Facebook is apparently just testing this model in markets like Bolivia, Cambodia and Slovakia. It has stated that this is just a test, and that the company has “no current plans to roll out globally.” Moreover, Facebook has compared this innovation to the one created by Snapchat, in which there is a special “Discover” feature that highlights content from brands, publishers and advertisers. You could also compare it to Gmail, where there are separate folders for different types of emails, making it easier to handle the daily deluge of promotional email messages.
Pay-to-play is coming in 2018
But it’s hard to ignore the writing on the wall – it’s going to be hard for brands and small businesses to get much traction on Facebook in 2018 without making a commitment to pay for results. Either they will have to pay to get their posts seen by people in a single newsfeed, or they will have to pay to get their posts moved from the “bad newsfeed” to the “good newsfeed” in a dual newsfeed system. Either way, it’s a pay-to-play model.
No wonder some social media experts have warned that “the free party is over” when it comes to Facebook. So brands and small businesses need to prepare for the worst in the months ahead: if they want to be seen on Facebook, they will have to be willing to pony up the cash.