There was a rather dramatic change (most likely several) between the end of August and September 29 that has affected many brands' social media performance for the worse, especially in terms of their average reach. This has been confirmed by Facebook, other analysts and our own statistics. The average number of unique impressions (organic, paid and viral reach) began to decrease in August with a sharp dip on September 20.
Facebook makes changes to its illusive EdgeRank algorithm, which determines News Feed placement, often, many of them small, but occasionally they will make a change that impacts performance in a way that becomes statistically (and noticeably) significant. The key to survival (not only in Social Media) is adaptability. We’ll look at a few of the other potential factors involved and let you know how to adapt.
We don't want to spoil the fun of our ENGAGE 2012 event in New York City on October 23rd, where we will be talking a lot about this, but here’s a teaser.
1. Traffic Jam – Users And Brands Fighting For The News Feed Spotlight
According to our data, the social media market is extremely saturated in developed countries, as users become fans of more and more pages and gain more friends. This can clog a News Feed and create a traffic jam of information. User focus is then inevitably spread across more pages and the News Feed can only deliver a space-limited amount of information.
In addition, Facebook reached 1 billion monthly active users recently, which are more friends than anyone can handle. Facebook is now growing more in terms of new friendships between users as well as experiencing a huge inflow of brands headed to the social marketplace. Businesses have been posting three times more in total than half a year ago, which means even tighter competition for News Feed real estate. Impressions, the number of times a post from your Page is displayed, inevitably decrease as a consequence.
2. Paid Reach Is Pushing Out Some Organic And Viral Reach
Facebook came up with Promoted posts for pages and brands to allow them to boost their content on Facebook. If all pages were to boost their content on a paid basis, Facebook couldn’t deliver it on an organic basis – again, due to limitations in the News Feed. Facebook is making space in the Feed not only for promoted posts, but also for new users and brands as well.
3. Average Reach Is Down, Total Reach Is Up
If we actually add the reach of all the pages we have been monitoring (7 800), we find that the total number of organic post impressions is stable or has actually gone up slightly, which can be explained by brands posting more often on more pages and some of that content being shared more, resulting in not enough space in the News Feed and a lower general average reach. More posts create more traffic and result in lower average reach. The higher the volume, the lower the average per post.
4. Brands Need To Post More Engaging Content
When you consider that an average user has 140 friends (the maximum social circle of most primates) and Likes dozens of brand pages, you can imagine the amount of posts a normal user has to scroll through a day. Facebook says it “continually optimizes its News Feed to ensure the most relevant experience” for its users, which will affect both organic and viral reach. Only posts that are likely to be engaging (or paid for) will appear higher in the feed, so brands should focus on their content more than ever and post in a wisely and timely manner. Facebook optimizes the feed “to show users the posts they are most likely to engage with, where engagement is defined as clicking, liking, commenting, or sharing the post – or in the case of offers, claiming the offer”.
Engaging posts tend to be pictures with a short comment, a call to action, shareable potential, etc. So, keep it short and be visual. Give them something of value, something they’d like to share with others.
The Bottom Line
Facebook can and will change its algorithm whenever it feels it has a business case to do so. You can stay ahead of game by constantly monitoring your social media performance (using our tools, like Analytics PRO) and making the appropriate adjustments to both strategy and tactics. These involve better content, more timely posts, and more interactions with your fans (using Builder). When a post gets traction: shares, comments and likes, run with it. Create a conversation and a relationship that keeps them coming back for more.
Note: Our research has been made on hundreds of thousands of posts from 7 800 brand pages in the last three months (July 1st – October 9th).