If you've been following the latest news in the social media world, you may have heard that Facebook is once again making significant changes to its News Feed algorithm. You may have also read that these changes will negatively impact the organic reach of brand and business pages, and further reduce the chances that Facebook users will see your posts and content. In a recent press release, Facebook made the following announcement:
This is alarming for marketers on Facebook, for obvious reasons. However, this is not the first time Facebook has made major updates to its ranking algorithm. There have in fact been several notable changes made over the years that have directly impacted brands and businesses. There was a major update in 2012 which restricted reach of content published from brand pages to about 16%. Another change occurred in 2013, when Facebook began prioritizing "high quality content". Some brand Pages were negatively impacted by this update, but others benefited from it. In 2015, Facebook made another notable change that prioritized content from a user's friends over that of brands (Read: How are Pages different from personal profiles?). These updates have notoriously caused a decline in the organic reach of Pages.
This continued and seemingly unending decline in organic reach has been named by some as "Facebook Zero" and "Reachpocalypse". The truth is, Facebook is continually refining and updating it's ranking algorithm in attempts to better serve its user base, and adhere to the fundamental principles under which it was first created. They rarely ever announce when these changes will occur, unless they're going to have a big impact, and this one definitely will.
In June of 2014, Facebook provided some insights into why organic reach is inevitably falling. The first reason is simple—there is far too much information published on Facebook for any one person to consume. With well over a billion users, the sheer amount of content that is created and shared on Facebook every day is astounding. Not only are you competing with countless other businesses for real estate in a given user's News Feed, but you are essentially also competing with all of their friends and family, too.
The second reason relates to the inherent design of News Feed—to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them. Bottom line is, Facebook was never intended to be a publishing or content distribution platform, but rather a means for people to stay connected to their friends and family. We must remember that Facebook is itself a business, and must understand it's audience and cater to their needs, behaviors, and desires in order to keep them around.
How Does the Facebook News Feed Work?
How does Facebook prioritize the overwhelming volume of posts, shares, status updates, photos, videos, etc. that flood the platform every day? The algorithm that governs each user's News Feed and ultimately determines what content will be shown to whom and when is called EdgeRank.
Every single action a user takes on Facebook, be it liking a post, sharing a post, sharing their own status update, commenting on a post, uploading a photo, tagging a photo, liking a Brand page, creating or RSVP'ing to an event, you name it—is called an "Edge". The algorithm also factors in the individual user's preferences and behaviors, and how long ago the Edge was created, to determine what will be shown to whom, and when. If EdgeRank determines a given piece of content is irrelevant and/or uninteresting to that person, they will more than likely never see it. The EdgeRank equation looks like this:
It might sound complicated, and it is. Facebook explains a lot more simply how the algorithm sorts these Edges in its
One might argue that Facebook makes these algorithmic changes primarily to drive up its revenue from advertising. This must be true in some capacity, but with so much content being published to Facebook every day, there really doesn’t appear to be any other way. Indeed, Facebook has become a largely “pay to play” environment for brands and businesses. While this may be incredibly frustrating for some, the reality is that advertising on Facebook is incredibly affordable and effective.
Facebook advertising allows you to hyper-target who will see your ads down to the most specific geographic, demographic, and even psychographic characteristics. This ensures that you aren't wasting valuable advertising dollars by showing your ads to the wrong people. Similarly, you can very closely track your ad performance and make adjustments as necessary, using both the analytics features inherent to the major platforms, as well as 3rd party technologies.
Should I Even Bother Posting Organically to Facebook Anymore?
The answer to this is a resounding “yes”! Your Facebook page, when completely filled out and updated regularly is an extremely powerful central hub for your practice. People are conducting millions of searches online every day, and social media pages can often rank very high in search engines. When someone searches for your business, they are almost as likely to find your social media profiles as they are your website! Maintaining a strong organic social media presence enhances your online visibility and stakes a claim on even more valuable real estate in search engine results.
Furthermore, customer service is largely moving to the online space. People now reguarly attempt to contact brands and business via social media, and have come to expect a timely response. If no one is closely monitoring incoming messages on your brand’s Facebook Page, you might be leaving prospective clients high and dry, and make no mistake they will take their business elsewhere. When you are regularly sharing relevant content, and quickly and effectively corresponding with any users that are visiting your social profiles and engaging with said content, you send signals that you are a capable, responsive, and trustworthy practice.At the end of the day, this is what is needed to grow your social media following and reach the largest number of people organically. Optimally, you would have both strong organic and paid social media strategies in place for your practice.
What Can I Do to Keep the Reach and Engagement of My Page and Posts Strong?
- Understand the Interests, Desires, and Behaviors of Your Audience - Take the time to understand your audience, and what their needs, desires, and interests are. Use Facebook Insights to determine what is resonating the most with your audience. Remember, it's always important to maintain a customer-focused mentality and consider their needs, not yours.
- Create and Share a Variety of Engaging, Informative, and Relevant Content - Once you understand your audience, you can focus your content marketing strategy to create content that they can't ignore. The goal here is to create and post content that is educational, entertaining, or in other ways pertinent to your target audience. This will draw the right people to your practice, and increase your engagement on social media—including so-called "vanity metrics" likes, comments and shares. Think photos, videos, local news—content that is fun, interesting, informative and engaging. If someone shares your post, suddenly it’s not coming from you, but from them, and therefore Facebook will prioritize this content higher and show it to their friends and family.
- Take Advantage of Facebook's Latest and Greatest Features - Facebook is continually rolling out new features that can capture user’s attentions and allow brands to create meaningful online experiences and forge a genuine connection. Examples include Facebook Canvas and Facebook Live Video. This is equally important in both organic and paid social media efforts.