Facebook Brand Pages Suffer 44% Decline in Reach Since December 1
Facebook’s December News Feed algorithm change is so far punishing brand pages, regardless of how interested fans are in that page’s content, according to a new analysis by Ignite Social Media. Ignite analysts reviewed 689 posts across 21 brand pages (all of significant size, across a variety of industries) and found that, in the week since December 1, organic reach and organic reach percentage have each declined by 44% on average, with some pages seeing declines as high as 88%. Only one page in the analysis had improved reach, which came in at 5.6%.
As reach declined, the raw number of engaged users plunged as well, falling on average by 35%. Some pages saw engaged users fall as much as 76%. Only one page in the data set had an increase in the number of engaged users, coming in at 0.7%.
For the analysis, we excluded pages that were in the midst of instituting any significant changes to their content strategy that could impact performance.
Brand Page Reach Now Often Under 3%
Facebook once said that brand posts reach approximately 16% of their fans. That number is no longer achievable for many brands, and our analysis shows that roughly 2.5% is now more likely for standard posts on large pages. So, a year ago a brand could expect to reach 16 out of 100 fans and now that brand is lucky if they get 3 out of 100. Chilling news for brand pages who have invested resources to “build” a large following of fans.
A Change in How Facebook Treats Branded Content
Regardless, this is clearly a major change in how Facebook is treating content from brands and it fundamentally changes the promise and opportunities for these brands. If you can’t reach even those who have liked your page and repeatedly engaged with your content, what good is a brand Facebook presence? Should brand activities and budgets go elsewhere, where quality content has a chance of being seen?
To add salt to an open wound, current research from Forrester and Wildfire shows that engaged users are a brand’s best customers. They are more likely to purchase, recommend and prefer brands when they are socially engaged with that brand. With fewer engaged users (-35%), brands bottom line are further penalized by the recent changes.
Facebook has indicated that brands should pay to promote their content, but our research shows that organic content leads to better buying actions. Paying to supplement content that reaches 16% of users organically, however, is much more palatable than supplementing content that reaches less than 3%.
Intentional or Unintentional?
With brands investing over $6 billion with Facebook, it seems unlikely to me that this algorithm change was designed to intentionally punish content produced by brands. It would be unwise to do that, because the appeal of Facebook to brands is the mix of organic and paid exposure.
Facebook is right to adjust the algorithm, as the user experience on the site is suffering. But those changes should be based on the strength of the content, not on blanket rules based on a suspicion that everyone suddenly wants to see more news articles in their feed.
We have provided our data to Facebook and they are looking into it. Our hope is that other brands seeing this sort of performance problem will share it with their representatives and that this mistake is quickly corrected. Facebook has been changing the newsfeed fairly rapidly in recent months, and I’m optimistic that this is an unintended consequence of these adjustments.
This does, however, come at a difficult time for brands and agencies. Many companies are finalizing strategies, goals and budgets for 2014, and having a dramatic change in Facebook performance at this point in the year complicates those processes.
A Word About Our Data
To ensure we were analyzing each post evenly, we used the API to look at reach and engagement only for the two days after the post went live, while dividing engagement by that day’s fan count to ensure accuracy. While some posts will get more reach after two days, much of the reach is captured in this methodology, as the half-life of a Facebook post has historically been only 30 minutes.
We also excluded any posts that had paid support, as well as cover photo changes and posts that were geo-targeted at the city level.
Contributors: Misi McClelland, Ryan Sweeney, Greg de Lima and Bryce Davis
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