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.