Now that Facebook has topped 1 billion users, its reputation as “the place you have to be” in social media might appear to be stronger than ever. After all, when a site attracts one of every seven people on the planet, its reach would seem to be nearly infinite.
Then again, maybe not. In fact, when it comes to your practice’s Facebook page, it’s probably smaller than you might think. Thanks to recent developments, there’s a good chance it’s shrinking, which recalls the old question of the tree falling in the forest:
If you post an update to Facebook and nobody sees it, have you reached anybody at all?
The issue boils down to how Facebook defines “reach,” i.e., who among your fans sees your posts. As noted here previously, Facebook filters the posts that make it into people’s Newsfeeds via a formula that ranks them in terms of relevance and other factors.
Even in the best of times, it’s estimated that your posts will reach just 16% of your fans.
Now, it seems, that number may drop even further. In September, the site announced that it was changing its algorithm to reduce the number of branded posts that appear in users’ Newsfeeds. Cynics suggest Zuckerberg and Co. made the change to push their fee-based Promoted Posts but according to Facebook, the decision was made to de-clutter those feeds as more brands pumped out more content, some of it of questionable value.
Differing opinions aside, Robin Grant of We Are Social, a London-based social media agency, estimates the new algorithm has led to an average 40% drop in reach.
Does that mean you should completely abandon your Facebook page? Not necessarily as Grant’s calculations also show that, even with the shrinking reach, engagement stayed fairly steady, suggesting that the posts that got seen were making an impact.
Ultimately, determining how much effort to devote to your Facebook marketing efforts is an individual decision that should be made by you and your webmaster. If you do decide the 1-billion-member behemoth is worth it, consider the words of Josh Constine, a writer for the TechCrunch technology blog:
Focus on publishing high-quality content. Don’t post too often and don’t cram your marketing down people’s throats. Be entertaining and informative. Then follow your analytics closely, consider hiring experts that can help, and refine your strategy.
Think quality, not quantity
If fewer of your posts are going to be seen, it’s more important than ever that the posts people do see are worth their attention. Boring, generic content will prompt people to click the “hide” button or report a post as spam, both of which will get factored into future calculations. To avoid that outcome, strive to be truly informative, genuinely entertaining and accessible for ongoing interaction.
Shareable content shows up
How do you know if your posts are providing useful information? Your fans will tell you with comments, likes and shares, all of which are viewed favorably by the algorithm. Photos and videos are also inherently shareable and there’s no harm in actively asking people to share your posts with others.
Drill down in your data
Both Facebook and third-party vendors, such as PageLever and SocialBakers, offer tools that let you parse fan engagement in a variety of ways. When you know which posts get read, which ones get shared and what time of day or day of the week your audience is most active, you can fine-tune your efforts to give them what they want when they’re most likely to read it.