For a company that has often found itself in hot water for not giving enough attention or importance to its users,
Facebook sure finds itself in a peculiar situation.
It has tweaked its News Feed algorithm to deliver an enhanced experience to its users, but rather than receiving a pat on its back, the social networking giant finds itself under criticism, particularly from aggrieved marketers and startup businesses that feel cheated.
What An Unpleasant Surprise!
Small businesses using Facebook to increase their online presence and remain in sight of potential customers and fans have clearly been taken by surprise by Facebook’s sudden concern for user experience. Prior to the News Feed algorithm update, the site served as a convenient platform for startup companies with limited resources to market themselves. The content from their pages regularly featured on user’s News Feed, thus keeping their organic reach high.
However, supporting the marketing efforts of these startups seems to have dropped significantly on Facebook’s priority list all of a sudden. The social networking giant reworked the News Feed algorithm to create a competition between marketing content and other posts that users may find more relevant and interesting.
Small businesses are considering this a huge problem as they feel they will no longer be able to enjoy the same prominence in the News Feed as they once used to. If the user has liked a certain page but has not visited or interacted with it in a long time, that page’s activity will gradually disappear from the their News Feed completely.
In a nutshell, the organic reach of businesses will diminish over time. Protesting to this, Eat24 deleted its 70,000-Like Facebook Page.
Other businesses like Reef Knots,
London Calling and LeShop have already shifted to Twitter for greater reach.
Intriguingly, it’s not just the startups and local merchants, but also public figures that are annoyed with Facebook. Venting his frustration on Twitter, Emmy-nominated actor Rainn Wilson said,
Turns out my @Facebook is kind of worthless. I used to post & reach most of my 200k followers, now I reach 5k & have to pay to hit more.
— RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) March 25, 2014
Here’s What’s Really Going On With Facebook News Feed
As mentioned before, the future isn’t looking very bright for brand Pages on Facebook following the new changes to its News Feed algorithm. As a matter of fact, the website has itself conceded that “Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates”.
News Feed optimization service EdgeRank Checker has thoroughly studied the changes in organic reach of Pages brought about by Facebook’s evident change in priorities. Observing the trend closely by considering a data comprising of 50,000 posts by 1,000 Pages that weren’t paying Facebook for a special treatment, it was noticed that the reach per fan declined steadily, dropping from 7.83% in December 2013, the month Facebook updated its News Feed algorithm, to 6.51% in March 2014.
Some Page admins, however, claim to have experienced a drop much more drastic than what was observed in the study, citing a reduction of somewhere between 60-90% in their reach.
One interesting thing to note is that there has been a steady decline in organic reach of Facebook Pages even in months prior to the one when the News Feed was updated. This confirms that the reworked algorithm is not the only culprit that Page admins and marketers should be wary of. Surely, there are more factors at play, factors that have gone unnoticed so far.
Facebook’s Noble Intentions
Looking at the impact of the updated News Feed algorithm on organic reach of pages and the reaction of those affected by it, it’s only natural to wonder why Facebook felt compelled to tweak a system that seemed to be working just fine. Well, it seems that the social networking giant didn’t see it that way.
In its eyes, there were a few kinks that needed to be worked out in order to make the social networking experience more complete, particularly for standard users. Consequently, it has wagered its money on a reworked News Feed, expecting it to hit a couple of nails right on their heads.
Firstly, Facebook realizes that while there is a plethora of content and stories floating around, the space available on News Feed is not sufficient to display it all. Playing the role of a villain, it has opted to introduce a filtered feed, displaying only quality content to users in their News Feed.
What this means is that instead of the posts from various contacts and pages being displayed in a chronological order, the posts will now display in order of activity such as comments by friends. Furthermore, news stories and other current events will also be given priority over other posts.
Secondly, Facebook is seeking to give user interactivity and engagement a boost through engaging posts. As posts with friends having commented on them get bumped in the News Feed, users will be encouraged to have more and longer conversations rather than letting the posts drop and eventually die.
If this truly is one of the underlying motivations behind changing the News Feed algorithm, then all the criticism that the social networking giant is attracting from small business owners seems rather harsh.
Cries Of Foul Fall On Deaf Ears
Several brands have already experienced a massive decline in their reach since the News Feed algorithm has been updated. Losing the coveted customer contact has resulted in lesser exposure and consequently fewer business opportunities for them. The hue-and-cry of social media marketers has already reached the ears of Facebook.
While acknowledging the impact made by the tweaked algorithm on businesses, the social networking giant has resolutely stated that its foremost priority is to look after the interests of its users.
With Facebook taking such a firm stance, small businesses have no option but to either suck it up, search for an alternative, or fight the system through paid ads (you didn’t think Facebook would give up on an opportunity to boost its advertising revenues, did you?).
To be fair, all three options are pretty viable and may help small businesses and marketers to look after their interests.
[Main image: Crosa, Creative Commons Licence]