Over the last few weeks, we’ve read posts and spoke to customers about the desire to increase the amount of content reaching the News Feed. Facebook has heard similar desires, and recently pointed that it is constantly tinkering with the ways News Feed works. Lately, the focus has been on limiting “spammy” content or content that receives little to no engagement.
Facebook’s product manager for News Feed, Will Cathcart, recently said, “We made a relatively large ranking change in September that was designed to reduce spam complaints from users…We’ve also added personalized attempts to reduce presence of posts you’re likely to complain about.”
But what does the data say?
Reach and Interaction Rates on Facebook
We ran our own data to find out how reach and interaction has been affected by any changes Facebook has made.
Weekly Organic Impressions
We compared weekly organic impressions for the weeks of August 31, September 7 and September 14, which occurred before the algorithm changes, to weekly organic impressions during the weeks of November 2, November 9 and November 16, which occurred after the algorithm changes. The results: weekly organic impressions dropped an average of 30.5%.
We then analyzed interaction rate, which is defined as (likes+comments+shares/impressions). We also looked at posts from 25 brands occurring before the algorithm changes (from August 25 to September 14, 2012) and after (October 27 to November 16, 2012). The results: Interaction rate increased an average of 48.7%.
The big takeaway from this data is that your content is reaching a more engaged audience in light of changes made by Facebook. In order to further optimize this data, here are things you can do to make sure your content shines in the News Feed.
Remember What Makes Facebook Marketing Great
The reasons why so many brands, both large and small, have flocked to market on Facebook in the first place still exist. You have access to a billion people, without having to pay a dime to play in the space. You have a beautiful canvas that can act as a proxy website in the form of your timeline, which provides a social hook not present on most corporate websites. And you have an opt-in system in which people are explicitly signing up to receive your updates by clicking the “like” button.
We certainly understand the importance of the News Feed, and Facebook does too: on a recent webinar co-hosted by Salesforce and Facebook, Chris Luo, Head of Global SMB Marketing at Facebook, said that there is 8X as much engagement in the News Feed vs. other parts of the site.
We know you can’t reach everyone, but this is not a new revelation. When Facebook announced timeline for brands last year, it said that the average Page reached about 16% of its fan base. And Facebook has always tinkered with the content that surfaces in the News Feed; just try to find a shared action from Farmville when you log on to Facebook. But unlike Twitter, which quickly pushes content down and does not provide reach metrics, and other networks like MySpace and Tumblr which boast far fewer users, Facebook is the king of social networks. So for those threatening to take their marketing efforts elsewhere, like Mark Cuban has hinted, the missed opportunity will be tremendous.
Focus on Your Community
Stop worrying about what the Facebook News Feed algorithm wants you to post and start worrying about what your fans want you to post. You’ll quickly find that the News Feed algorithm just wants your fans to be happy. Fans can explicitly express their interest in your content by sharing, liking or commenting on your posts, or they can secretly mark your post, directly from the News Feed, as spam. If a lot of people start to do this, your reach is going to drop. This is human feedback, rather than Facebook feedback. So give your fans the type of content that they want. If you don’t know what that is, then ask.
The New “Pages Feed” Section
For those brands that think Facebook doesn’t listen to feedback or have the interest of brand Pages in mind, we’d like to point you to the new “Pages Feed” section of the site. Located on the left-hand rail of the News Feed, this provides users with a place to view an unfiltered stream of content from Pages that they like. Not only does this give brands an additional place where users can view their content, but Facebook has also said that this will not affect the way that posts appear in the larger News Feed. There are more Pages than ever on Facebook, and the competition for space in the News Feed is more intense. So instead of limiting the potential reach of your content, Facebook, within just the last week, has expanded the number of ways that people can see what you are posting.
Don’t Ignore Your Data
A lot of brands are paying attention to their reach, as evidenced by the large number of people accusing Facebook of tinkering with the News Feed algorithm. But as a brand, are you paying attention to the granular reasons why your reach and engagement is going up or down? Are you tracking each type of post that you are creating to look for trends in the content that does and does not perform well? Additionally, the focus shouldn’t just be on the reach of your content. Instead of solely focusing on how many people are seeing your post, focus on how many people are engaging with your post as well. These are the people that are more likely to advocate for your brand, share your content and ultimately purchase what you are selling.
Let’s say you are posting links to a product page located on your website four times a week, and each one of these posts get a smattering of likes and comments. Meanwhile, the one time per week that you ask your fans a question, or post a photo, engagement rates are exponentially higher. Knowing this type of information is the best way to make sure you are optimizing your content for your community. This data is available in Facebook Insights and third-party social marketing suites. Looking at the big picture is great, but making assumptions without digging into the finer details of your marketing campaigns may mean you are misplacing your blame.
We’ve been down this road before, as brands have expressed concern over small changes made by Facebook. When the focus for Facebook marketers becomes small feature changes, rather than the overall direction of marketing on the platform, they start to miss the forest for the trees. Facebook is going to always tinker with and change the platform; the days of a static marketing medium, like television and print, are long gone. It’s better to focus on the larger strategies that will make your brand successful, instead of getting bogged down in the day-to-day changes made by Facebook.
At the end of the day, Facebook still provides the largest platform on which to market to people that the world has ever seen. By cultivating your community and creating content to support the endeavor, you’ll find your way into the News Feed. Remember to make your fans happy, and the Facebook News Feed will smile down upon you.