Facebook has been making the news a lot lately, and not always in a good way. We’ve see changes in terms of the look and functionality of Facebook Pages, as well as continued complaints from Page owners that organic reach is continuing to fall.
This post will take a look at the current state of Facebook Pages mid way through 2014. We’ll take a look at the new so-called streamlined look for Pages, as well as the continued complaints Page owners have about their posts not reaching their fans (and possible reasons why this may be happening). Finally, we’ll briefly discuss whether Facebook marketing is still relevant, given the problems we’ll discuss.
Facebook Page Redesign: “A Streamlined Layout”
This is the month that all Pages will be switched over to the new Page layout. Facebook announced back in March that Pages would be getting a new look, however most Page owners were only given the option to switch within the past month. Facebook had said all Pages would be automatically converted June 12, however it looks like many Pages are still sporting the old layout as of today, June 19.
Previously, posts were spread horizontally across the Page. In Newsfeed, posts are displayed in a single vertical column, naturally drawing the reader’s eye down the feed. In an attempt to maintain consistency between Pages and Newsfeed, Facebook has adopted the same single column format for Pages. All posts will be now be displayed vertically in the righthand column, and the increased size of this column will also mean a larger post size.
All Page Info Now Displayed in Lefthand Column
Whereas Page info used to be distributed between the 2 columns, info like your business hours, likes, bios, and apps will all be displayed in the righthand column, making finding pertinent business info much easier. Page admins also now have the ability to drag and drop these sections where they want them.
You’ll notice tabs have also been removed from the top of the page, however all your apps are still listed in a drop down menu under ‘More’. And those nifty custom thumbnails you previously had for your apps? Don’t worry, they’re automatically transferred to the lefthand column as well.
Easier Access to Admin Info
As part of the new layout, admin tools are now displayed more prominently, meaning quicker access to data like new Page likes, ad info, notifications and private messages from fans. In the top lefthand menu, you’ll now see access to your Page, and to your Activity, Insights and Settings. The Settings tab will take you to a complete list of setting options, all in one place.
Pages to Watch
The new Pages to Watch feature allows admins to monitor the performance of their competitors’ Pages. Various metrics are compared, including new and total Page likes, number of weekly posts and overall engagement levels. By adding Pages to this watch list, Page owners can continually evaluate how their Page stacks up against others in the same niche; and take the necessary actions to keep pace.
Organic Reach Continues to Fall for Many Businesses
The problem of decreasing post reach isn’t a new one. Page admins have been complaining about Facebook Edgerank for a couple of years now; however, the problem only appears to be getting worse. According to recent data released by Edgerank Checker, post reach continues to be on a steady downward trend. Their research reveals that organic reach is at an all-time low with reach per fan now at 6.51%. If you compare this to February 2012 when reach was at 16%, the trend is clear.
Image courtesy of Edgerank Checker
Page admins are obviously unhappy with this trend, particularly those who have utilized paid ads to increase their fan base. Often reluctantly purchasing these ads in the first place, business owners are finding their organic posts just aren’t reaching the vast majority of these fans. Now they’re faced with having to purchase more ads (promoted posts) to reach these fans they have already paid for.
New Data Reveals Secret Sauce Behind ‘Edgerank’
Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm has gone through some major shifts over the past couple of years, so it can be difficult to keep on top of what factors go into deciding which posts get seen and which don’t. However a recent article by Josh Constine on the Tech Crunch blog reveals the ‘secret sauce’ behind Facebook post ranking factors.
According to an interview with Facebook Newsfeed Director of Product Management Will Cathcart, there are around 100,000 factors that come into play when determining post visibility. He also revealed, however, some of the most important factors that determine whether a post will be shown:
- Interest of the user in the creator: In other words, how popular have the Page’s posts been with an individual in the past?
- The post’s popularity: How this post has performed with other fans
- The creator of the post: How popular have this Page’s posts been in the past?
- Type of post: For instance, if the user has generally liked photo posts in the past, they may be shown photo posts more frequently.
- Recency: How new is this post? New posts are more likely to be shown than ones that could potentially be outdated.
Most Page owners would obviously prefer that all their posts be shown to all their fans; however with users being bombarded with potentially thousands of posts in their Newsfeed each day (if left unfiltered), this simply can’t be an option.
This means Page owners need to continue to find ways to create interesting and shareable content that will reach their fans organically. And in case you don’t think this is possible: I have seen Pages who are doing this very successfully, in spite of Facebook’s seemingly restrictive criteria…with post reach up to 50% of the number of fans for an average post, all the way up to 100% for the occasional viral post.
Suspected Fake Likes Continue to Make the News
The allegations made by Veritasium in their now-famous Facebook Fraud video appear to still be a hot topic in the online marketing industry. In case you haven’t seen the video, here’s a brief recap of the allegations made: While Facebook doesn’t technically allow ‘fake’ fans, click farms are clicking on Facebook ads and randomly ‘liking’ Pages. These farms are being paid to artificially bolster the number of fans for certain Pages, however if they only liked certain Pages, Facebook would be able to easily pinpoint this suspicious activity. So in order to avoid detection, they’re randomly clicking on ads and liking Pages.
Not a big deal, right? Think again. When a Page’s likes are artificially inflated, this means significantly lower engagement levels overall. These ‘fake fans’ like the Page, but never interact with the Page or any of the Page’s posts ever again. This sends a message to Facebook that the Page’s content isn’t worth seeing, and the Page’s overall organic reach drops.
And in cases where Pages are paying for ads to increase likes, the problem is even more serious: they’re paying once to receive a fake like, and then having to pay again to promote their posts because of the non-existent engagement from these fake fans.
A recent article by Business Insider suggests that this issue is still a serious problem for Page owners. The article notes the claim by one app developer that 3 million of Harvard University’s 3.3 million fans are likely fake. While this claim is unsubstantiated at this point, the fact that a large number of Harvard’s most engaged fans are from Bangladesh (which is known to be a hotspot for click farms) is certainly suspicious.
Is Facebook Still Worth it for Business Owners?
The short answer, in my opinion, is that if your customers are on Facebook, you need to be too. As the largest and arguably most powerful social network, Facebook should remain a primary platform in your social media strategy.
According to Social Media Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, the overwhelming majority of marketers are still relying heavily on Facebook to connect with customers; in fact, more marketers reported using Facebook for marketing than all other social networks combined. With 54% of B2C marketers stating that Facebook was their most important social platform, it’s clear that the issues of decreased reach and click bank likes aren’t insurmountable to most businesses.
Page owners should continue to focus on creating valuable and enticing content for their fans; pushing a marketing message simply doesn’t work anymore. Continue to promote your website content to your fans, and then have a plan in place to nurture that relationship once they’ve arrived at your site. This is the one and only way to make Facebook work effectively for your business.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the current state of Facebook for your business. Is Facebook still a major component of your marketing strategy? Why or why not?