There has been much speculation in the press and tons have been written on why Facebook is now "penalizing" brands. The same holds true for personal profiles too, but hasn't been as buzzworthy as has been the case with brands. The moment you input 'facebook reach' in Google, you will see search terms' suggestions that tell you what Indian netizens are looking for. Everyone is trying to get to the 'holy grail' - Facebook's News Feed Algorithm. For the same search term (see chart), searches out of India are leading the rest of the world.
Source: Google Trends. Search term: 'Facebook reach', time period July 2013 to June 2014
So what's been happening?
There has been a steady decline in organic reach since July 2013. We will see further decline in organic reach for some time to come, as there is more and more content that is competing for users' feeds.
A study from News Feed optimization service EdgeRank Checker of 50,000 posts by 1,000 Pages shows that organic reach per fan (median) has steadily declined:
February 2012 = 16%
September 2013 = 12.6%
November 2013 = 10.2%
December 2013 = 7.8%
March 2014 = 6.5%
What did Facebook change? And How?
Facebook made changes to its news feed algorithm to prioritize content that it deems more relevant to users
• Shared links will receive higher visibility in the users' News Feeds.
• Link page posts now rank higher than links that are embedded.
• All links that are commented on receive a bump in the feed, aka Story bumping
• Memes get penalized - Facebook identifies them as content that people generally ignore.
The Competition for Relevance: Facebook limits the number of posts that reach users' news feeds. In order to remain competitive with other social platforms, Facebook strives to offer the most relevant content to the users and thereby providing a better user experience. A straight cut on this is how Twitter lets its users define their turf and the content they wish to consume and from whom.
Add to this, the sheer size of Facebook. Being the biggest and the first one to experience huge amount of content traffic, it stands out for limiting the number of stories. What gets missed, Facebook allows brands to achieve by paying for it - not a bad deal considering brands are more interested to invade than participate, target than to engage.
How to get past this competition
• Set clear business and community goals - drive your goals through crisp quarterly/seasonal plans and monthly editorial calendars
• Post engaging content - content is and will always be the king, more so now. When fans share your content, the news feed algorithm counts it as relevant and reaches friends of fans
• The right content mix - recently it has been noticed that text posts are seeing more organic reach. Videos are reaching more and more than ever before. Unlike, as has been forever now on Facebook, photos only are not considered to be the knights. Mix it up to liven things a bit - keep it rich
• Cross-promote across partnerships and platforms - on social, a thread will always travel from one network to another as it reaches a diverse audience.
• During media pushes, ensure that the message reaches the right audience - use Facebook ad tools to target media money for maximum impact. Use the funds that you have consistently spreading them across time.
Given the opportunities, it is no big deal. What counts is that Facebook is here to stay and is an extremely valuable network. It claims to innovate on behalf of its users and stay committed to helping businesses grow and ensure that they get the maximum from their investment in Facebook. For businesses, effective strategies and users/consumer focused plans will surely spell success. With 1.25 billion users on it, it offers markets for all. So, keep at it!
The author is Media Director & Head -Social Media, Cheil Worldwide SW Asia.