Facebook said in a blog post that it has no current plans to expand a test it is running in several countries under which public page posts — including retailer and brand content — are placed in a separate feed from Facebook users’ personal posts, such as those from family and friends, as well as sponsored posts.
That doesn't mean the concept is off the table, though. Adam Mosseri, head of news feed at Facebook, wrote in the company's blog post that, "We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further."
The aim of the test, which is occurring in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia, "is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content," Mosseri stated, as the test would place the public pages a user follows into an "Explore" feed while the user's personal posts would remain in the regular News Feed.
Mosseri addressed the media attention Facebook's test has received (it was first reported by a Slovak journalist and later picked up by many news sites) and claimed that some reports "mistakenly" interpreted that Facebook is planning more testing or a broader rollout of this approach than it has committed to thus far. But while Mosseri appeared to qualm fears about Facebook's trial, he also left the door open for Facebook to change its present position, expand this test and potentially adopt it in a broader way.
Still, it may be that nothing ends up happening with Facebook's Explore feed. The idea may never make it beyond the limited international locales where it is being studied, or test results could show that Facebook users don’t like or don’t care about having personal posts in one feed and posts from public pages in another. It is also not clear how Facebook might promote something like an Explore feed to make sure users check it often. Nevertheless, retailers and brands should not let it escape their attention that Facebook is testing a concept that, if implemented, could radically affect the amount of attention their Facebook content draws.
It should be noted that Facebook isn't targeting retailers, per se, with this test, although they would definitely be affected by the concept's implementation. The division of posts would also impact the public pages of other businesses, such as news publishers.
Ironically, the flap over this test comes just as Facebook is starting to talk more about its increasing role in the shopping process, as noted in a story from Wired this week. In recent years, Facebook has really upped its game as a partner to retailers: the social network made Messenger a home for retailer and brand chatbots, and around this time last year started allowing news feed ads from retailers and others to connect directly to those chatbots.
In light of Facebook's efforts to partner up with retailers, it's not clear how much it matters if non-paid posts from a retailer's public page get moved to a different feed. After all, any public Facebook page is a marketing tool for a business that maintains it. However, having posts from that page shifted further from the plain sight of Facebook users — even those who already follow the brand — seems like a lost opportunity to connect with a potential customer.