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Facebook has revealed that organic reach for brands will fall short, if it hasn’t begun to do so already.

In a recent tweak to the news feed algorithm, Facebook has begun to prioritise content from the people that users engage with the most, ensuring content from a ‘liked’ company’s Facebook page will become a negligible presence.

In a press release from December, Facebook urges marketers to buy ads instead of merely relying on the free content channel of running a Facebook page.

This ‘tweak’ signifies a dramatic change to the Facebook experience for users, brands and anybody else who may run a Facebook page, whether it's for profit or not.

On any given day, when a Facebook user visits the news feed, there are an average 1,500 possible stories it can show, depending on how frequent a befriender or liker you are. Facebook was primarily developed as a way for people to connect with other people, and this personal engagement should always be the main focus of the network.

However its naïve to believe that’s how Facebook should remain, untouched by marketer’s influence. If you want to join a free-to-use service, you should expect adverts. But then as users we should demand quality adverts, which deliver information responsibly and without too much interference.

The best way for a brand to approach Facebook, traditionally, was through a Facebook page. And the best brands that did this ran their pages as an engagement channel, interacting with fans regularly, without barking corporate messages at them as if it were a broadcast channel.

Now Facebook is providing a more meaningful experience for the user by filtering out the posts from pages that the user engages with the least. These are generally most likely to be the pages run by brands or companies.

Is this really Facebook providing a 'more meaningful experience', or are marketers just being pushed out of the feed in order to force them to spend money on advertising?

To the average Facebook user, this probably sounds like good news. To the marketer, this probably sounds deeply unfair, particularly if it’s for a small company with a limited social media budget that has been practising nothing but stellar engagement and providing informative and entertaining content.

Does this mean that those crappy, badly targeted adverts to the right of my wall will take precedence over the well thought-out and relevant content from a brand or company that I have actively chosen to ‘like’ and therefore interact with?

What about the Facebook user who also runs a page for a non-commercial venture? Surely it will also become increasingly difficult to gain any reach for them too?

My own experience of this is with my personally run music review website. Its Facebook page was doing great at the beginning of 2013, with each post being seen by at least 100-150 users. In the last few months however this has dropped off substantially to around 20. This is particularly galling as daily traffic to the website itself has trebled in the same amount of time.

You may well ask, if the website traffic is improving why should I care about the Facebook page? 

Because it was a great way to engage with readers, and it provoked a lot of interesting and funny conversation. It was a more personal channel than the website itself. Now it seems that much less conversation is happening because the posts aren't appearing on fan's walls anymore.

If you don’t run a Facebook page for profit, then it doesn’t make sense to pay for advertising, so you may well be edged out by Facebook’s algorithm. And if your content isn’t getting read, what’s the point of creating it?

Has your brand or organisation’s Facebook page seen a significant drop-off in reach? Do you have any advice or guidance that may help work around this somehow? If so, please write a comment below.

Our own head of social media, Matt Owen, has a lot to say on this subject so read his excellent article on why he disagrees with the fact that Facebook is failing marketers.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 8 January, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (7)

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David Buxton

It's a difficult balancing act for Facebook as the more people like pages, the more they're timeline is inundated with posts from their pages. Something had to be done but I fear that they've gone to far to the consumer and forced the brand owner into a difficult position of having to spend more on out reach.

The problem I have with this is that promoted posts, I find, tend to get less engagement on them than normal, organic posts. Is this because people see them as spammy?

The only thing we can do is mitigate the damage as much as possible and look to other networks (Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, etc.) for backup. This is where having a good spread of strong networks helps and we should remember never to place all our eggs in one basket.

over 2 years ago

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Lynn Morrison

Right before the big announced change, I wrote a post chastising people for complaining about facebook not showing their page updates to their fans. I think that we all forget that facebook, at the end of the day, IS a business. They need to make money and are under no obligation to give us stuff for free.
That said, I do think that there could be a bit more balance on the way facebook chooses to show content from a page so as to reward those pages that are doing a stellar job in engaging with fans. For example, it is a bit glaringly obvious when my text posts from my personal blog page are seen by 300 people and my link posts are seen by 30. If 300 people are engaged with me enough to be delivered my text posts, more than 10% of them should be served my link posts. Surely there must be some way to write an algorithm that looks at overall engagement AND balance of the type of content posted by a page and can reward pages that publish content that does nothing more than keep people engaged on facebook.
I think that facebook has forgotten that all of those text statuses that we spend loads of time crafting for maximum engagement are free content that we produce for them. Therefore, there is some element of quid pro quo - we create unique content for them that keeps people coming back to their site in exchange for them sometimes linking to us. If they could recognise the value of such an exchange, perhaps more of the small business and bloggers would slow down their march to other social networks.

over 2 years ago

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Drew Tavernier

Due to a mixture of boosted promotional posts and normal posts our engagement on our page has increased as well as our reach on non-paid posts.

We get a lot of engagement on boosted posts which in turn I believe (no concrete evidence) helps keep our standard posts in customers timelines.

Facebook is a business and has to generate a cash flow, and as companies it makes sense (unfortunately) we foot the bill.

over 2 years ago

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Stephane Allard, CEO at Vianova Spheeris

Hi Christopher,

your story is unfortunately all too common. We've heard it numerous times the last few weeks by our users.

What's the solution if you're not planning to buy ads?
We advise to have a more scientific approach on organic posting.

For example, systematically do an A/B test of your posts.
We've experienced close to +80% more engagement on several variations.

The second point is about timing. Our research proves that the lifetime of a facebook post is about 2-3 hours.
You don't want to miss the good window. Determining the best time to post is a lot more difficult than it seems. You may miss the boat completely if you're only looking at your past performance (http://blog.wisemetrics.com/why-you-shouldnt-post-when-your-fans-are-online/ and http://blog.wisemetrics.com/best-time-to-post-on-facebook/).

To make all this a lot more easier, we're currently beta-testing a new solution to make all this (and more) in a snap.
Register here if you're interested :)
http://www.wisemetrics.com/nitro

Stephane

over 2 years ago

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Eddie

Hi Christopher,

I have noticed a massive drop in my Facebook reach and like you, I am only reaching around 20 people per post.

One thing that has been helpful is to partner with marketers and share each others content, or simply by asking friends and clients to share my content.

I must also agree with Stephane, timing is everything, only yesterday I posted something on my Facebook page at around 10pm and it reached 50 people (may not seem a lot but it's a lot more then 20).

Facebook has definitely made things harder for us marketers and to be honest I have found LinkedIn to be the best social networking site for my niche. By simply posting on their groups has brought me a ton of traffic to my website.

Eddie

over 2 years ago

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Hermes Ma

It’s a vicious circle indeed. It’s turning the Facebook platform into a outbound marketing channel like radio and TV where we see no small fish in the sea.

http://hermesma.com/facebooks-slapping-face-badly-news-feed-algorithm/

over 2 years ago

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tim cawley

Contrary to FB's recommendation to use link-shares (with thumbnail) as part of our posts, our radio station page has better success these days with embedded links within the text of the post. LInks with thumbnail previews, embedded videos and photos get significantly less exposure than plain, text only posts, with a link within the text. Doesn't matter the time of day, content, or likes/shares. It's been this way for several months now. And still, overall, we get less views, but still maybe 50% of what we got before.

over 2 years ago

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