Are Facebook Forcing Brands To Use Promoted Posts By Altering EdgeRank?

No. Ok, that’s a bit simplistic. No, not entirely. Still too simplistic? Alright, let’s delve much deeper into this.

By now any social media manager worth his or her salt will have noticed that the reach of their Page posts has dropped considerably in the last few weeks. Some will have panicked, some will have immediately asked the question that titles this post and some will simply have sat down and worked out what it means.

I’m going to use a client of ours as an example. That client has over 22,000 fans on their Facebook Page. All of them were ‘organically sourced’ (sounds like some kind of ethical lab experiment!) and Like the Page because we offered them something they wanted – and continue to do so.

But just recently, only between 5 and 10% of those fans are seeing our posts. Up until a few weeks ago it was more like 15-20%. That’s not good is it. What’s the point in producing engaging content if the majority of your fans never see it?

Facebook have changed their EdgeRank algorithm and that has resulted in a drop in organic reach. Research by SocialBakers has shown that between August and the start of November this year overall reach has dropped by some 7.6% on average. Obviously different Pages will see a different decline. Ours is nearly 50%!

It makes sense that people would immediately think that Facebook is forcing brands to use their Promoted Posts feature in order to retain their previous reach. But is that really the case? To some extent it probably is, but it’s far more likely that the company is continuing to try and improve the Facebook experience for the most important people of all – it’s users.

There are so many brands on Facebook now, and so many people Like a Page on a whim that Newsfeeds have become more noisy than ever. The social media giant has to control noise if they are to retain their user base. EdgeRank is how they do it and yes, they’ve changed it to reduce the amount of people who see a Page’s posts.

Not only that – and our clients are seeing this too – the type of post matters. The same SocialBakers research shows that the reach of posts containing photos (8.1%) and links (9.8%) has also declined, while those containing videos (4.6%) and the plain old status update (1.1%) are less affected – if not better.

Indeed, for all our clients a simple status update is actually enjoying more reach than it ever did before.

Where the “forcing us to use Promoted Posts” falls down is engagement. It’s up since the EdgeRank change. And it’s up a lot! Double, in fact. Research by GroupM’s Next Predictive Insights team and social-media and community activation agency M80 into 25 brands showed that while organic reach dropped around 38%, engagement increased from 0.76% to 1.49%. In the case of our example client, the increase in engagement was more like 2 – 2.5%.

What Does It All Mean

Facebook is clearly trying to reduce noise on users’ Newsfeeds and increasing Promoted Post usage is probably a part of it too – they’re accountable to shareholders now, after all – but this is actually a good thing for marketers.

First of all, you can be pretty certain that what does get through is good quality content. The higher the reach, the better Facebook deems it and the increased engagement in those posts shows brands that users like it too.

Secondly, it allows for much easier testing of content. Previously, when reach was high, it was more difficult to ascertain what content was actually working. You had to dig very deep into a wide range of metrics to work it out. Now you can almost work on two – reach and engagement. Both high? Great content. Both low? Poor content. Reach high, engagement low? You passed EdgeRank, but failed to consider your users. Reach low, engagement high? You’re on the right road…it may even be the best road, as the first example may not be all that attainable!

We’ve toyed with a lot of different post types and post content for our clients and have discovered that it’s not a one size fits all situation. For some, images still work best, while for others a status update is the best way forward.

Like count, niche and type of follower all play a part in what will and won’t work for a particular brand and it is a case of experimentation but there is one rule that applies to all – produce high quality content on a regular basis.

It feels like we’re all repeating ourselves, doesn’t it…

  • Written by on 22nd November 2012 at 11:50
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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