Facebook has copped a fair bit of critisism lately when, unexpectedly, a large number of accounts shot up in reach/fanbase numbers while others dropped considerably.
This has been a subject of numerous discussions in the blogosphere, with many prolific Facebook users venting their frustrations publicly and attracting plenty of social media attention. I did a bit of digging to see what exactly went (and is still going) on and how it may potentially affect those using Facebook to promote their business.
In August 2013 Facebook has changed their news feed algorithm. The official release from Facebook states the reason behind the change was to "...ensure that the organic content people see from Pages they are connected to is the most interesting to them..."
What this basically means is all the posts deemed irrelevant or low quality will be downgraded and all the unique content, high quality posts will be upgraded in status. So how does Facebook determine which posts are good and which ones are, well... crap? The new algorithm looks at things like people hiding, deleting and unsubscribing from your posts as a "negative factor" and liking, sharing and subscribing as a "positive" factor. So if you have deleted, hid or even decided not to click "like" on a few consecutive stories from a particular user it is unlikely you will see their posts again. That's the theory anyway and let's face it, a similar algorithm change worked okay for Google a couple of years back.
Unfortunately for Facebook, in such a dynamic area that is the social media, the theory doesn't always translate well to practice. Over the last couple of months many Facebook users have reported exactly the opposite the results to what the changes were meant to bring.
Dormant pages with little or no activity scored thousands of new fans in a space of weeks while active pages with large following noticed their reach go through the floor. As the algorithm change just happen to occur roughly around the same time as Facebook's concentrated push for ads and sponsored posts, many assumed the new algorithm was designed to necessitate spending money in order to "be heard".
While the latter is a big assumption (Facebook officially denied it being the case) there is no denying the fact that there has been a big increase in "paid" posts that most users see in their news feed. It would appear that Facebook's mantra of promoting good posts and downgrading bad ones only applies to "free" or organic posts. As Anita Loomba pointed out in the Social Media Today, the ads and sponsored posts are graded by a completely different algorithm. Double standards much?
The truth is however, Facebook has over one billion users and moves more than 180 petabytes of data every year without charging any of those users even a nominal fee, it is therefore free to change it's algorithm however and whenever it likes. And the only choice the users are left with is adapt or leave.
So, what does all that mean for all those who run business-oriented Facebook pages?Here are Facebook's official tips:
• Make your posts timely and relevant
• Build credibility and trust with your audience
• Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”
• Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their News Feeds?”
As vague as these are you can see the emphasis on "likeability" and "shareability" of your organic posts. It means you will need to spend a bit more time and be more clever with what you put up. Engage on a social rather than business level, leave the hard-sell and blatantly promotional items to sponsored posts and paid ads.
Have you noticed a sudden drop or increase in your Reach over the last couple of months that you couldn't attribute to your posting activity? Let us know in the comments below.