If you’ve invested a sizeable amount of time and energy into growing your Facebook fan base, you probably won’t like this next bit of news. According to Richard Sim on the Facebook for Business page:
People are connecting and sharing more than ever. On a given day, when someone visits News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show. As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality.
This shouldn’t be news to marketers who maintain Facebook pages as we’ve long observed the slow and steady decline of each post’s reach. There’s just too much content competing with each other and as a result, pages have fewer opportunities to really engage users. That’s not all, as Facebook is being pretty blunt about how we’re supposed to replicate the kind of reach we’ve gotten used to in the past. Richard Sim goes on to say that:
As the dynamic nature of News Feed continues to follow people’s patterns of sharing, Page owners should continue using the most effective strategy to reach the right people: a combination of engaging Page posts and advertising to promote your message more broadly. Advertising lets Pages reach the fans they already have and find new customers as well. The fans you have matter. In addition to being some of the most loyal customers, fans also make the advertising on Facebook even more effective.
Basically, brands will have a tougher time reaching out to fans who have already liked their page, rendering a lot of the time and effort they have put into growing their fan base moot. However, that doesn’t mean your fan base will be totally useless. According to a document that was sent out to advertising partners and obtained by AdAge.com:
Your brand can fully benefit from having fans when most of your ads show social context, which increases advertising effectiveness and efficiency.
So the more fans you already have, the more affordable it will be to reach them with paid posts. But wait, aren’t many of these already fans who have liked your page specifically to get updates from you? Why should you have to pay just to reach fans you already have and why should fans not be able to get updates from you just because you don’t want to pay? That about sums up the general opinion on the matter.
So Who Is On the Winning Side of This?
While brand pages will be taking a hit in terms of their organic reach, news posts should actually do quite better. News posts tend to have a higher engagement rate and Facebook has taken notice. According to Facebook engineers Varun Kacholia and Minwen Ji:
People use Facebook to share and connect, including staying current on the latest news, whether it’s about their favorite celebrity or what’s happening in the world. We’ve noticed that people enjoy seeing articles on Facebook, and so we’re now paying closer attention to what makes for high quality content, and how often articles are clicked on from News Feed on mobile. What this means is that you may start to notice links to articles a little more often (particularly on mobile).
This means that the folks over at Facebook will start trying to distinguish between an awesome article from the New York Times and a meme from 9Gag so it can prioritize the former and give less priority to the latter. News articles should show up more prominently closer to the top of the feed even if it was posted earlier in the day. In addition, Facebook will start doing something else to those article posts:
To complement people’s interest in articles, we recently began looking at ways to show people additional articles similar to ones they had just read. Soon, after you click on a link to an article, you may see up to three related articles directly below the News Feed post to help you discover more content you may find interesting.
That’s not all. In the past, the only way you would have become aware of your friends commenting on an interesting post was if you had already commented or liked it. Now, if there is a lot of engagement with a post, Facebook may bump it for you in case your friends are commenting anything new about it that you might want to catch. Kacholia and Ji say:
As a result, people may start seeing a few more stories returning to their feed with new comments highlighted. Our testing has shown that doing this in moderation for just a small number of stories can lead to more conversations between people and their friends on all types of content.
The news that Facebook is pushing marketers to pay for a wider reach shouldn’t come as a surprise. With this new stance on Facebook pages, it’s unlikely that we’ll see smaller businesses trying to compete as much with the big boys as they did, as it is unlikely that they would have a marketing budget big enough to pay for it. Many of you may have already expanded your efforts outside of Facebook and Twitter to relatively newer and less explored platforms like Pinterest and Instagram where a lot of engagement can still be had for free.
Now, it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom as this also opens up new opportunities in content marketing. Since Facebook will be prioritizing posts from high quality sources and bumping them up in the feeds, content marketers should easily find a way to capitalize on this. With Facebook being more careful about how it chooses posts that go on your feed, switching to a more content-oriented strategy for your social accounts might pay off more in the future than simply trying to get more likes and followers.