Earlier this year, Facebook threw the cat among the digital marketing pigeons by announcing a major re-focus of its News Feed algorithm, putting increased emphasis on person-to-person engagement over person-to-Page actions.
The reason for this, according to Facebook, is that engagement between people is more beneficial to societal health than users simply sharing content – the change came in response the way Facebook has been used to spread misinformation and fake news, and facilitate filter bubbles, among other concerns.
The loser in this, of course, is any business who uses Facebook to reach its audience. And there are a lot of brands in that boat – given Facebook is the most widely used social platform in the world, at 2.2 billion active users, it’s no surprise that more than 80 million small businesses use Facebook, with many of them, according to Facebook, building their brands on the platform.
So what impact has the News Feed algorithm re-focus had, and what are brands doing to counter potential traffic losses. Buffer and BuzzSumo recently teamed up to analyze more than 43 million posts from the top 20,000 brands on Facebook to get some perspective on the shift.
You can read the full report on the Buffer blog, but the key element of focus is posting frequency - here’s a breakdown of the key findings on this front, and what it means for your strategy.
The report indicates is that Pages are posting to Facebook more often – a lot more in overall terms.
Buffer says that there’s been a 24% increase in the number of posts per quarter - an increase from 72,000 posts per day in Q1 2017 to 90,032 posts per day in Q2 2018.
“In other words, nearly 20,000 additional pieces of content are being posted by the world’s top brands… every day.”
The increase makes sense – in an element of its Facebook for Journalists course, released in April last year, Facebook specifically noted that Pages should:
“Post frequently - Don't worry about over-posting. The goal of News Feed is to show each person the most relevant story so not all of your posts are guaranteed to show in their Feeds.”
Supporting this, Facebook has stated that some Pages are posting up to 80 times per day, and given the reduction in organic reach, and the noted process built into the algorithm to limit exposure of your content to the same users, posting more often makes a lot of sense.
The problem, as Buffer notes, is that it also increases competition:
“Naturally, if the world’s top Facebook Pages are posting an additional 20,000 pieces of content per day to the platform, there’s going to be an increase amount of competition in the News Feed and a decrease of engagement across the board.”
Indeed, the research shows that Facebook Page engagement has dropped by more than 50% over the last 18 months.
Of course, if you’re a Facebook Page manager, you already know this – no doubt you’ve watched your Facebook referral sessions declining over time. The difficulty here is that even increased engagement may not help boost referral clicks (if that’s what you’re after) – because Facebook’s algorithm re-focus is aimed at increasing engagement between users, it now aims to show your content to users who are more likely to discuss it on Facebook, as opposed to those most likely to click through to your site.
That wrinkle means that increasing your Facebook reach may not necessarily result in the same referral traffic kick it used to – again, if you’re looking to boost brand awareness through Facebook, then this is less important, but for those seeking to drive referral traffic, it’s another relevant note to keep in mind.
So what, then, is the optimal Facebook Page posting frequency right now? According to Buffer, it’s five posts per day:
“Pages posting 5 times per day received an average of 2,466 engagements per post (a total of 12,330). Pages posting 10 or more times per day received an average of 1,202 engagements per post (a total of 12,020 engagements). In other words, posting 5 times per day appears to be the optimal Facebook posting frequency.”
Of course, that’s not definitive - there’s no ‘one size fits all’ process that will work best for all brands - but it’s an interesting note to consider in planning your strategy.
For some, five posts per day would be a significant increase in their posting frequency, and the advice goes against the traditional ‘less is more’ Facebook marketing approach, which is based on old methodologies formulated before the advent of the algorithm. It used to be that all your Page followers would see all of your posts, so posting too often would risk flooding them with your content, and turning them off, but via the algorithm, that pretty much can’t happen, so posting more often is less of a concern.
Increasing your posting frequency is not the answer, the lightbulb solution to beating algorithm restrictions, but based on these insights, and advice from Facebook, it’s definitely worth considering.
Though that does also put you at the mercy of future algorithm shifts – posting more often adds more work at your end in order to achieve the same results. If Facebook changes its algorithm again, and reduces Page reach further, you’re now spending even more time posting to Facebook for even less return.
That’s the conundrum many brands are now facing – while Facebook, and its 2.2 billion users, is too big to ignore, building more reliance on the platform is potentially a road to nowhere, and you may be better off working on alternate traffic options. But as noted, you can’t ignore The Social Network, and Facebook generally provides Pages with enough reach to lure them further in, enticing them with new options and tools to increase that connection.
Seeking alternatives is easier said than done, but may be more sustainable in the long run.
You can read the full Buffer/BuzzSumo Facebook report here.