In May, we wrote about Facebook’s news feed and how they prioritize posts. Following their annual F8 conference, Facebook themselves revealed details how they prioritize what shows up in user’s news feeds. Our conclusion was confirmed that if you were a business owner or a publisher, it’s very likely that your organic posts will be seen less, and visibility will ultimately go to 0.
For publishers, we further argued that they should not focus mainly or exclusively on a third-party platform – that those platforms can change “the rules of the game” at any time. As such, we concluded that it’s much better to own a platform than rent.
Facebook recently announced further clarification about their news feed, and it’s gotten worse for publishers. Facebook has now publicly stated that they put friends before publishers in their news feed algorithm. They clearly state (in bold letters) that “friends and family come first”. This apparently came as a result of people concerned that Facebook was filtering political views. To combat this, they will now maintain a public News Feed Values that outlines their intent. This makes sense – Facebook’s vision from the beginning was to connect friends online. Beyond that, your feed should “inform and entertain,” and they make clear that “inform and entertain” are at the sole discretion of Facebook. They decide what topics/items a user would find informative or entertaining.
This story was big enough that the NY Times got involved. One of their main points was that Facebook can (and will) trial lots of things, but at the end of the day, they will stick with things that promote user engagement above all else. This means, once again, that business owners and publishers need to tread lightly before deciding to go “all in” on Facebook.
What publishers need to do
Publishers need to engage with Facebook with their eyes wide open. For example:
- A report shows that publisher traffic from Facebook is down 42% since January
- Facebook’s own blog post stating that friends come before publishers
- Facebook admitting that organic reach on their site is going to 0
- Our own study that shows that the bounce rate for users who come to a publisher’s site via Facebook is as much as 80%
This is very hard medicine to swallow. It would be so great if there was some simple and easy technology that just “worked” and gave these owners the online exposure they wanted. We believe options are coming, and they aren’t going to come from the large and established players. Established platform companies already have an obligation to support their existing customers and revenue base. That base is generally the consumer, not a business owner.
Am I suggesting that you stop using Facebook altogether? I am not. I am suggesting that you look for strong alternatives. At this point, Facebook should be a minor part of your strategy. The likelihood of your organic posts showing up in Facebooks news feed is too low. For many business owners, it is their sole online strategy. Business owners must diversify or change how they communicate and share information online, and look for options that give them more control.