Reach More Than 2% of Your Fans on Facebook

Drew Bernard
Drew Bernard Co-Founder and CEO, ActionSprout.com

Posted on April 26th 2014

Reach More Than 2% of Your Fans on Facebook

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” - George Bernard Shaw

It wasn’t that many years ago that Google was a new kid on the block. If you were a webmaster back then, it was relatively easy to get your website onto the first page of Google search results. If you were thoughtful about what text you had on your website, included logical meta-tags in your site header and perhaps got a few decently trafficked websites to link to your site, Google would serve you up like a delicious dish of pasta at an Italian restaurant.

But even as the volume of websites expanded, those darn engineers at Google kept going to work every single day. And dang it if they weren’t constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of their search results. Within a couple years, they had realized that just because a site had the right text and meta-tags and a few good links, didn’t mean the content on that site was really what the searcher wanted. So, as frustrating as it was for website managers, Google kept tweaking their algorithm. Given their value proposition, this only made sense. Their top goal was to be THE place people went when they have questions they need answers to. And the better the content they can serve up, the more people come back.

But maintaining the quality of search results is a never-ending quest. In some ways, Google’s fight to maintain and improve the quality of search results is akin to an anti-virus software company that’s constantly working to detect new threats. The economic value of showing up high in Google’s search result is just too significant not to attract countless developers outside of Google to work every day looking for ways to manipulate Google’s algorithm. And if you don’t think people have cried fowl from time to time when Google has made changes, keep in mind that entire companies with valuations in the tens of millions of dollars have been driven out of business due to a change Google has rolled out to it’s algorithm.

Today, successful websites still employ search engine optimization experts, but those SEO folks now work closely with content marketers as well. They understand that in order to show up high in search results, they need to provide content that provide real value, and that result in people spending time and interacting with it.

So, what does this have to do with Facebook? Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, history might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Today, we all take Google’s constant quest to improve search results as just a fact of life. Heck, not only do we not hear mass upheavals when Google tweaks it’s algorithm--we appreciate it!

But over at Facebook, we are experiencing the end of the “early days” and entered a new era of increased scrutiny by the company around which page content shows to which Facebook users.

Back in December Facebook posted the following to their Facebook for business blog:

Facebook ApprovedPeople are connecting and sharing more than ever. On a given day, when someone visits News Feed, there are an average of 1,5001 possible stories we can show.

As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality.

As the dynamic nature of News Feed continues to follow people’s patterns of sharing, Page owners should continue using the most effective strategy to reach the right people: a combination of engaging Page posts and advertising to promote your message more broadly. Advertising lets Pages reach the fans they already have and find new customers as well. The fans you have matter. In addition to being some of the most loyal customers, fans also make the advertising on Facebook even more effective.

Ultimately, what’s good for people on Facebook is good for the businesses that use Facebook to reach and engage them. One of the ways we maintain a good balance between the two is by making sure News Feed is as interesting and timely as possible. We’ll continue to provide updates about how News Feed works, so stay tuned. https://www.facebook.com/business/news/What-Increased-Content-Sharing-Means-for-Businesses

Facebook is a public company that works every day to maximize the economic value of their primary product; their end users’ eyeballs.

Rest assured that Facebook’s quest to improve it’s filtering and selection of content will only heat up over the coming years. In fact, on April 10th the company announced a number of new tweaks designed to “Clean Up News Feed Spam” that provide more evidence of their increased battle to improve the quality of content appearing in the News Feed. http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2014/04/news-feed-fyi-cleaning-up-news-feed-spam/

And just as website managers have had to find new ways to add real value on their websites in order to show up in Google’s search results, so too must Facebook managers learn to add real value to Facebook users in order to show up in the New Feed.

We have all heard the outcry from page managers complaining that Facebook is no longer delivering their posts to “their fans”. I certainly understand the frustration that organizations that invested in building fans must feel as they see fewer and fewer of their fans receiving their posts.

But here’s the things, Facebook created the whole “like this page” thing as a way to let end users inform Facebook that they cared about certain pages at one point in history. Think about it, if Facebook didn’t give people the ability to like pages, how would they have been able to learn which pages they might want to see content in their newsfeed from? Liking is a pretty simple way for end users to tell Facebook what they care about. But what we like one year becomes garbage the next. If I was a fan of a Facebook page that provides parenting tips for Dads with newborns, when I first signed up for Facebook, I assure you I would have outgrown their content by now.

But unlike liking a page, once a person starts receiving your content in their newsfeed, they have a very powerful way to tell Facebook they really don’t much care for you content any more. They simply ignore it. There is nothing louder than silence on Facebook. And the smart engineers at Facebook have learned that with 1500 other possible stories to choose from at any given moment, they might be wise to select one from another source; one that the user interacts with and that tends to bring them back to the site and keep them hanging around for longer.

I assure you, Facebook views its top job to be finding and serving up content that brings Facebook users back to Facebook and gets them to stay longer. And I am pretty sure that when a user chooses NOT to engage with your content time and again, Facebook hears something like this; ‘hey Facebook, I still like this page, but their content is not really of interest to me and won’t really keep me coming back to check my newsfeed or spend more time in your little walled garden.’

If you think about it, Google’s number one job every day is to improve the user experience of visitors that are coming to them for information so as to ensure they come back again tomorrow. And as fun as it is to blame Facebook for your low reach numbers, the truth of the matter is not every page is surfing. It’s time that Facebook page managers with 2% organic reach accept the fact that the reason their content is failing to land in many peoples New Feed is not because of some big Facebook conspiracy. It’s because they are failing to create content that people want to engage with; content that adds value to their audience’s life; content that they care about.

And even more importantly, it’s time for page managers to learn how to provide real value to people on Facebook. I assure you, Facebook wants you to succeed at creating great content. Their entire platform depends on having good content they can use to fill countless hours of their 1.23 billion users’ time.

And, of course, the company is working harder than anyone to create compelling ways and reasons for page owners to pay to reach more of the people they care most about. The fact of the matter is, Facebook’s paid reach products have become quite good over the past year. Here at ActionSprout, many of our customers measure the ROI of their Facebook efforts in terms of email acquisition costs.

But Facebook has to find ways to maximize the economic value of your Fans news-feeds while not driving them away with too many poor quality promoted posts. If you accept this as fact and focus on creating great content that your Fans engage with, you’ll find Facebook really can be a highly effective channel for reaching, engaging and capturing supporters. Just ask organizations like OurTime.org and DailyKos.org who continue to enjoy remarkable delivery rates even as other folks are crying fowl.

At the same time, though, if what you really want is to be able to reach people directly, on your terms without paying each time you do so then you really need to focus on getting their email addresses.

We built ActionSprout to help nonprofit organizations find and post more engaging content, deepen relationship with people on Facebook and capture email and other information so they can evolve their relations beyond Facebook’s walled garden.

Drew Bernard

Drew Bernard

Co-Founder and CEO, ActionSprout.com

Drew is the founder and CEO of ActionSprout.com; a Facebook app that empowers nonprofits and political campaigns to engage supporters beyond like, share and comment.

Drew has been helping organizations build productive relationships with supporters online for over ten years. From 2001 to 2009 he helped create the online strategy program at the former nonprofit technology leader Groundwire.

Drew is a a rabid supporter of entrepreneurship in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and is active angel investor. He serves on the board of GetLittleBird.com and lives in Portland Oregon with his wife and kids.

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Comments

Great post Drew,

What Facebook did with the change of exposure on content was a necesary move to create user engagement and revamp interactivity within the community. We need to remember that Facebook pages have been there for while and user have liked pages in the past that are not longer relevant to their preferences.

So basically what Facebook did is refresheing the algorithm to renew the relevance of your content to an audience, true that to you will need to "boost your post" to your audience to recreate this interactivity, but this may be a cheap price for advocacy.

Partially what Social marketeers are not understanding is the process of relevance, this is well known to SEO practitioners (what to do to make old content relevant), and seems that internal algorithms have similarities on All social networks. (twitter slow pull out from hash relevance, Linkedin drop on views, and the discussing facebook pages views), the to do is simple reconnect with your followers, reply to conversations and involve people for advocacy.

 

Thanks Daniel,

I think you're spot on with regard to relevance and the call to "reconnect with your followers, reply to conversations and involve people for advocacy".

In terms of having to pay too boost posts, we're not finding that it's requird for all pages. If a page has been doing a good job creating relivant and engaging content, they are not seeing a decline in organic reach. 

Facebook is not trying to punish pages and force them to pay so much as they are prioritizing high quality content no matter where it comes from. Pages are esentially being treated just like everyone else on the platform. 

It is not up to Facebook to decide what is relevant content. What Facebook needs to do is to deliver the posts a page manager puts out so that followers of that page can decide on whether the content is relevant for them or not! Facebook is not the content police. Well, its not supposed to be, but they took the right to name themselves just that.

The problem is that they have to deliver strong revenue numbers for the anlysts to keep the thumbs up and that creates some ideas that are not so great. It is Facebook's business and they can do what they think is good for them. For the user or marketer, Facebook is not needed to create successful marketing campaigns on social media and sooner or later even the last one has figured that out. Latest when they see that their content is taken as relevant on other networks they will think twice before they go back to Facebook, where the checkbook decides on whether content is relevant.

A user base of 1.2 billion might sound strong, but if you can't reach them its just as saying 7 billion people live on earth. Facebook has the wrong business model and its catching up, fast!

Vitus you are right on the stock relation between Facebook and their policy.

However i disagree with you on the content policy, you are a member of their network, you live by their rules, like or not. do we hope it would different, sure!!! And is no different than any other Network.

 

Hey Daniel,

Yep, their rules. I took it. I am not playing Facebook anymore. And I am not even a paying marketer. The bottom line is this, with a check book you can promote a cat picture to unknown hights, while on the other hand if you want to give away a million dollar on Facebook you can't, because nobody can see your post, if you don't pay. That's the entire stupidity behind "relevant content" on Facebook. Pay to be relevant! Or, if that sounds better, if you don't pay, you are not relevant.

As far as other networks goes, my posts are seen on Twitter, on Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and any other of the 30 I am using. It won't be long until the community of advertisers (and CFO's) understand the nonsense that takes place here. But, as you said, their rules! Take it or leave it. I took a close look, and the conclusion is, facebook is clearly out for marketing. Time and money can be spent better. And, the successes are stunning.

+1

 

:-) That's where Facebook is handing it over to. On a silver platter!

Hi Vitus - I hear you! And you're certainly not alone in feeling that FB has become a waste of time and money.

Ironically, I felt that way about it 5 years ago when organic reach was high but the ROI for such traffic was at or near zero for most orgs. Back then, if you asked people how they were measuring ROI from their Facebook page, they would point to some false metric like "fan count" and say things like "Facebook is for building awareness". Then they would probalby roll their eyes at you as if you were an idiot for "not getting it."

Today, on the other hand, many orgnaization are measure the ROI of their FB page in terms of meaningful things such as they ability to reach, cultivate and convert new supporters to support their mission as advocates and/or donors. 

We have quite a few customers telling us that Facebook is simply the most cost effective channel they currently have for aquiring new supporters and reengaging existing ones. 

 

As for Facebook's job, I personally think their job is to listen to their users and help them find more content that value. I truly appreaciate the fact that they do not surface every piece (or any) of content my crazy aunt Betty posts. I also apprecaite that they have stopped cluttering my news feed with content from that organization that creates content I no longer care about. I might not want to ruffle Aunt Betty's feathers by unfriending her and I might still want my friends to know that I like the organization behind that page, but that does not mean that I want my limited time on FB to be spent wade through her silly cat memes or reading about a topic I no longer care about. 

And you have to remember that what Facebook is doing seems to be working from their end users. Every month we are seeing their user stats go up. People are coming back more and staying longer. 

 

 

Hey Drew! Thanks for your response. I agree with your two first paragraphs of your response. The rest I respectfully disagree.

The number of voices that don't like Facebook's activity is rising, and will continue to do so. As far as how brands measuring their ROI on social media goes, the overwhelming majority has still not figured out on how to get a decent one. I am trying to tell everyone who wants to hear it, (or not) that social media is a sales driver, if you treat it as such. And that opinion has its origination in the opinion that every liker and follower is actually visiting your "store" (social media page) and ROI must be measurable on the balance sheet. Likes, followers, advocates, cultivated and returning people are still not mentioned in a balance sheet. All that counts is revenue compared to the investment made to create it. And in this department Facebook will fall short compared to all other major social networks. The cost to acquire a measurable sale is way to high! Have a look on what it costs you to create a million dollars in revenue on Facebook. You might as well put the money in a savings account and take 0.25% interest! For a fraction of that cost you can create that million on other networks.

The number of Facebook users is actullay only important for those that still believe that advertising on Facebook will bust all past sales records. This is not the case and it will show in advertising revenue at one point, unless CFO's keep supporting high spending and low returns. Personal users on Facebook are there to chat with their friends and family and not to watch ads, especially not on mobile. For the business page owners and managers, Facebook's user numbers are not relevant just for the simple reason that you can't reach them. Again, there are social media platforms out there with 10 times less users that will create you revenue for much less investment.

For me, if I like a page I want to see what they have to say or are offering. I don't want Facebook to decide what I like to see. If I don't want to see what some brands or organizations are posting, I "unlike". Besides, there is an option to create separate news feeds.

It's social media and that means interaction is key, just as it is when a potential customer walks into your store. If you don't interact and engage you are not selling. Facebook won't let you do it (you can only respond to comments), unless you pay! Not good enough, at least not for the moment.

 

As a Facebook user, when I "like" a page, I want to see what they post.

It's arrogance to hold it from me. That was the reason I "liked" the page. 

Facebook doesn't need to worry about how many posts I get. If I receive too many on my feed, I can unfollow some of them who aren't posting things I care to see.

Your users don't need your protection in that way.

Naturally, there is always a reason why the customer doesn't know best, isn't there? Do you hear the rumblings? It's your customer base COMPLAINING.

Interesting post, Drew. I understand that Facebook is free and we all have to live by its rules if we choose to use it. I also understand that at the end...well, the beginning of the day, they're just out to make money like all other businesses. And they make lots of money through all the advertisements and promoted posts.

I consider there to be three fundamental problems with their new algortithm. 

1) Just because I don't interact with something that a page posts doesn't mean I don't like it. I might see it in my news feed and not feel the need to comment on it or share it with my friends - because then they're all going to unfriend ME for posting too often. I can "like" something without having to "prove" it to Facebook. 

2) Non-profits cannot afford to pay for new followers or boosted posts. I admin an animal welfare page, sharing urgent animals, and my posts are being seen by only a couple hundred of my over 22,000 fans - and that reach only goes up to a couple thousand after dozens of shares on a post. What does it TAKE to increase your reach, even WITH good content? And yes, you do have to pay even if you have great content, because what about all the followers who aren't SEEING your great content to begin with at this point? If they haven't been engaging in your page, they're not going to see your posts in their feed. So how do you get them back? Hope they come to your page randomly? Hope enough people share it that your posts go viral and someone reach them again? It's absurd.

3) Which brings me to my last point about creating content that people want to engage with - point very wall taken. If we continously post things people are interested in, we won't have this problem. But we can't always be super interesting with every single post. It's just not plausible. And we're essentially competing with every other page a person follows at the time we post something. 

At the end of the day, I hope that what commenters above have said - that Facebook is ultimately gravitated away from. It's not fair to make people pay to be seen. We built up our fan bases ourselves, with people who WANT and CHOOSE to see what we post. Facebook has lost sight of what it started out to be - a networking community.