Missing in Action: Facebook Gets Even More Unfriendly about Branded Posts

If you write a Facebook post and nobody sees it, does it make an impression?

If that sounds like an updated version of the old falling-tree-in-the-forest riddle, rest assured it’s no joke. Earlier this month, the social giant announced that it was changing its algorithm yet again in an effort to decrease the number of promotional posts users see from the brands they follow:

“Beginning in January 2015, people will see less of this type of content in their News Feeds,” said the company in a blog post, adding that companies that post such content “should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

No kidding. The fact is, the number of fans that actually see brands’ posts in their news feeds has been declining for years. Known as “reach,” the figure was estimated at approximately 16% in 2012 but has since slipped to around 6% or lower. The latest move will only push it lower, so much so that noted analyst Nate Elliott of Forrester Research summed it up with a blog post titled: “Facebook Has Finally Killed Organic Reach.”

That may be an overstatement, although probably not by much. According to Facebook, posts that provide valuable content — useful information, links to articles that people actually read, etc. — may still appear in people’s News Feeds but anything that the website’s algorithm determines to be too promotional will likely get weeded out. Come next year, it’s hard to see how posts like these will make the cut:

facebook, promotional post, newsfeed

facebook, news feed, promotional post

The question, of course, is what kind of posts users do want to see and who should make that decision. As Jordan Bitterman, chief strategy officer for North America at Mindshare, told The New York Times, “Facebook is basically saying that their algorithm will be the arbiter of what’s promotion and what’s not promotion.” Josh Constine of TechCrunch went even further, saying that originally encouraging companies to get lots of Likes, but now telling them that Likes won’t get them noticed was “a disturbing bait-and-switch.”

Either way, the bottom line is that the landscape of digital marketing is always evolving and doing things “because you’ve always done them” or “because everyone else is” is not a viable marketing strategy. If a particular platform has become inhospitable to your messaging, it may be time to unfriend it, as well.

Doctor Takeaway

When it comes to marketing, Facebook may not be your best friend

Ever since Facebook introduced the Like button, the company has encouraged brands to “chase Likes” as a way to connect with fans, even though no one’s ever been able to really show that more Likes equal more engagement or increased business. Now that even fewer fans will see even fewer branded posts, it may be time to question the ROI of your Facebook posts vs. other platforms. Ultimately, the answer to increasingly invisible Facebook updates is a closer look at your own website analytics, which will tell you what sites and systems are delivering value and are therefore worth your time, effort and money.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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