Facebook is testing a News Feed feature that could eventually help brands alleviate some of the pains of algorithm changes that have for many resulted in less visibility for their content.
As reported by Internet Retailer, the social networking giant is running a small experiment on mobile that allows users to explicitly select the people and pages whose posts are displayed in their News Feeds:
Those selected to participate in the test see a box with an animated dog that encourages them to pick the people and pages whose posts they’d like to see. Doing so prioritizes those posts over the formula the social network uses to decide what posts a user sees in his feed.
As Internet Retailer’s Zak Stambor points out, according to an Ogilvy & Mather report, the percentage of users who see posts from large brands on Facebook is now very, very small — just slightly more than 2%.
That presents huge challenges for brands looking to reach consumers on the world’s most popular social network.
While many believe that EdgeRank has been used by Facebook to grow adoption of its advertising business, there is no doubt that Facebook has a legitimate need to keep the News Feed from becoming a cluttered free-for-all that harms overall user experience.
There is also no doubt that user behavior has greatly contributed to the decline in organic reach that brands realize.
Despite its interest in selling ads, Facebook has recently made changes that could be beneficial to brands. Last month, it relaxed restrictions around the display of multiple News Feed posts from the same source for users with limited content to display.
Facebook also says it is attempting to display important updates from users’ most important friends while reducing updates related to their friends’ commenting on posts.
These changes have the potential to help brands but the holy grail would obviously be an opt-in like the one Facebook is experimenting with. While it remains to be seen whether Facebook will ever roll out this feature globally, brands shouldn’t make the assumption that it would be a panacea even if it is.
Right now, it seems unlikely that Facebook would ever implement a true opt-in that guarantees 100% reach. Additionally, most brands would likely find it challenging to cut through the clutter and convince users to opt in.
There are just too many brands on Facebook and not every one of them is going to be able to persuade users to prioritize their content.
The bottom line is that Facebook might give brands the opportunity to improve their organic reach on the social network, but the hey day of earlier times is unlikely to return.