The Simple Change Facebook Made That’s Screwing Up Brand Pages Everywhere

by Mack Collier

RedBullFB

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook altered the algorithm that determines what content you see in your News Feed (and no, you’re not seeing everything from your friends or the pages you Like).  Previously, content from friends/Pages that you had Liked or interacted with previously were more likely to show up in your News Feed in the future.

But earlier this month, Facebook again tweaked what content is shown in your News Feed.  When it did, the company said that ‘high quality articles’ would be given credence moving forward, and ‘the latest meme’ would get buried.

Instead, it appears that content from many company Brand Pages took a big hit.  Ignite Social Media, a social media marketing agency, analyzed almost 700 posts on 21 brand pages and had some pretty interesting/disturbing findings.  The biggest takeaway was that both organic reach and organic reach percentage fell by an average of 44% since the first week in December.  Five of the brands studied saw a decrease of over 60% and only one brand page in the study actually increased reach and reach percentage.  Since these results were revealed last week brand page managers everywhere have been lamenting similar findings on the pages they manage.

So what should your brand do now?

There are two things that I have consistently advised brands to do when it comes to social media:

1 – Plant seeds in the garden you own

2 – Focus on the people using the tools, not the tools themselves

Plant Seeds in the Garden You Own

The allure of Facebook for brands is obvious, there’s over a billion reasons why brands want to set up shop on Facebook.  Set up a brand page and suddenly you’ve got a free advertising tool on the biggest social networking site on the planet!  Why would anyone NOT want to do this?

Facebook knows that too.  Facebook is also now a publicly-traded company, and as such, revenue streams are of primary importance.  Which means if you want to keep having access to those users, increasingly Facebook will make it so you have to pay for that access.  Google does the same thing with its search engine, yes it says it is constantly tweaking its search ranking algorithm to give you better and more relevant results, but part of that is because Google wants you to pay for exposure.  It wants you to buy ads versus organically having your content rank highly.

Setting up shop on sites like Facebook and Twitter comes at a price for brands.  Yes, you have potential access to millions of potential customers, but ultimately, the sites control how and even if you get that access.  Facebook in particular is constantly changing the rules for how brands can use the site and distribute content.  Now that Twitter is  publicly-traded company, don’t be surprised if they don’t look for similar ways to monetize the efforts of brands.

This is why its better to put your eggs in baskets that you own.  Whereas you are at the whims of Facebook and Twitter when it comes to your content and engagement strategies, you have far more control over channels you own, such as your website, blog or email list.  Channels that your brand does not own can be used to compliment your social media efforts, but it should never be at the heart of what you do.  You want the heart of your social media strategy to be centered on channels you own, not ones that Mark Zuckerberg does.

Tools

Forget the Tools, Focus on the People

Who moved my ROI?  As Business Insider noted, this change could have a devastating impact for ‘social media marketers’ that are focused on helping brands get exposure for their content on Facebook.  Which is exactly the problem.  Too many brands and the agencies that service them are focused on gaming the system/tool versus trying to actually understand their customers.

What’s more important:

1 – Understanding how EdgeRank works to show your brand’s content higher in the News Feed of people that Liked your page

2 – Understanding why your audience is on Facebook

Understanding the people will always trump understanding the tools.  Your goal isn’t to understand how to game EdgeRank so that the picture you just posted will show up high on Sarah’s News Feed, your goal is to understand why Sarah is on Facebook.  What activities is she engaging in, and why?  What experience does she expect on Facebook, and why does she spend 3 hours a day on Facebook and has spent a grand total of 3 hours on Twitter this year?

Facebook is going to keep changing the rules.  You can either keep chasing the changes and wondering why you’re not seeing the social media riches your agency promised you, or you can stop chasing unicorns peeing rainbows and get to work creating something of value for your customers.

You cannot create that value for your customers until you understand them.  If you understand your customers and create value for them, then you win.  And nothing Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest does will change that.

Brand Arrows December 16, 2013 at 7:49 am

This is the post to read and follow before promoting your brand in Facebook.Posts like this must not be ignored as it contains very useful and helpful information to promote yourself in Facebook.

Julia Carcamo December 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Whether there were changes or not to Facebook, these were always two good rules to follow. Unfortunately many small businesses took Facebook as a “free website” rather than building one they could own (even if it just had the basics and no bells and whistles. And, focusing on the customer should always be rule #1 no matter the size of your business. They will show you the way to talk to them…and sell to them.

Mack Collier December 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Hi Julia you’re exactly right, a lot of businesses see Facebook as a free website, and unfortunately, you really do get what you pay for! Love your point about focusing on what customers want and need!

Julian December 16, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Another excellent post, Mack! It’s very refreshing/scary to read this – on the one hand, it’s refreshing because I thought I was losing my mind when I started noticing all the brand pages taking a dump lately, so I’m glad to know my keen mind is still intact=) At the same time, it’s scary to know that this is happening, and it’s even more concerning the fact that this is the first time I recall FB actually coming out and explicitly fessing up to these changes. I thought this post from Ad Age was very interesting http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-admits-organic-reach-brand-posts-dipping/245530/.

The fact that FB finally admits to this practice of purposely decreasing organic reach in an effort to spur/encourage/force (???) brands to advertise is disconcerting. How long is this going to continue? Until the point where my friends’ FB posts are drowned out? I’ve actually noticed within the last week or so that more and more of my newsfeed is being consumed by brands and ads and sponsored posts at the expense of hearing from my friends. FB has to be very careful about toeing this line – too much promotion will continue to drive people away. Glad to be subscribed to your email list so I didn’t miss this article, Mack!

Mack Collier December 17, 2013 at 7:41 am

Julian your findings are interesting, because according to Facebook you should see the exact opposite, you should be seeing more updates from your inner circle of friends, and less from brand pages. Although the more Sponsored Posts is likely consistent. Interesting, thanks for sharing what you are seeing!

Kevin Ekmark December 17, 2013 at 8:02 am

It’s unfortunate to still see so many businesses hanging their web presence on walls they don’t own or control. Almost every business should focus on building their web presence from their own branded and controlled self hosted website. I think that the trend will continue to push brands toward the “you’ve gotta pay to play” practice. Paying to be visible will become the norm as other social channels prove their value for targeting and connecting with customers.

Do you think this will increase the need for digital marketing professionals?

Mack Collier December 17, 2013 at 8:15 am

Kevin that’s a good question. It will definitely increase the need for consultants and agencies that teach their clients to understand how their customers are using social media sites like Facebook so that they can create compelling content that resonates with them organically.

The ones that will get bit are the ones that are just ‘gaming’ the system and trying to ‘fool’ EdgeRank into ranking their client’s content higher in News Feeds. A lot of these people will lose clients over this and quite honestly, they should.

Melody December 17, 2013 at 9:03 am

This algorithm changes are hugely frustrating. If you’re an ordinary person with a FB brand page, but don’t have the advertising budget of a big corporation, it means that Facebook begins to become very useless. I think we’d all be surprised at how much big companies spend at Facebook.

Christine Boulware December 17, 2013 at 11:46 am

Mack,

I appreciate your comments. I’m not sure you are correct, though. We do see more brand traffic that friend traffic on our personal pages. That alone will make everyone leave FB because it is why people are there. People on FB are there to hang out with their friends not to constantly watch Tide commercials. So, I agree with Julian they are indeed moving in the direction of drowning out the friend experience. The second big losers really are the brands. Everyone as you say does report astonishing drops in traffic unless they pay more. So here’s the reality, I have 50% more brand traffic than I’ve ever had and I hate it and I now spend less time on FB and am moving along with a ton of people to google+ and the brands are reaching fewer fewer people unless they agree to spend an astonishing amount of money. I disagree with your conclusion that if the brands are restricted we should see less brand traffic. I think if you are the right demographic, you are inundated with advertisements, which drown out the friends…

Fred January 11, 2014 at 11:48 pm

This report is fairly useless since it doesn’t have a DATE. It starts off “A couple of weeks ago, Facebook altered the algorithm that determines what content you see in your News Feed …” But we don’t know what week THIS is.

Mack Collier January 11, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Fred the date wasn’t listed in the post (fair point) but every comment before yours was posted on December 16th or 17th, 2013. Pretty easy to guess that was likely when the post was published.

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