Taking a little rest while waiting for customers to come in, Ly Gech, the owner of Men Fashion, a small shop in Phnom Penh, busies herself uploading her latest products onto her business’s Facebook page.
In the past couple of weeks, Ms Gech has noticed some worrying changes: the number of people visiting and ‘liking’ Men Fashion’s Facebook page has been dropping.
Holding her smartphone and scrolling down the page, she tells me she suspects who is to blame: the drop in traffic is likely the result of Facebook’s latest experiment, the Explore Feed.
As part of efforts to improve the site, last month Facebook started pushing content from companies and organisations into a separate feed called ‘Explore’.
Cambodia is one of only six countries where the social media giant is testing the new function.
“I don’t know much about social media, but I heard from friends that Facebook’s new feed is affecting businesses’ exposure,” Ms Gech said. “I am worried because I depend on Facebook a lot to advertise my products and promote my business.”
Ms Gech has used Facebook for advertising her business for the last two years, and said the site has helped boost sales at her little store. “It is particularly useful to get customers from outside the city, who can make orders online,” she said.
To counter the decline of traffic in her Facebook page, Ms Gech is now planning on expanding her advertising efforts to new social media sites and platforms.
With the new feed function, Facebook intends to streamline users’ news feeds so they just see posts from family and friends and from companies that pay for placement in the main feed. However, for businesses like Men Fashion, the move is proving harmful.
Uber Life, a clothes and shoes store in Boueng Keng Kang district in Phnom Penh, is facing the same difficulties. Sales manager Um Raksmey said she worries her promotions will now not reach customers.
“Facebook users now have to intentionally click on a new feed to see my promotions. Many of them don’t even know about the new function, and so they will miss all my posts,” Ms Raksmey said, adding that about 30 percent of her business came from the social media site.
“Cambodians love Facebook more than any other social media site, so we need to advertise here. We don’t have an option,” Ms Raksmey said.
Cambodia has seen a recent shift away from traditional forms of marketing and advertising. In 2016 internet/Facebook became the most important channel through which Cambodians accessed information, surpassing TV and radio. It is expected to continue gaining market share yearly.
There are 4.1 million Facebook users in Cambodia – about a quarter of the population – according to the latest figures available.
With the rise of e-commerce in the kingdom, Facebook has gained prominence among businesses, becoming an essential sales and advertising tools for many.
While Facebook’s latest move has proven very unpopular with businesses like Men Fashion and Uber Life, others, like news agency DAP Media Center, have barely noticed it. Their secret? They didn’t rely much on the social media site to begin with.
“Generally, the change should affect all media outlets, businesses and companies that use Facebook to promote their contents,” said Soy Rithy, chief technician at DAP. “Luckily for us, the main way we reach our customers is through our own website.
“For us, the feed change has had barely any consequences, although we have noticed reduced activity on our Facebook page.
“Whereas newer companies that want to advertise on Facebook will now find it more difficult, more established brands like us, who already enjoy a broad customer base and heavy traffic on our website, should not really notice the impact of Facebook’s new move.”