A lot of companies and small businesses have Pages on Facebook that they use to communicate and engage with customers. The idea seems simple. People Like your Page and get Notifications that appear in their Facebook News Feed when you post. The reality is quite a ways off from this and we recently had a post on The Sentry Box Facebook Page that illustrated that quite nicely.
The store manager, Greg, posted a link to a video of someone doing a rapid-fire archery demonstration. This video is utterly unrelated to what the store does but it is a bit of fun. That link reached 94% of our fans. I’ve replaced the actually reach numbers with percentages for this discussion.
Greg’s comment is inadvertently accurate. The reach of this post is insane.
Compare this to a link to a blog post about an event we are holding.
And also to a link we shared from one of the manufacturers whose products we sell.
On average, any content we post or share on our Facebook page reaches 10% of our customers and yet something utterly unrelated to our business can reach almost all of out customers. How is this possible?
The main difference between Greg’s archery video and our regular content is that the video got more Likes and more shares than any of our usual content. Facebook has algorithms that determine what appears on a person’s News Feed and one of the main criteria appears to be how much a post gets shared and Liked. This makes sense from Facebook’s perspective because they are a “social” media company and they want to make sure that people see content that generates the most social engagement possible. More social engagement means more data about the reader and their social network which makes it easier for Facebook to serve ads.
Facebook discusses this on the page when they announced the changes to the News Feed.
There are a few interesting quotes in this piece.
Organic content still has value on Facebook, and Pages that publish great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — can still reach people in News Feed.
So if you are a business, you need to create content that is viral to reach your fans. News about a sale, an event or new product is probably not going to be something that goes viral or meets the benchmark that Facebook’s algorithms use to start feeding your posts to your Fan’s News Feed.
However, anticipating organic reach can be unpredictable, and having a piece of content “go viral” rarely corresponds to a business’s core goals. Your business will see much greater value if you use Facebook to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or boosting app downloads.
The kicker in this is the admission that most content a business will post will not meet the criteria for getting into a News Feed. How do you fix that?
Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals.
The answer appears to be ads. And the larger answer appears to be that Facebook sees businesses using the site not to create direct engagement with customers but to sell thinks to their customers via ads.
So all that time you spent working on building your Likes to help promote your company and communicate with Fans has been largely wasted unless you are now willing to turn that audience into a market for ads from Facebook or unless you are in the business of creating and promoting content.
It has been some time since Facebook made these changes to how they propagate content to their News Feed but I think by now it is quite clear that unless a small business is willing to spend money on ads that Facebook is no longer an effective way to connect with customers.