Late last year Facebook page managers started reporting dramatic drops in organic reach for posts on their Facebook pages. The amount of the drop differed depending on who you spoke with. I had some clients who saw large drops in organic reach while others saw small drops. I didn’t have any clients whose reach flatlined or grew during the last quarter of the year. The trend in my experience began early last year and spiked in September 2013.
During this period Facebook had been somewhat cagey about these reports. In most cases they claimed they were tweaking their news algorithm to weed out low quality content – whatever they determined that to be. Additionally, they would follow up these statements claiming that the average reach of posts hadn’t changed.
I challenged one Facebook representative on a panel at SXSW about the effects the algorithm changes were having on my client accounts. We had spent a considerable amount of time building up a fan base of over 120,000 people to see our average organic reach drop from 7% to below 3% per post. I asked the panelist if the social network was making changes to force marketers to use the Facebook ad platform. He bristled at the suggestion that they were actively engineering the algorithm in order to compel users to spend money on ads to fill the gap in lost organic reach.
On December 5, 2013, AdAge released a story which confirmed marketers’ suspicions in regards to the loss in organic reach. In a leaked sales presentation, Facebook stated: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
On its own, this seemed a plausible explanation which wasn’t too far off their public statements on the matter. However there was more info in the leaked document. In the slide deck, Facebook was making the case that marketers should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in the news feed” as an alternative to relying on organic reach.
Additionally, Facebook had a section in the document where they suggest that Facebook page managers should rethink how they view fan acquisition on the platform. In their minds, Facebook should no longer be considered primarily as a channel to acquire fans to build an organic distribution channel for content, but “as a tool for making paid advertising more effective” and as a way to “improve advertising effectiveness.”
So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Many of you have spent years building a fan base on Facebook and now they’ve changed the rules in the middle of the game in order to make you pay to get access to your hard-earned fans.
What do you do about it? We’ll cover that in my next post.