Updated 2/22/13 – See #2
There’s been a ton of noise and speculation lately surrounding the alleged ‘massive’ change in Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm on September 20th. Some of the claims I’ve read seem pretty ridiculous, while others might have a little more credibility to them. While I obviously can’t speak for Facebook, I’ll sift through the rumors here and use the data and knowledge I have in an effort to make sense of the current situation for Facebook Page owners.
Rumor #1 – Facebook Changed the EdgeRank Algorithm to Hurt Brand Pages
My take: False– While it is true that Facebook changed their algorithm, they did this to improve user experience by providing users with content that they’re more likely to engage with. Sorry to break this news, but most brand pages are awful– so obviously they will be part of the group that loses visibility in the Newsfeed. However, not ALL pages have seen this drop in reach (from what I’ve seen and according to Geoffrey at Social@Ogilvy, among others), which means this wasn’t simply an attack on pages to make them spend more money on Sponsored Stories. It’s also important to note that these EdgeRank changes happen ALL the time– at least weekly– and whether you like it or not as a page owner, it’s completely out of your control.
Advice: Stop complaining and produce better content. Trust me, you’ll be rewarded.
Rumor #2 – Facebook Insights are totally screwed up.
Source: Jon Loomer Digital (I’m not going to go too deep into this for the sake of brevity, so be sure to read Jon’s article!)
**Update 2/22/13** This is in fact true, as Facebook reported today that bugs in their Insights product resulted in under-reporting of reach and impressions in varying levels across all Pages.
My take: TRUE – This has been in issue as long as Facebook Insights has been in existence, but you really can’t blame Facebook given the sheer amount of data. I’m sure this is part of the roadmap in the near future, and I can’t wait to see what they do. On to the details..
Consider this post:
As you can see in the photo, this post had 29 likes, 11 comments, and 20 shares— but supposedly a viral reach of just 30! When I looked at the shares, I noticed that the 20 shares garnered another 40+ engagements. So 40+ people (assuming 1 engagement/person) engaged as a result of the shares, but only 30 were reached virally? This isn’t possible. Clearly there’s something funky going on with this reporting.
Rumor #3 – Fans are hiding posts like CRAZY (which would lead to lower reach).
Source: Fast Company
My Take: False — The numbers cited in the article (they say 2% of post impressions lead to negative feedback) seem RIDICULOUSLY high for an average, considering what CTRs typically are. For what it’s worth, I looked at a few pages and saw negative feedback rates of 0.1-0.5%. If these claims are true though, expect the number of people that ‘hide all’ to decrease significantly after the recent changes to how users give negative feedback.
First, let’s look at how users gave negative feedback in the past (screenshot below). After a click on the top-right corner of the post, users had 3 options– all negative: hide story, report story or spam, and hide all.
Now it’s a bit different. Interestingly enough, the options have changed, including a not-so-negative option: follow post. More importantly though, what happened to hide all? To the contrary of those conspiracy theorists, it looks like Facebook is actually trying to help brands– not hurt them– by [ironically] hiding the ‘hide all’ feature. It now takes the users an additional click to hide all, as the new hide button functions as a ‘hide story’, not a ‘hide all’. Adding the additional click requirement will likely plummet the number of ‘hide all’ requests from fans (and the Facebook Page owners altogether let out a sigh of relief!). See the two screenshots below for clarification.
So what happens when a user follows a post? As you would probably expect, the user receives notifications when others engage (like or comment) with the post. I’m sure this action will have a positive effect on the affinity between a fan and a page, but it’s a really weird placement for the feature, housing it where users will typically go for negative feedback.
Other Reasons Reach May Be Down
- Mobile Usage on the Rise – The desktop website shows many more stories at one time than the mobile site or mobile apps do. As more time is spent on mobile, it’s safe to assume that less and less stories will be shown on the Newsfeed. Good news though– your story gets much more attention on mobile, taking up most (if not all) of the screen.
- More pages paying for reach - Think about it. There’s only so many impressions Facebook can serve. These page impressions are the sum of organic, viral, and paid. More people are paying for reach, which means (given a set amount of total reach) the sum of organic and viral reach must decrease. So while Facebook isn’t directly punishing people for not paying for Sponsored Stories, pages are hurt because they are competing with all these other pages who pay their way into the Newsfeed.
Takeaways: Well, there’s really nothing you can do about any changes Facebook decides to make. This can be frustrating at times– but I wouldn’t worry about it. Focus on creating better, more engaging content.
If you’re looking for help with making your Facebook Page awesome, we’re building some pretty awesome tools over here at PostRocket. Check us out here!
Check out our previous post on Facebook Marketing Survival Tips!