What Facebook’s newsfeed experiment means for charities


Outline of the experiment

Facebook recently ran a Newsfeed experiment that should worry social media managers at charities.

In most countries, Facebook shows posts from friends and pages, as well as sponsored posts in the main newsfeed. Other posts that Facebook thinks you might find interesting are shown in a secondary feed called Explore Feed, that sits within the Explore tab.




But during the experiment, in six countries – Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia – the main Newsfeed contained only posts from friends and family, and – crucially – sponsored posts. Any posts from pages people in those countries have liked were relegated to the Explore tab.

So if you are a charity in one of those countries, very few people are going to bother clicking on Explore and see your organic Facebook posts. Those charities would have to pay to boost their posts or create ads to appear in the main newsfeed and get their messages seen.


What this means

First off, this is a natural extension of what Facebook been doing for years.

It’s already very hard to reach your entire Facebook audience without paying – most of your posts are only seen by about 5-10% of the people who like your page.

Secondly, this is currently just an experiment limited to those countries. Facebook themselves posted that “We currently have no plans to roll this test out further.” Although beware – they do use the word ‘currently’ there!

If the change was rolled out, your charity would have a much, much smaller Facebook audience than before – unless you can pay.


What this means for your charity

You should benchmark your audience sizes

This is probably a good time to work out exactly how many people you are reaching on Facebook, Twitter, email and all your digital channels. How many people see the average post you send out?

This is data that will inform your future strategy and quantify the impact of such a change.


You have to pay to reach (most of) your audience

If Facebook does roll this out, the days of reaching anyone for free via Facebook will be pretty much over.

That means you’ll have to pay to reach people on Facebook, either through clicking Boost Post or creating Facebook ads for the same content.


Your content needs to be amazing

Facebook will always surface content that people like, share or comment on a lot.

That means your posts will have to make people slam their fists on the table in anger, cry in despair or jump for joy like never before.

So your social team will have to go through the content calendar and ruthlessly weed out those posts that simply don’t clear a new quality bar that Facebook is setting.

That’ll be tough for teams whose work is unlikely to make anyone react so emotionally, but that is ultimately necessary.


You need a solid paid strategy

While it doesn’t have to be an all-singing all-dancing strategy, having a clear idea of when you use Facebook ads, what results you get and how many teams are using them has never been more important.

If paid Facebook ads are going to be the only way you can reach your Facebook audience, it’s worth getting to grips with them now.

In the meantime, it’s worth diversifying your digital marketing strategy to ensure all your eggs aren’t in one basket when it comes to getting your message out there.


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Matt Collins is managing director at digital marketing agency, Platypus Digital, and tweets @charitychap