In the past, some search industry observers have suggested that Google has increasingly favored brands in its SERPs.

Supporting the arguments that Google has a brand bias were quotes like those made by Eric Schmidt, Google’s now-former CEO, who once stated that the internet was becoming a “cesspool” and that “brands are how you sort out the cesspool“.

To be sure, there are logical reasons brands would do well in the SERPs. After all, if you’re searching for common products or services, established brands who provide those products and services may be more likely to have websites that deliver what you’re looking for.

Assuming that there is a brand bias in search (to some extent or another), should brands be treated favorably in the realm of social media?

According to an analysis of data provided by Facebook analytics firm EdgeRank Checker, it may be happening.

It collected data around impressions, likes and comments following Facebook’s implementation of the hybrid news feed, and an analysis of this data by Inside Facebook found that Facebook Pages with high numbers of fans (above 10,000), which are typically owned by larger brands, benefited the most:

…the changes have aided popular Pages but hindered unpopular Pages. For Pages of different sizes, here is the average change in the volume of Likes and comments per post:

  • Over 100,000 Fans – Up 27.8%
  • 10,000 – 100,000 Fans – Up 8.76%
  • 5,000 – 10,000 Fans – Up 3.96%
  • 1,000 – 5,000 Fans – Up 1.73%
  • Less than 1,000 Fans – Down 11.64%

Smaller, local businesses are logically more likely to have fewer fans, so the net-net is that

Fledgling brands and local businesses that only appeal to a limited audience may find they’re receiving fewer impressions and engagement. This reduces return on their Facebook marketing investment and make their posts less likely to be reshared, a core way of organically growing their fan counts.

These conclusions are, of course, all theory at this point. But the data does hint that going forward the social mediaverse may more closely mirror the mediaverse in general, where it’s far easier to get attention when you already have lots of it.

That doesn’t mean that smaller brands can’t compete or build engagement, but small and local businesses may find that going ‘viral‘ on Facebook isn’t much easier than making the front page of the Wall Street Journal, contrary to what some of them have been led to believe.