What’s Causing the Reduction in Facebook Reach?
When Facebook first became a tool for the masses as opposed to a networking site for college students, we gladly accepted whatever positive impact it might have had on our businesses. If we had 3,000 Likes and could reach half of those users with a post, we would.
However, as Facebook grew and became more vital to our online marketing strategies, our expectations increased as well. In 2012, that culminated in frustrations for social media marketers as they noticed their overall reach going down precipitously.
Depending on whom you asked, the drop in reach happened sometime between spring and fall of last year. Likewise, depending on whom you asked, the reasons for the drop varied. Many said reducing a business’ ability to reach all its Likers on Facebook was a way to strong-arm them into paying for promotion.
It’s hard to say for sure what Facebook’s long-term motivations might be.
The EdgeRank Algorithm
However, Facebook’s public position has always been that they often tweak their EdgeRank algorithm to create a better user experience for the nearly 1 billion who use Facebook. Recent tweaks more than likely clarified the relationship between brands and fans such that only the true believers would see posts in their news feeds on a regular basis.
The solution is to create content that people want to see and causes them to engage with you. The EdgeRank formula is simple:
Affinity + content weight + time decay
Simply put, that means that social marketers should cause people to engage with their content (affinity), to do it really well (content weight), and to be timely (time decay).
Content is once again king.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. What you might consider is that, truly, only a percentage of your Facebook Likers are loyal to your products or services. There’s also a good chance that some of your Facebook Likers don’t even really like you. That’s why most social media experts don’t believe it’s particularly helpful to execute contests for the sole purpose of driving up your Like total.
Now that you’re able to see reach statistics on a daily basis, harness that ability analytically. Compare posts that work well to those that do not, and try to figure out the characteristic of the more successful post that made it more successful. Likewise, study your less successful posts.
Because of the time decay element of EdgeRank, you can more freely repurpose Facebook content. What this means is that if you had a successful post last summer, you can try it again this summer without fear that EdgeRank will punish you. Experiment with different posting techniques, verbiage and times of day that work best for your audience.
Will Facebook Stay Free?
Does this mean Facebook will always be free? According to Facebook’s “Common Myths” page, it will always remain free for the masses. However, Facebook is still running a business, and monetizing its marketing capabilities for business is both likely and reasonable.
For those of you who use third-party tools to schedule posts, you may have heard that Facebook penalizes your reach for foregoing their internal scheduling tool. A website called EdgeRank Checker studied the issue in 2011 and 2012 and found that Facebook did penalize posts scheduled from third-party tools such as HootSuite.
However, Facebook denies it, and many social media practitioners suggest that scheduled posts aren’t likely to be as timely as other posted content, therefore much if what gets added to HootSuite for posting isn’t really optimized for EdgeRank. By that, I mean that if one is using HootSuite to update Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, foursquare, MySpace, WordPress and Mixi, it’s stylistically likely that your post is only optimized one or two of them.
That takes us full-circle back to content. The more your customers and prospects engage with your Facebook page, the higher the likelihood they’ll see your content in the future. This transaction, however, is really on their terms, and that means it’s important for marketers to focus on content in which your likers are truly interested.
There are many ways to figure out what your Likers want to see. First, you can ask them, and that type of question fulfills a secondary need to engage people with your Facebook page. Second, you can use Facebook Insights to learn about your audience, where they live and how the engaged with each one of your posts.
But, for now, the decision as to whether you continue using a third-party tool to post to Facebook is up to you. Over the next couple of years, reach is going to be harder and harder to come by. The number of people on Facebook is approaching 1 billion people, and virtually every business is showcased. The reality is that competition to be seen on Facebook’s News Feed is fierce.