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Does Facebook purposely reduced the reach of Page posts?

Oh my, I can’t believe it’s been that long since my last post.

It has been a very busy 6 months though…

One thing that has been occupying a lot of my time is trying to figure out WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO MY FACEBOOK PAGES’ POST REACH!

I remember first noticing it drop dramatically over the last weekend in September. The AFL grand final was held this weekend, along with it being a Labour Day public holiday long weekend for much of Australia, so my first thought was: “Oh well. Everyone must be out doing stuff and not using Facebook.”

Silly Erica.

It continued on though, and soon there were a lot of rumours flying around as to the reasons for it, as – in some ways thankfully – it affected Facebook Pages across the board.

The main theory is that evil Facebook had purposely reduced the reach of Page posts to force admins to make use of their new (paid) Promoted Posts option.

I mean, Facebook has promised that it’s platform is free to users and always will be, so someone needs to pay for it and make their stock valuable.

Facebook denied this was the case, but have come out and admitted that they adjusted their Edgerank algorithm based on negative feedback from users (based on reports of spam and hiding posts) to improve the quality and relevance of content displayed in users’ News Feeds.

A study has since reported that while the reach of organic posts is down, engagement is up (so at least they admitted the decrease).

What is Facebook Edgerank?

EdgeRank is an algorithm developed by Facebook to determine what content is displayed on the News Feed, and how high.

Just like Google’s search algorithm, Edgerank tries to make the News Feed content as relevant to the user as possible.

And remember, everyone’s News Feed is different, depending on their unique blend of friends, Pages they like, how they interact with content.

The Edgerank algorithm is based on three key factors: Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay.

And objects with the highest EdgeRank will typically go to the top of the News Feed as “Top Stories”.

Affinity

Affinity is measured by how close a “relationship” a Brand and a Fan may have, and is based on repeat interactions with a Brand’s content. Facebook actions such as liking, commenting, sharing, clicking, and even messaging can influence a user’s Affinity.

Weight

Each Facebook action carries a different value, which then contributes to weight. Commenting is more involved than liking, and so is considered more valuable. In general, any actions that take more time are considered to be of greater value. The combined value of the actions attracted by a Page’s posts creates its weight.

Time Decay

Time Decay is the easiest of the variables to understand. The older a post is, the less valuable it is. This helps to keep the News Feed fresh with interesting new content, rather than lingering old content.

You can read more about Facebook Edgerank at What is Edgerank?

“Add to Interest Lists”

Soon after this first outbreak began the round of Pages posting updates along the lines of:

Facebook wants us to pay to reach people who already like our page! To make sure you see our updates you need to:
1. Click the settings drop-down button underneath our cover photo (the one with the gear on it next to the “Liked” button).
2. Choose “Add to Interest Lists” etc…

It’s a valiant effort, but it’s still not going to help UNLESS users actually visit their Interest Lists… and many don’t even know how to.

If you don’t, here’s how to use your Interest Lists on Facebook.

And here’s a great article about the “Interest Lists” rumour on Raven.

Not all Facebook updates are equal

And so it went on and on…

I’ve been devouring any posts with insight into the issue, and more importantly, how to increase post reach organically (and without paying for it).

Don’t get me wrong. I think Facebook Advertising and these new Sponsored Story and Promoted Post options have their place, I just don’t think I need to be doing it for every single post.

I know that not 100% of a Page’s fans ever see all of its posts, but my Pages generally received a fairly healthy reach to 20-40% of fans (depending on the time of post etc). Then suddenly it had dropped to 5-10% reach for some posts!

Then I came across this fabulous post by We Are Social who had also been investigating the issue and who shared some results from Edgerank Checker that show that not all update types have experienced reach decrease!

Interestingly, while photos, videos and links have all seen reach decrease, plain ol’ text-based status updates have seen an increase in reach!

Being a curious person, I had to test this for myself. And so threw in a few text-only status updates into my mix of regular posts on Pages I manage over the past couple of weeks. And you know what? They swiftly received a higher reach than other posts, in some cases 100% more…

While it made me happy to get a better understanding of this situation, it also made me incredibly frustrated as a marketer using Facebook. Over the past couple of years, I’ve increasingly used images in Page updates as traditionally they had attracted more engagement, being bigger, brighter, more attractive and easier to share.

They still are all that, but only if people actually see them…

So what do we do about it?

Don’t rely on Facebook as your primary channel

This recent update is another reminder that we’re playing at Facebook’s house and they make the rules. And then change them.

While I love Facebook – both as a user and Pages admin – I can’t trust that it will be around forever. What would you do if Facebook shut down? Would your fans know how else to find you? Or want to?

By all means use Facebook if it suits your brand and strategy, but keep focussed on correctly representing your brand (so users can recognise you elsewhere) and building a following in a space that you do own, such as encouraging users to subscribe to your email marketing database, and to regularly visit your website or blog.

Review your content strategy and experiment with it

I probably should have said this earlier, but it isn’t just about the number of likes you have. What concerns me here is that the people who have liked the Pages that I manage aren’t seeing their content and so fewer people are engaging with it, which is affecting Edgerank, and driving reach down further etc…

It’s a good reminder though to make sure that the content you are creating, publishing and sharing is relevant to your target audience.

Think about why they liked your Page in the first place? What information do they want to receive? And what information do you want to share with them?

Facebook is a social platform, so while it’s more accepted for businesses and brands to be there, it can’t be all sell, sell, sell!

So post a variety of content, from fun – and relevant! – content that your fans are likely to “like” (to assist with improving your Page’s Edgerank), with the business or brand content that you want and need to share.

Try posting at different times of day, days of the week, and different post types, i.e. photos, videos, links and regular status updates.

Review your Insights and see what posts get the best response, and use this information to further refine your content strategy.

As with all digital media though, there’s no “set and forget”. This issue reminds us that it’s a continual process of reviewing and refining your content and strategy.

Make use of new Facebook features for Pages

As we know, Facebook is constantly changing, and they are bringing out some new options for receiving updates from Pages.

Pages Feed

I recently received this update on my account, and it’s pretty rad. Basically, it’s an option on the left hand side menu of your News Feed (for the main desktop version of Facebook, I haven’t seen it on mobile yet), and allows you to see all updates from Pages you like.

You can read more about it here and see the screenshot below.

“Get Notifications”

I haven’t seen this one yet, but did read about it in this article on Marketing Land (where this image is also from). It allows users to select to receive notifications (the annoying red alerts) when Pages you like to post new content.

Inform your fans

And finally… do let your fans know about the issue you are having and what they can do to ensure they get your updates.

In fact, give them a good reason why they should make an effort to receive your updates. Is it because you share special offers or the latest news in your field? Whatever it is, make it compelling.

Let them know they can keep informed of your updates by:

  • Sorting their News Feed content by “Most Recent”, not just “Top Stories” (it won’t guarantee you appear, but will help).
  • Reviewing their Pages Feed (as per the screenshot above).
  • Yes, by adding your Page to their Interest Lists… but more importantly, tell them to regularly visit their Interest Lists!
  • Regularly interacting with your content.
  • Visiting your Page regularly.
  • And when the “Get Notifications” option is available, selecting this for your Page.

Over to you…

So that’s what I think about it all, how about you?

What methods are you using to improve reach and engagement for your Facebook Page? Let me know in the comments.

Erica Stacey

Erica is a Google Analytics and Google Ads certified professional, so you’re in qualified hands. Erica has had over a decade of experience – working for agencies and a wide range of clients – in digital and social media marketing strategy, website development, search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing (SEM), content marketing, inbound marketing, online advertising and so much more. A professional in the field of design, branding and marketing, she is a trusted name in the South Australian and online community to help an array of businesses sort out and achieve their marketing objectives.

4 Comments

  1. Ian Ragless Wednesday 28 November 2012

    Great Article Erica.

    I’m finding Edgerank is making facebook less useful for businesses and less relevant for users.

    For business users it means having to pay increasingly larger amounts of money to engage with their followers.

    As a user I’m finding my newsfeed increasingly filled with advertisements that hold little relevance for me. Starting to see spam like adverts for things like sports betting and singles sites. Personally, I’d rather see posts from companies I have “liked” as opposed to sponsored adverts from companies friends have liked.

    As businesses pay larger amounts of money they’ll expect greater reach, the more reach they get the more irrelevant the ads will be to individual users. It’s my feeling that this will drive people away from facebook as we tend to have a low tolerance for that kind of advertising.

    Cheers
    Ian

    • enistico Thursday 29 November 2012

      Thanx for your comments Ian. And thanx for the reminder that it’s a frustrating time for Facebook users as well.

      So this Edgerank algorithm update is supposed to help clean up the feed from posts that users don’t want to see, but as a response to the lack of reach they’re now being inundated with paid posts!

      I think it’s important for users to take control of their own feed by reporting or hiding irrelevant posts, OR just liking Pages that they actually do like, and not just to enter a competition…

      Hopefully the new Pages Feed will help users like you and I focus on the Page content that we opted in to see.

      Very interesting times ahead though…

  2. Suz Thursday 29 November 2012

    I wonder how Instagram post fair compared to run of the mill photos, given the acquisition?

    Awesome post. Thanks for doing all that hard work for the rest of us!

    • enistico Thursday 29 November 2012

      My pleasures Suz!

      Personally I’ve seen my own Instagram photos feature more prominently on Facebook post-acquisition. Previously they used to get hidden small and way down my Timeline.

      The other thing I like now is how Facebook acknowledge likes and comments made within Instagram in the Facebook feed. You can’t see exactly what they are, but you can see that there is extra activity.

      I haven’t used Instagram for any of the Pages I manage, but would be interested to hear if any other admins who do have noticed a change…?

      Thanx for your comment!

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