Oh Facebook, how could you do it? How could you take our relationship, which was working so well (at least for us), and try to exploit it for money? Ok, perhaps I’m being a bit overdramatic, but I’m simply sharing the sentiment of many Facebook users who are more than a little ticked that the only way to maintain the reach they’re used to is by paying for it.
What’s going on?
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook lately then you might have noticed a drastic dip in your content’s reach. Now your postings only appear to a small portion of your audience – an audience you worked hard to build, mind you. Of course this phenomenon is not by accident, as Facebook has a ready solution for the problem it created: paid promotion. Yes, by opening your wallet and bestowing a monetary offering to the social goliath you can once again connect with the same number of people as before (perhaps more). But the real kicker is many paid promotion users are complaining their posts are mostly being directed to folks in Asia, which means the people you’re effectively paying for are probably not in your target audience and will never have an interest in your brand.
These changes occurred after Facebook’s recent EdgeRank algorithm update, but it’s not the first time the network has altered the rules of the game, and it’s definitely not the last.
What to do about it?
So, the burning questions is . . . should you stick around? Like it or not, as long as Facebook is where much of your audience is hanging out, it’s kind of hard to leave. However, you may need to reevaluate how you use the network.
For example, the people that have been the most upset by the algorithm change are those who put way too many eggs in their Facebook basket to begin with; instead of thinking of it as a tool, it was their entire online presence. In other words, they treated it as their business’ primary webpage and as the main communication channel with their audience – big mistake. There are two major problems with such an approach:
You’re on someone else’s digital “property”
The fact is, your Facebook page isn’t really your own; you’re just renting space. Facebook makes the rules, and it can change anything whenever it wants. Do you really want to put so much control of your online presence in someone else’s hands? The network could shut down tomorrow (highly unlikely, but it could happen) and then what would you do?
Your building their brand as much or more than your own
As many others have astutely pointed out, those who use Facebook (and other social networks) are either customers or products. As a business owner or marketer, you are the customer since you’re paying for advertisements or “buying” an audience through paid promotion (if you didn’t before, you probably will now). This means a portion of all your Facebook marketing efforts go straight back to the social network, as every advertising dollar you spend and message you post helps build its brand. At what point is the social network getting more out of the relationship than you are? This is something to be wary of as you can easily tip the balance in Facebook’s favor if you rely on it too much.
Guess what? The situation isn’t entirely new.
It’s true, most Pages have experienced a decline in their reach, but what you may not realize is your postings were never seen by all your subscribers. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm has always regulated who sees what.
How does the network decide? Well, since we are talking about an algorithm, there’s obviously a formula involved in determining what shows up in a particular person’s feed. And without getting too technical, the equation basically boils down to:
Rank = Affinity x Weight x Decay
For the most part, the higher a post’s rank, the greater chance it has to show up in a member’s feed. However, a post’s rank will vary depending on who’s viewing it, since it’s based on the affinity for that particular person.
To make things a little easier to understand, here’s a quick summary of how each variable is determined:
Affinity – Put simply, affinity is how relevant a post is to a specific user. Facebook figures this out by analyzing a viewer’s history, interactions, likes, comments, shares, etc.
Weight – A post gets more weight, or importance, if it seems valuable (i.e. gets a lot of shares, comments, or likes). Also certain types of content appear to carry more weight than others (e.g. a photo is greater than a status update).
Decay – The older a post the less rank power it has.
How to get the most out of EdgeRank?
Even with the recent changes to EdgeRank there are still some things you can do to optimize your reach (without paying for it). They are:
Remember the decay factor? If you’re not posting regularly then your page will quickly become stale and less likely to connect with your subscribers.
Mix-up your content
You can accumulate more weight by offering different types of posts, since a mixture of content is more valuable than a constant stream of the same type stuff.
Post at different times
Experiment with posting at different times of day to see what produces the best results.
Hook the “likers”
Occasionally, you may post a picture or launch a contest that attracts a bunch of new likes to your page. Instead of losing these visitors after the event, lure them into becoming regular followers by immediately posting something equally intriguing.
Use the analytics tools
Facebook has some fairly good analytic tools already built into the platform – don’t ignore these. Monitor all your posts to determine which types get the most impressions, likes, reach, etc. By doing so, you can learn which of your postings are most effective.
The bottom line is there’s no reason to quit Facebook if it’s still working for you (even if it’s less than it was before). Assuming your posting smart and working the EdgeRank algorithm to your advantage, Facebook is still a great place to have conversations with customers/potential customers and build brand awareness.
However, remember to make it only a portion of your online marketing efforts, and devote most of your energy to building your own brand and increasing the audience on your website – a place you have the control. Make your site the “place to be” by:
- Promoting conversations in your comment feeds
- Offering exclusive content
- Giving premium content to email/newsletter subscribers
Also, if you’re only on Facebook, you may want to consider branching out to other social networks (Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) as a way of diversifying your social network “portfolio.” That way, it won’t hurt as much the next time Facebook decides to make a gut-wrenching algorithm change.