Facebook is letting 5 publishers test headlines, images, copy in organic posts

The company says it wants to provide publishers with more visibility into how their organic content is performing.

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Facebook is running a test with a very limited group of publishers, giving them the ability to test different variations of headlines, images, videos and copy in their Facebook posts to see which perform better.

The tool allows publishers to test up to four different versions of an organic post, according to Digiday who first reported the story, and offers interaction data and click through rates in real-time on each version tested. Right now only five publishers — located both in and outside of the US — have access to the publishing tool.

BuzzFeed News, one of the publishers trying it out, told Digiday that the tests have helped validate its assumptions about how to optimize stories on Facebook — but that it hasn’t been a game changer.

“This comes as everyone’s traffic on Facebook has gone down a lot, so it’s good to be able to get the most out of our posts, but we’re still getting a lot less,” said BuzzFeed news deputy director, Fran Berkman.

A Facebook spokesperson sent Marketing Land the following statement on the tool for publishers:

Our goal with this test is to provide more visibility into how their organic content is performing on Facebook on a post by post basis. Also to enable publishers in the test to derive learnings and identify their own best practices over time. With this level of insight, publishers are better equipped to drive meaningful engagement around their content and have a stronger sense of control over how their content performs on Facebook.

More than 50 percent of the time, publishers are opting for a different post than the original they would have used without running a test, according to the Facebook spokesperson.

While this test has a small beta group, it could be seen as an olive branch to publishers should Facebook give it a broader rollout. Much of Facebook’s recent efforts to “clean up” its News Feed have caused a decline in engagement for Publishers.

As far back as 2014, Facebook was working to reduce the number of clickbait headlines in the News Feed — an effort that directly impacted publishers aiming to game the system. The company stepped up its efforts against clickbait headlines in 2016. Then, in December of last year, it made another move that penalized Pages soliciting likes and shares among its followers.

“Publishers and other businesses that use engagement bait tactics in their posts should expect their reach on these posts to decrease. Meanwhile, Pages that repeatedly share engagement bait posts will see more significant drops in reach,” wrote Facebook’s News Feed integrity specialist Henry Silverman and engineer Lin Huang in a company blog post.

In January of this year, publishers saw their engagement rates slide when Facebook decided to change its News Feed algorithm, promoting more posts from family and friends while demoting branded content. Later that same month, Facebook did confirm it would prioritize news from “trusted sources” and local news organizations (while still continuing to de-emphasize news overall).

In March, Facebook expanded access to its “Breaking News” label to more than 50 publishers in North America, Latin America, Europe and Australia. At the time, Facebook product manager Joey Rhyu said the company may add more publishers, but no further announcements have been made around expanding the feature for publishers.

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About the author

Amy Gesenhues
Amy Gesenhues was a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy's articles.

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