Facebook’s Edgerank Changes Problematic for Brands

Where does anyone get the idea that building a fan base (or any social media fan base) is free? have spent a lot of money to get their customers to “Like” their pages on Facebook because they had been led to believe that Facebook was a good way to keep in touch with them. With Facebook’s recent changes to how they determine what to put in the newsfeed, reach is so low it really is a question as to whether it makes sense to push people to engage on Facebook.

Companies could have sought some other way (Twitter, Email, Google+, etc) but we all sent them to Facebook. We all promoted the heck out of our Facebook pages and in turn helped to grow Facebook (consider all of the advertising Facebook has gotten in TV commercials, on billboards, in email newsletters, on web pages, etc from companies promoting their Facebook pages. You can’t say Facebook didn’t benefit from this).

Up until September the model more or less worked — if a company posted engaging content, it could be seen by anywhere from 10% to 30% of that company’s fans — which is about equivalent if not better than average email open rates (depending on the company). Because different people would see the post each time, one could feel reasonably confident that most of fans would see at least one of the company’s posts every two weeks. This made promoting Facebook pages a worthwhile investment.

Now the rules have changed. Now if a company with a lot of fans wants a post to be seen by everyone they are being asked to spend $10K per post. And that’s just to reach the people who already said they want to hear from the company — to reach friends of fans would cost  an additional $15K per post (this example based on a page with 3+ million fans…your costs will vary depending on the # of fans you have).

Facebook says that engagement hasn’t changed. That may be true. When I look at my most recent posts, the number of likes, shares and comments have remained about flat. I did some analysis a few weeks ago that found that during the summer, 75% of a post’s reach could be explained by how much engagement it had. That is still true. What has fallen is the reach (the number of people who see each post). It used to be that each “engagement unit” I earned, I could expect that my post would be seen by an additional 60 people. Now it’s gone down to less than 20 people. 75% of a post’s success can still be explained by how engaging it is, but multiple has changed. A post that during the summer would have been seen by 600K people is now only seen by 200K people.

Facebook’s new effort to show posts just to people who are most engaged is problematic. It used to be that different fans would see each post — so after a couple of weeks of daily posting, one could expect that a sizable portion of the fanbase had seen at least one post. Now one can’t be sure whether it is simply the same people seeing all of a company’s posts. If this is the case, then it means Facebook is no longer a good way to keep in touch with casual fans (since only the super fans are consistently liking every post enough to build the affinity needed to guarantee regular display).

Would companies have invested as much time and energy into getting people to like their pages if they had known up front that their posts would only be seen by less than 5% of the people who liked their pages? Probably not.

While it may be true that Facebook is the biggest game in town, promoting brand Facebook page doesn’t really do a company much good if only 1 in 20 people who like the company’s page ever get to hear what the company have to say. It probably won’t stop them from posting on Facebook, but it likely cause them to look for other channels where they can be guaranteed to consistently reach a higher proportion of their fans.

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