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Guest post: Changes in Facebook’s news feed mean changes for reach (and what marketers can do about it)
/ October 15, 2012 7:55 am

Facebook changed users’ news feeds on September 20 to favor posts that receive the most “early engagement,” pushing other posts lower down the page. Brand managers now have to do a better job of coming up with engaging and interesting content, which is good for everyone, but  Facebook’s business model also gives companies the option to buy more prominent placement instead.

Corey Christiansen, social media strategist with international marketing firm  Metia, analyzed the effect this had on message reach, and in this guest post he shares recommendations for all Facebook  marketers.

Photo by Flickr user Mari Smith, used under Creative Commons license

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Over the past few weeks, Facebook has made some game-changing announcements related to how brands reach their audiences. On September 13, it announced a new ad network that allows advertisers to target people based on their browsing history, and in mid–September they announced ads that can be targeted by email address and phone numbers just as they also launched Facebook offers. The social community was atwitter (no pun intended) with the changes – then in late September, Facebook marketers noticed a decrease in the reach of page posts – despite the fact that Facebook users had opted in to receive these messages.

Prior to this change, marketers with 1000+ fans on their page could expect to reach an average of 16 percent of their readers with their page posts at no cost. In order to reach additional fans, marketers paid to promote posts to fans and friends of fans. In May, Facebook provided a rollover that showed social marketers the percentage of fans reached by each post. (That rollover has since been discontinued.) One rule of thumb is that the larger the fan base, the lower the reach. (For example, a page with 100 fans can achieve 50 percent reach more easily than a page with 100,000 fans.) In May, many page owners were disappointed to learn that they need to pay Facebook a fee for promoted posts if they want to reach more than the average 16 percent. This change most significantly affected larger pages with low engagement.

Several companies and bloggers have traced the change in reach back to September 20, when Facebook announced that they were altering their Edgerank algorithm—which determines what appears in people’s new feeds—but they didn’t comment on how this might affect pages.

Since September 21, one of the pages we track has seen a 45 percent decrease in reach and another has seen a 31 percent decrease.

It’s notable that not all of the pages we track for our clients have seen a decrease in reach. Pages posting engaging content will always achieve a better social outcome, and may continue to achieve the same reach they secured before the algorithm change. Content has always been king, and this is true now more than ever.

As you can see in the graphs below, there isn’t a large drop around September 21, but rather a gradual drop over the last month. Is Facebook still experimenting with the changes?

The answer is yes! Facebook’s recent response to Business Insider clearly states this:

We’re continuing to optimize the news feed to show the posts that people are most likely to engage with, ensuring they see the most interesting stories. This aligns with our vision that all content should be as engaging as the posts you see from friends and family.

There’s still speculation as to why this is happening. According to Geoffrey Colon, Facebook is trying to display 80 percent of organic content in the news feed and with the other 20 percent consisting of sponsored items. The Examiner similarly stated that the goal of the new algorithm is to reduce the frequency of organic fan page posts shown in order to increase the frequency of promoted posts in users’ news feed to support Facebook’s advertising business. Further, PostRocket has a full list of all of the rumors as to why this has happened (in addition to the algorithm change) including an increase in mobile usage, inconsistent metrics, and that fans are hiding posts.

As an experienced social marketer and strategist, I expect algorithmic changes from social channels on a weekly basis. What was unexpected about this one was the drastic affect it has on pages. Facebook has said that the goal of this change wasn’t to decrease page reach, but to ensure that pages post engaging content. While it would be nice to see an official announcement from Facebook about the changes to pages, I think that pages could stand to have better content strategies, which has become our mantra when developing content with clients.

So how can you ensure maximum reach and engagement under the new algorithm? The easy answer is via promoted posts, which allow you to target posts to fans and friends of fans. As Facebook becomes more of a pay-to-play environment, marketers will need to secure budgets for promoting content or find strategic ways of engaging their audiences in order to achieve reach. Here’s what’s been working for us and our clients:

  • Posting photos, questions, and highly valuable information
  • Analyzing the best time of day and day of week to post (try Tim Wilson’s Excel tool)
  • Posting no more than 5 times per week

While a decrease in reach is well documented since the algorithm change in September, some of the Facebook pages we manage are still achieving the same reach as they did in August. As others have noted, there is a direct correlation between the amount of post engagement and reach. Brands that don’t have great content are going to feel the change more than those that do.

Is your page losing reach? Have you been forced to create more engaging posts or promote your post? Leave me a comment below.

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Corey Christiansen, social media strategist, Metia

Social media simply doesn’t work if the content isn’t credible and builds a real relationship between users. Corey creates and implements social media marketing strategies that produce authentic relationships between consumers and brands. His significant experience creating, managing, and measuring online communities for brands including AT&T, Google, Microsoft, Reebok, Revlon, and T-Mobile has built an impressive arsenal of best practices, measurement tools, and success stories. As a social media strategist at Metia, Corey continually engages with clients regarding social business, building social roadmaps for clients, and delivering action-oriented research and recommendations based on real-world data. Corey received his Masters of Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington.

 


44 Comments

  • I manage 15 different pages for a publishing company. Across the board we’ve seen reach decrease an average 35%.

    All of our pages have between 1,500 and 4,000 fans, and where posts that used to get a few likes and a couple of comments and several dozen CTRs might reach 40-50% of our audience are now reaching closer to about 30%.

    We have noticed that contests and giveaways we do on our pages that require comments, shares or likes will typically generate hundreds of responses and a reach of more than 100%.

    We’re still trying to find the balance of driving strong engagement on our page and driving people to our website. As for us, there is more value in driving traffic to our website, but if people can’t see our posts…they can’t click-through.

    • JGS – Aren’t you violating Facebook policy by running a contest that requires use of Facebook features, such as comments or shares? Facebook states a contest has to be an external app. The reason I ask is because I’m curious if this policy has changed since Facebook could ban pages that violate that policy. Thanks!

  • The truth of the matter is, we can post incredibly engaging posts but we can’t make our visitors engage. This is a money grab by Facebook, pure and simple. Pay to promote a post? Really? They only allow through those that “seem” engaging? Really?

    Nope, I don’t buy it for a second. They will “promote” those sites that pay to BE promoted; period.

  • I agree with Nancy. Facebook wants our money, or they won’t let readers see our posts. Thanks, Facebook. Google+ is looking better and better. . . .

  • I did see some changes from the facebook too. Reaches of one of my fanpages have decrease around 40%. I also try to pay to promote. It works but it cost me $$$$ every time. I think I may need to try Google+.

  • As a start up insurance broker this is just sad. Why would I pay for a post that might have interaction with possible clients when I can just pay for a qualified lead? I thought providing interesting information about insurance and other topics for clients and would be clients was a service. Facebook will be the last place I spend my budget dollars.

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