Could These New Facebook Features Help Offset Organic Reach Decline?

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Facebook has fallen out of favor with a lot of publishers thanks to the ever-decreasing organic reach it's providing for their posts. Some new features from the company could help ease the pain, however. This week alone has seen an important expansion of Facebook search, the Trending feature, and some new post targeting options.

Could these things help publishers in a significant enough way to offset the damage done by lost organic reach? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Facebook has really been taking its time rolling out features for Graph Search, but some very important improvements were made this week with the addition of mobile support (on iOS for now) and perhaps more importantly, the previously announced addition of post search, which enables users to find content from Facebook posts by keyword. In other words, you can finally search Facebook in a way similar to how you would search Google, except that rather than plain old web results and quick answers, you'll get content from your network (Facebook has indicated that public posts outside of your network will likely come eventually).

This is a feature that has been lacking from Facebook for a very long time, and it definitely opens up some new visibility options for publishers and sites. Let the great Facebook SEO experiment begin!

Expect to see a lot of content about how to better reach people through Facebook Search in the coming year. One thing is for certain. Getting Facebook likes is important again (if it ever stopped being so in the first place). Every person that likes your page is a potential member of your search audience.

After the search changes, Facebook announced its updates to the Trending feature. Once again, this includes mobile availability, but rather than iOS, this is only for Android for now. Mobile isn't necessarily the most noteworthy part of this announcement either though.

Trending now comes with five different sections for users to browse: Articles, In the Story, Friends and Groups, Near the Scene, and Live Feed.

The Articles section will provide you with coverage of the topic from various news organizations.

The In the Story section shows posts from people who are actually part of the story. Facebook has already been pretty good at that with its Newswire services for journalists, though the topics are limited. This could provide exposure for more relevant content that’s actually from Facebook itself.

The Friends and Groups section shows what people in your network are saying about the topic, making the trending topic more relevant to the user on a personal level.

The Near the Scene section is exactly what it sounds like, and shows you posts from people near where the story is unfolding, providing an additional layer of geographical relevance. You could see where this would be helpful in a story like Ferguson, for example.

Finally, the Live Feed section just shows you a real-time stream of reactions from people around the world, basically like Twitter.

There will continue to be a feed below the new sections like the one that’s been there. This displays posts Facebook deems relevant, ranked by engagement, timeliness and other factors. Facebook isn’t making any changes to how it determines what’s actually trending.

Publishers may see more traffic from the Friends and Groups section if people have shared their content. Obviously the Articles category provides another potential source, as does the Live Feed.

Then you've got the latest announcement, which is specifically aimed at publishers. This includes interest targeting, post end date, smart publishing, and improvements to Insights.

"To help you reach precisely the right people, we now offer the ability to target posts to a subset of the people that like your Page," explains Facebook. "For example, a publisher can use Interest Targeting to post a story about a sports game that will only be shown to people that like the teams playing."

That's huge. If Facebook is only going to show your post to a small percentage of your fans, the least it can do is show it to the right percentage.

This is available to all Pages that have enabled the Targeting and Privacy setting. For now, it's desktop only.

The Post End Date feature lets Page admins specify a day and time to stop showing a post in News Feed.

"This tool prevents people from seeing out-of-date posts in News Feed, but posts will continue to appear on your Page," Facebook explains. "For instance, a publisher can use this to remove yesterday’s weather report from News Feed."

It's a little sad that Facebook can't remove yesterday's weather report from News Feed itself, but still, it could be a helpful feature in some cases. It's also available to all Pages that have enabled the Targeting and Privacy setting, and is only on desktop for now.

The Smart Publishing feature identifies and publishes stories that are popular with people on Facebook. If you enable it, frequently shared links to your site can appear in News Feed for people who like your Page. These will not actually appear on your Page, but Facebook provides a new dashboard in Insights to let you see analytics, moderate comments, and choose which you want to post to your Page.

This is actually another pretty big feature for publishers because while organic reach from Page posts has indeed been on rapid decline, Facebook's referrals to websites have done nothing but grow. That means a lot of links are obviously being shared, and this can help you get more out of that.

You'll have to turn this feature on by enabling Smart Publishing from the Publisher Tools section within Page settings.

Finally, Facebook has added improvements to Domain Insights to show how Pages and social plugins drive traffic. There's a new Top URLs section and a way to segment data for specific time ranges. They also fixed a bug that caused third-party analytics tools to undercount the percentage of their organic traffic from Facebook.

Whether or not all of this will actually offset the damage done by the great organic reach decline remains to be seen, but I don't think many would argue that these tools aren't improvements over what was already available.

What do you think? Will these tools significantly help websites get more out of Facebook? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Images via Facebook

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.