But this isn’t really a change of direction for the platform, and it doesn’t mean a huge change in approach for page owners – at least it shouldn’t if you’ve been doing Facebook right the past few years.
Let’s go back a bit. OK, a lot.
Remember Friends Reunited? And you know how everyone get fed up of it and went elsewhere (say, to Facebook), and it’s not around anymore? Facebook are determined not to go down the same path.
They found that the downturn for Friends Reunited was when people were fed up of seeing too much about businesses and brands and not enough about their friends and family. So they first acted on that in 2012, when they restricted the number of people who would see posts from a page.
Posts from personal profiles and pages used to be shown in News Feeds at the same rate, as they used the same calculations. Each post format had a value (eg 1 for just text, 3 for photo, etc) and that was multiplied by the number of people engaging with it to give a ranking. Higher rankings showed up higher in News Feeds.
The fundamentals of these calculations are still true, they’ve just been fine-tuned. Posts with photos and videos perform better than other formats, and posts are seen by a bigger audience when more people engage with them.
This was a big shock
Pages who were used to reaching 16% of their audience with each post found it dropped to 6%. Pages with large audiences dropped to even less, some as low as 2%. What then built that reach back up was audience engagement – likes, clicks, comments and shares.
So if your page had 1000 followers, a new post would first be displayed in the News Feed of approx 60 of them. If some of those 60 engaged with the post, Facebook saw that the post had value, and displayed it in the News Feed of another small number of your followers. More engagement meant another push to another small number, and so on. So your post’s reach grew, but it took time and was reliant on your audience.
But actually it’s not really reliant on your audience, it’s reliant on you. If you post something interesting, people are more likely to engage with it and so it is more likely to reach a larger audience. So you can’t just post any old thing.
But that seems perfectly reasonable. People don’t want to see any old boring rubbish in their News Feeds, they want posts that are entertaining, interesting, informative, useful. Think about what you like to see when you look at Facebook, and the sort of things you’re more likely to click on.
The next change
There was a further change in 2016, when Facebook announced that it was prioritising posts from friends over post from pages. This resulted in the first display of a post from a page restricted further to being displayed in the News Feed of around 2% of the page’s audience – that’s even less people to engage with your post to get it seen by more people. So your posts need to be EVEN MORE entertaining, interesting, informative, useful.
TIP: Because Facebook prioritises friends posts, your page posts will be seen by more people when your friends share them. So share your page posts on your personal profile, AND make them interesting enough that people will want to share them.
Facebook’s official reasoning for this was that they wanted to present users with the best content that was relevant to them. You know that there are plenty of other Facebook Pages with the same subject/field/industry as you. So your posts need to be the very best available about that subject. The best you can do, anyway, with the resources you have.
‘Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other.
‘…I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.’
– Mark Zuckerberg, January 2018
‘Meaningful social interactions’ – there’s the key thing. Entertaining, interesting, informative, useful posts that people share and comment on. Things that generate conversations.
Conversations, not an endless list of comments that are just people tagging their friends. Isn’t that the dullest thing?! And disappointing, too. The kind of posts where you click ‘see comments’ and think ‘Oh. I thought there would be some good discussions here, or at least an argument. Bah.’
So, continue with the ‘best practice’ approach and this shouldn’t have a dramatically negative impact on your page.
Are there any other options?
First, make sure that Facebook is the best platform for you to be using to reach your audience, and not just the one you use because you’re comfortable with it.
Facebook advertising is a great way to ensure your post gets in front of lots of people. Do use the targeting options to narrow down the audience to people most likely to be interested in your message, for best value for money and the greatest likelihood of your advert getting positive responses. But don’t just rely on advertising. People who respond to one of your adverts are likely to become one of your followers, so make sure you’re always publishing entertaining, interesting, informative, useful posts for them to have ‘meaningful social interactions’ with in the future.
Find Facebook Groups that are relevant to your subject/field/industry and post in there. Don’t post promotional stuff – join in with conversations and be a helpful member of the group, then you can share links to your page when it’s relevant to the conversation.
You can only post in Facebook groups with your personal profile, not as a page. And you can only share posts from groups if the group is Public.
Specifically, Facebook Live. Facebook LOVES their Facebook Live function, so use it. If people have settings to get notifications from your page (the default setting), they will get a prominent notification when you go live. No-one is expecting something Oscar-worthy, and you don’t even have to be in it. For example, if you run a pub and have a band playing – grab your phone, get out from behind the bar, and Facebook Live it.
The main takeaway from this is pretty simple – think about what you like to see and engage with on Facebook, and reflect that when you write your posts. Hint: no-one likes to see endless spammy sales posts.