Facebook Algorithm Update – Expect a Continued Decrease in Organic Page Reach

By January 13, 2014 15 Comments

As you’ve probably heard, Facebook admits pages can expect to continue to see a drop in their organic reach. What does this mean and why are they doing it?

The news feed is becoming increasingly competitive. Facebook claimed in August 2013 that every time a user logs into Facebook there are on average 1,500 stories that could be shown in the news feed. Given Facebook’s user base has grown since that stat was given, the news feed is now more competitive than ever. Obviously Facebook cannot show all of these stories, because frankly it would be an overwhelming amount of information, resulting in a bad user experience. That is where Facebook’s news feed algorithm comes into play.

Facebook’s algorithm uses a number of factors to establish which posts should be shown to users. Previously called Edgerank, the algorithm now has over 1000 contributing factors but still focuses on three main influences: Affinity, Weight and Time.

  • Affinity is defined by a user’s relationship with the person or page that created the specific Facebook object, essentially how much the user interacts with that person or page.

  • Weight is determined by the object type, for instance whether it is a photo, video or link.

  • Time, the last major factor, takes into account how recent the action occurred, which in Facebook vernacular is called Time Decay.

There are a multitude of other factors that Facebook uses, such as how many of the user’s friends have interacted with the post or object, how popular the post is overall on Facebook, etc.

So what is the big deal with the recent changes in the algorithm? Previously Facebook had stated that a Facebook page would reach roughly 16% of their fan base. Prior to that, marketers assumed their page posts would be shown to all of their fans, as long as those fans were online at the time of the posting. Facebook shocked a lot of marketers back in September 2012 when they announced this was not the case.

But the truth was the marketers’ assumption had been wrong since 2007. At that time, Facebook had an algorithm that determined which stories were shown to specific users. As the amount of posted content increased, Facebook needed to find new ways to make information digestible to the average user, and their best solution was to cull the number of posts being shown.

As the number of posts have continued to grow, Facebook has continued trying to make the information manageable for the average user. As a result, their most recent updates deliver a major blow to Facebook page marketers.

With the ongoing updates, Facebook states that page owners can expect to see a continued drop in organic reach. Instead of reaching roughly 16% of fans, pages are now reaching on average only 2% – 3% of their fans and it will continue to decrease.

This news may sound bleak, but don’t throw the towel in just yet. Despite the drop in organic reach many pages are seeing an increase in engagement on their page and page posts. How can that be? Facebook’s algorithm is getting smarter. The small percentage of fans that do see a page’s posts are the fans that are most likely to engage with the post.

The update is essentially a double-edged sword. Although pages are reaching a smaller audience they are reaching a more engaged audience and building a core group of engaged users.

So what should page admins do to boost their organic visibility and engagement?

First, create amazing content. Think about your audience and what they will find value in. Create content that entertains, informs or otherwise engages your audience. This is a critical piece in boosting engagement and visibility on Facebook.

Second, advertising on Facebook will be necessary to boost visibility on posts, attract more fans and increase engagement. Clearly, Facebook is using these updates to also push page admins into buying Facebook advertising to increase page visibility. This will be a pain point for many marketers, but we can no longer think of Facebook as a free advertising platform.

Advertising on Facebook, however, does have many merits, and is well worth the small cost. With over 1.19 billion users and a sophisticated set of targeting options you can place your best posts in front of a very precise audience. Done correctly advertising can greatly improve visibility and engagement. Check out our latest webinar for tips on Facebook advertising.

Third, focus on building a core group of supporters. You shouldn’t focus on building up your page fans to have a high number of fans; be strategic in building a fan base. Fans that are not engaging with your page do not benefit your marketing goals, your page’s performance and may hurt page visibility.

Stay away from running “like” contest or giveaways that are not directly related to your business. You may gain a lot of fans but they are there for the wrong reasons. Think of your page as a community and target users that will find value in what your page has to offer and contribute to the community. The more engaged your audience is the more visibility you will gain.

At the end of the day the updates to Facebook’s algorithm are both good and bad. While some pages are seeing increases in engagement despite the decrease in organic reach, many marketers will need to supplement the reduced reach with advertising. Small businesses that do not have time or money to invest in creating a strong content strategy and managing advertising campaigns will suffer. For the most part though, pages that continue to create and post engaging, relevant content their fans are interested in will be fine and may even see an increase in engagement.

What are your thoughts? Have you noticed a drop in organic reach for your page? How are you changing your strategy to combat this?

Deanna Sandmann

Author Deanna Sandmann

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