In the “good ole days” of Facebook, brands were welcomed into users’ News Feeds with the promise of deals, coupons and “exclusive, behind-the-scenes” content. Eventually, businesses grew intrusive as their content became largely promotional in nature. Savvy Facebookers soon discovered that you could hide a brand’s content without unfollowing them (genius!). But, due to Facebook’s funky EdgeRank algorithm, an unexpected piece of annoying/spammy content would always make its way back into a user’s News Feed.
Bam! There’s Starbucks again. Poppin’ in my News Feed like a photobomb.
In September, Facebook’s News Feed team finally did something to alleviate these pain points for consumers. The team made “enhancements” to its EdgeRank algorithm - but said enhancements, while beneficial to individual users, have since been giving digital marketers nothing but headaches. These updates were designed to improve engagement with a brand’s posts by serving content only to those Facebook users who were most likely to engage with that particular piece of content. In theory, this is a good idea and certainly has the best interests of the end user in mind; but many brands are complaining of substantial declines in the average reach of their posts (to the tune of 50-65%). Let’s consider some of the implications.
Declining reach has an impact on referring traffic to brand sites
Because a brand’s content is now only shown to users that actually want to engage with it, the average reach of any given piece of content is down across the board. It stands to reason that, if reach is down, then referring traffic to a brand’s web site will also suffer (I can speak from direct experience that this is the case for some Facebook properties that I manage). But don’t despair – it’s not all bad news here. What’s interesting is that, while the volume of referring traffic has waned, the quality of what referring traffic remains is better (e.g., one brand’s conversion rate has improved by over 200%).
In general, there is more intense competition in the News Feed
Publishing times traditionally thought of as optimal are now some of the worst times to post content. So many other brands are publishing against those cadences, vying for space in users’ News Feeds. Why compete for attention in those “optimal” windows? Head for open waters. Think blue ocean strategy.
Brands now have to “pay to play”
Marketers now have organic content competing directly with paid content right within the News Feed. The only way to ensure a certain reach threshold is to pay to have your content shown. Facebook has two tactics in particular that are designed to boost the exposure of your content. Promoted Posts leverage your content to expand reach into the News Feeds of people who may not see it organically. Offers make it easy to engage people and their friends on Facebook and help drive new likes to your Page (the major drawback to Offers is that you cannot use an Offers product UNLESS you back it with ad dollars). These are effective tools for large brands with copious budgets. However, the small business or not-for-profit organization may not have the resources to support this “buying eyeballs” approach.
There are certainly other metrics to consider when determining the success of your Facebook marketing. The entire story cannot (and should not) be told with reach as the primary driver of the plotline. That said – I recognize that, especially in a social network of 1 billion users, reach will always be an integral part of the conversation. And so, I leave you with a few tips.
What brands can do to improve their reach
- Leverage Facebook’s scheduling feature to test publishing times and learn the NEW optimal day/time to achieve your highest reach
- Target your posts based on gender, location, interests, etc. so that you are only serving up the most relevant content to users that care about it
- Maintain a focus on creating and curating a balanced mix of content that is interesting and adds value to users’ News Feeds
Resources: Check your EdgeRank