Facebook’s Pages-Only News Feed and its Impact on Sports Brands, Athletes

Pages on Facebook

A new Pages-only Feed creates more questions than answers for sports teams, leagues and athletes who rely on Facebook to connect with today’s sports fans.

What’s not to like? A dedicated News Feed gives sports fan a one-stop shop for content, and makes athletes and sports brands happy because their stuff can finally be seen by all those adoring “fans”. Right?

Not so fast.

During the same week an outraged Mark Cuban blasted Facebook’s promoted page posts strategy, the Blue F introduced a new feature that should cause even more consternation from Cuban and other sports brands with significant investments in Facebook pages.

In a nutshell
The Pages Feed essentially streams content from only pages we “like.” Access it from the left sidebar of Facebook’s main page or via this link directly.

Read more about Facebook’s Pages Feed on the web.

Your mom doesn’t know what it is
Who’s going to use it? A link on an already-crowded left navigation is nearly invisible to the average user, who lives in the main News Feed.

The only ones talking about the Pages Feed are Facebook reps, marketers and those who cover the industry. Seriously. Ask your mom if she’s heard of it. It’s meant to appease marketers, who shouldn’t be satisfied. Despite rosy reviews, Pages Feed was poorly designed and hastily unveiled. To date, there are also no Insights available.

Pages Feed is also unavailable in those environments. That’s a huge problem because Americans now get the majority of their Facebook fix through apps and mobile. And if you love sports, you love using mobile devices to follow them.

Ask the tough question
No one wants to ask a fundamental question about Pages Feed, so I will: Does it eventually mean an end to Page posts in the larger, more important News Feed? It’s hard to imagine that would happen. But then again, a year ago, no one imagined only 16 percent of fans would see the average page post.

Time for Facebook to show a little more of its playbook.

Shows us your secret sauce
Another detail lacking in early reporting of Pages Feed: The algorithm driving the feed. Facebook hasn’t offered up much, and again, no one is clamoring for it. The post order appears very random, though Adweek’s Tim Peterson offers this:

“While brands should expect their fans who are fans of only a few other brands to see every post in the Pages Only feed, that won’t necessarily be the case for users who are fans of many brands,” writes Peterson. “In those cases, Facebook will essentially weigh the page posts as they do any content to the regular News Feed, taking into account engagement signals to make sure the stream isn’t lame.”

For leagues, teams and athletes who post multiple times a day to Facebook, these are essential details necessary to deliver on successful social media strategies.

So what?
Great. Another Facebook change, followed by a wringing of hands by marketers, who many believe have soured Facebook for good.

Except sports is different.

Our “fans” are actually fans. They’re passionate, dedicated and hungry to connect with their favorite leagues, teams and players. Forty-five percent of 18-35 year olds follow sports teams or athletes on social media.

This isn’t batteries or bath soap. This is America’s pastime and Americana. It’s homecoming and Friday nights. It’s March Madness and the Super Bowl. And Facebook is one of the first places fans flock to when they want to follow those passions. To connect, engage, consume and share.

Professional and collegiate teams and leagues – and their athletes – have more to lose. So, they need to continue weighing the value Facebook pages provide. They need to ask tougher questions and demand more when platforms change. Most importantly, they need to keep creating content fans want and will ask for – no matter what happens to Facebook.

Thanks for being a fan.

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