The blogosphere has been echoing with screams of dissatisfaction over Facebook’s recent policy changes that are limiting the number of fans and likes who are seeing your posts. According to many observers, the social media giant began quietly limiting the reach of posts from both fan pages and individual news feeds as early as May 2012. What does this mean for brand marketers and artists?
“It was almost imperceptible at first—that the volume was getting turned down on their Facebook reach,” writes Richard Metzger on dangerousminds.net. “But it wasn’t just the so-called ‘fan pages,’ individual Facebook users were also starting to notice that they weren’t seeing much in their newsfeeds anymore from the various entities they ‘liked’—or even updates from their closest friends and family members.”
Ryan Holiday wrote last September for the Observer.com, “It’s no conspiracy. Facebook acknowledged it as recently as last week: messages now reach, on average, just 15 percent of an account’s fans. In a wonderful coincidence, Facebook has rolled out a solution for this problem: Pay them for better access.”
Bloggers are understandably upset, despite the fact that Facebook is designed to be a for-profit enterprise. Says Metzger, “For online publishers who depend on ’page views’ to sell advertising against—and who have invested considerable time and effort courting Facebook fans—the company’s new policies are particularly galling: Imagine losing 85% of your inventory and then being asked to pay a daily king’s ransom—more than it’s even worth to you—to get it back!”
Ironically, DangerousMinds.net was so concerned it paid to promote its post about these changes, which they say, “Will likely be the first and very last thing we’ll ever pay to promote on Facebook.” The $2,000 Facebook Promote package the site purchased promised total reach of 1.7 million people which included the site’s 50k fans plus their friends.
“Facebook has changed the settings so now only 10%-15% of our fans will see our posts,” agrees Mediapost.com writer Kaila Colbin. “Unless we pay.” The writer compares Facebook to having a friend named Mark who suggests that instead of talking directly to your friends you just let him deliver the messages for you. “Obviously, you’d be pretty unlikely to accept the proposition; it would mean you’re completely dependent on Mark and his inclination — or ability — to follow through on his promise,” says Colbin. “And, because you’ve signed up with Mark to be the conduit for your information, you are subject to his whim and whimsy — or, depending on your perspective, to the sophisticated way he adjusts his algorithm to maximize both the user experience and his company’s profitability.”
Colbin suggests that for those wanting to own their customer information directly,”Use email. Remember you’re on Facebook’s turf you play by its rules.”
So what is the effect of all these changes? “New research shows that Facebook has halved the reach of brands’ page posts, with the result that fans will still see the most engaging posts from brands, but will be much less likely to see the less engaging ones,” says Robin Grant from Wearesocial.net. “Reach has dropped by around 50% to an average of 12%,” says Grant discussing research conducted by socialbakers.com. For pages with less than 500 fans the drop can be more severe. “Facebook’s changes mean brands need to shift to creating social content that is “as engaging as the posts you see from friends and family” and supplement this with a sophisticated paid promotion strategy.”
According to bloggers at edgerankchecker.com the most drastic changes to Facebook reach occured on Sept 20, 2012. The site’s research (sample of 3,000 pages) showed organic reach to be about 26% before the Sept. change. After that date, “these same Pages were experiencing 19.5%.” Edgerankchecker also noted drops in median viral reach (-45%) and engagement (-17%).
Facebook has answered some of these questions and complaints on its official blog, www.facebook-studio.com. “We want to show people the things that are most meaningful to them from their connections. A really good Page post, like a friend’s photo or status update, that gets a lot of engagement, has a better chance of being shown in news feed,” says Facebook Ads Engineer Philip Zigoris. “Facebook offers ads to businesses to help them increase the likelihood that people will see their message in their news feed when they log in. As a business, you may have a really great sale going on, or a new item in store that you want to promote far and wide, so that more people are aware of it. Tools like promoted posts are simple ways to turn those important Page posts into ads. Regardless of whether you’re paying to promote a story or just posting one to your Page, the news feed will always optimize for stories that generate high levels of user engagement and filter out ones that don’t.”
In what some might interpret as a concession, Facebook has begun rolling out a new option for users that allows them to opt-in to see all page posts from a specific source, the “Get Notifications” option. However all users still do not have this capability.
First and foremost it’s vital to realize social media remains an important tactic in one’s marketing strategy. However, understand that the social network owns your data and is in control of how, when and if you can speak directly with your consumers. Secrets Of The List, my recent book, is about moving your fans from social networks to email list subscribers. It characterizes social media as speed dating, whereas getting an email address can begin a true relationship. The speed dating function can be a useful tactic to find new consumers to engage with, but it’s important to realize that it’s not a complete strategy.