What to Do About Your Declining Facebook Reach

by Annie on October 28, 2012

Human hand reaching towards half moon in the night sky

UPDATE: See the end of this post for a new potential solution just announced by Facebook.

If you’ve been paying attention at all in the last few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly seen links to articles like this one, which was widely shared over the last several days, about how Facebook business & blog page posts are being seen by fewer and fewer numbers of fans.

It’s not just business pages, either – your personal feeds are thinning out, too.

Bottom line: It’s real. It’s happening.

And while there is a Facebook-provided solution, it’s almost certain to be an impracticable alternative for most solopreneurs and bloggers.

Instead, I advocate a more holistic approach, which I’ll outline later on in this piece.

But first, let’s look at the numbers …

Looking at the Numbers: A Quick Case Study

One of my pages — the one for Trauma Dolls, the chronic pain site I run on the side — has about 100 likes, so it’s a good one to look at for percentage comparisons.

As recently as August of this year, post views on this page were averaging anywhere from 25% to 55%. That percentage average started dropping in mid-September to between 19% and 30%. Now, in late October, we’re running about 4-10% on average, with a few 20% outliers.

Note: I can’t tell you anything useful about the outlier 20% posts, by the way. One has a comment on it, but others don’t. They were all pushed to Facebook via Buffer App. There’s not much difference in the underlying topics of these posts from others on the page. So I can’t offer any guidance on what specifically caused the higher reach for these posts.

So right off the bat, you can tell something serious is going on here. I didn’t lose any likes during this time period. Nothing could account for it, except Facebook’s decision to pull back exposure to the 10% range.

Ten people.

Out of 100.

Extrapolate that to big brands and blogs with thousands of likes, and you begin to get a sense of why folks are so up in arms over this.

Facebook’s Solution: “Pay Us”

In true monopolistic fashion, Facebook has offered panicked page owners a simple solution: Pay for promoted posts.

That might even sound reasonable — until you remember that Facebook itself created the shortage in views.

This wasn’t a natural evolution of some necessary technological upgrade, folks. One day we had decent exposure. The next it dropped to 10-15%.

And the only thing that happened in between those two days? Facebook pulled the plug on us.

So it’s only natural that folks would be a bit upset over the suggested solution. When you add in the actual cost of that solution — the Dangerous Mind post says that to promote each of their FB posts would cost them $200 each.

I don’t know many solo biz owners and bloggers who can afford even an additional $200 per week — and that’s just for one single post. To promote each of your (on average) four or five daily updates, every day of the week, every week of the month, at that rate, you’re looking at $24,000 to $30,000 each and every month.

I don’t have that kind of money. Do you?

There’s also the squicky feeling that FB is really cutting some hairs pretty damn finely in their favor — remember that “Facebook is free and always will be” thing?

Now, that being said, you can set your budget with promoted posts — for more info, see this post from Jon Loomer on Amy Porterfield‘s site. Loomer counters that the whole “the Facebook sky is falling!” panic is a vast overreaction, and even rests on false assumptions. He’s got a good argument, backed up with screenshots from his own experience.

Here’s my take. Sometimes, it might absolutely be worth it to promote a post — say, when you have a big launch, or a special time-limited promotion running.

But as a general rule, for all your posts? Nah. I just cannot see any scenario in which continually paying for better access on Facebook is a smart business decision, at least not for solos and small biz owners/bloggers. (Big Corporate, you’re a whole ‘nother animal, and not within my realm of expertise.)

The Better Solution

Rather, I think the advice I’ve always given marketing  consulting clients is just as relevant in this context: Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one digital basket. 

In other words, do not rely on any single channel for any significant part of your marketing. Have a holistic approach embedded in your marketing tasks list — a little Twitter, a little guest posting, a little Facebook, a little Pinterest, etc.

Wherever your prospects are, you should be there too — but relying solely on any single one of those digital places is a recipe for disaster.

If you do have a need for using promoted posts, then set your budget carefully. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the budget.

Most of all, keep an eye on your stats as you go. If your results warrant the extra expenditure, then fabulous – go for it. If they don’t, chalk it up to a lesson learned and move on to the next platform.

UPDATE: Option B — Get Notifications

According to Inside Facebook, Facebook announced today that it’s rolling out a new option for folks who want to keep up with their favorite pages: Get Notifications.

Facebook confirmed to us in a statement, “We are currently rolling out the ability for people to receive notifications from specific pages, friends or public figures that they are connected to. This feature will help people keep up with the people and things that they care about most.”

It’ll be available in the pull-down menu on the page in question under the “Like/Liked” button. There’s a screencap on the Inside Facebook page with further details.

It looks as if this will work something like “Close Friends,” where you can add personal profiles to your inner circle and get more of their status updates in your feed. IF thinks it’ll be more effective than the “Interests List” option some had offered up this week as a workaround.

What about you? Do you feel Facebook let you down bigtime with this one? Or do you agree with Loomer that it only makes sense? Share your views in the comments!

 

Photo Credit: James Jordan via photopin cc

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  • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

    I’ve got a little over 700 folks who’ve liked my Word Chef page and FB offers me the chance to promote a post starting at $5 each. I don’t do it every time, but like you pointed out — when there’s something I’m launching or it’s REALLY important. 

    The thing we need to go back to is our email lists. THAT’S where we’ve got the power to really reach our audience. That’s where we’ll see more ROI (if that’s important at all — which it should be). 

    I just finished reading a book called “Social Media is Bullshit” — seemed very well researched and pointed out that there is really not much proof that you’ll ever see a dime from your social media efforts (or, at least enough dimes to make all that time and effort worthwhile). 

    Thanks for writing such a timely and important and post!

  • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

    I’d like to read that book, too, Tea – I’m not sure I agree completely with the premise but there’s no doubt that there’s a certain backlash against the whole “social media is a MUST” movement brewing among some marketing professionals. I’m not immune to it — I want to see results (both for myself and my clients, of course) if I’m going to justify spending that much time on it. 

  • Vera Woods

    So does this mean that by paying to promote a post you’re more likely to get increased activity, which mean the edge algorithm will increases too? 

  • http://pajamaproductivity.com Annie Sisk

    Well, I think that inasmuch as the post gets more attention, you’re likely to get more interaction for that reason. And interaction does affect EdgeRank. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbelonger Jeff Belonger

    Annie… some good points, but I am going to disagree with the overall thinking.  First off, I do agree, not to put all of your eggs in one basket.. as you mentioned, to use several different platforms. But I would put more focus on the FB fan page for several reasons. A.) there have been a few studies showing that more people tend to spend time on FB than on someone’s web site and people prefer FB fan pages over web sites. B)  Many people are on FB and use it also.  I think it’s a great way to capture people’s attention and to bring them to your money maker.

    In regards to the examples of $100 a week for small businesses…  Just for an extra $5 a week you can reach many more people…  If you have a good event, promoting your post or even doing sponsored stories, in my opinion, it would be worth it…

    Lastly, you said there is a screen shot of the new pull-down menu… but where? Do you have a link to it?

    Some good insight on this all.. thanks for sharing.

  • Kirstyannb

    But will receiving a notification make it appear more in your newsfeed? Scrolling through a notification list isn’t the answer, who wants to do that to see if a page has posted.
    I run a not-for-profit group called The Cake Angels and we ask for volunteers on facebook. We use to get more responses then needed in a very short amount of time. Now with about 3 times the amount of likers as we use to have, we are lucky to get the needed response and often need to repost or ask in select groups. Its really affected us

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