November 26, 2014

Facebook: Is the Free Ride Over for Businesses?

facebook promoted postsIf you use Facebook to spread the word about your brand, you may have seen a drop-off in the number of interactions your posts receive. Business owners, marketers and others are noticing—and they are not happy.

Of course, Facebook does offer paid promotions to increase the visibility of your brand. The price for these depends on the number of fans or followers in your network.

But without paying, page owners don’t seem to get the same exposure to their followers as they used to.

Said Rachel Parker, owner of Resonance Content Marketing:

“When Facebook introduced promoted posts, my unpaid posts started averaging 15-18 impressions each, which represents about 10% of my total follower base. I tried promoting a post once as an experiment and yes, it did get many more impressions.”

A New York Times reporter, Nick Bilton, described a similar phenomenon. In a recent column, Bilton said that when he promoted a post for $7, he saw a 1,000 percent increase in interactions on the link he posted.

Despite the option for businesses to pay to get posts in front of more of their followers, the issue is that Facebook’s change in algorithm deliberately decreases the reach of unpaid posts so that you have to promote them if you want to have the level of visibility you were once accustomed to.

In other words: You have to pay in order for your posts to be seen by your own followers on Facebook.

Facebook has denied claims that its algorithm has been changed to force brands to shell out more money to reach the same followers they once could for free. In a post on the official Facebook Studio blog, Facebook Ads Engineer, Phillip Zigoris, insisted:

“While we make changes to news feed occasionally, the fundamental way it works has not changed…News feed works to serve up messages – organic and paid -that people are most likely to interact with.”

Aside from paying, there are a few options for page owners.

Parker said to use image posts as often as possible because they consistently generate more interactions. She also suggested tagging other Facebook pages whenever it’s relevant since that can expose you to that page’s followers.

Another option is to ask followers to opt-in to receive notifications when you create posts, wrote Tristan Higbee in his blog Osmosio. In theory, this would always get your posts seen by those followers. Though Higbee admitted he hadn’t noticed a measurable difference in views and interactions on his first attempt employing this technique, he said he plans to attempt it again in the future.

In an email interview, Higbee also said he believed Facebook will probably experience fallout for its new policies:

“Facebook is charging because it wants to make money. I get that. But when it gets to the point where publishers aren’t posting to Facebook because their fans aren’t seeing their content, Facebook has a bigger problem on its hands.”

Parker agreed. She said she has noticed more of an interest in other platforms like Google+ since the change in algorithm that caused a drop-off in interactions on Facebook:

“I’ve liked Google+ from the beginning, and it seems to be gaining traction among businesses who have ‘had it up to here’ with Facebook.”

But not all page owners have given up on Facebook or even its unpaid posts. Ramon Ray, Editor of SmallBizTechnology and Author of, “The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing,” said that while he has used paid promoted posts to gain reach, he wouldn’t discount the value of organic reach on the site just yet:

“Free posting does work, but it must be frequent and engaging.”

And with all the changes to the news feed, the necessity of frequent and engaging content is the one thing that hasn’t changed.

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Annie Pilon - Staff Writer


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles and feature stories. She is a freelance writer specializing in marketing, social media, and creative topics. When she’s not writing for her various freelance projects or her personal blog Wattlebird, she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

8 Reactions

  1. In this online age, a freebie is simply a marketing strategy to build a user base. We know that at some point, that website will start monetizing and Facebook is not an exception. You may increase your reach with their ads, but then, these are just vanity metrics. The most important question to ask is: Who will convert to buying customers? Attracting qualified leads is a work-in-progress for many still.

  2. The thing with Facebook is that most people have so many friends (with all the updates & pictures that go along with those friends) that Facebook can’t possibly put all of them in the main feed or it would scroll too quickly. Therefore, they have to prioritize what they believe is most important to the user.

    Now here is the reality, most people don’t want to see a feed full of updates from companies they’ve liked. The exposure companies were getting before was an anomaly. Users want to see what their friends are up to. Therefore, if money was no consideration, Facebook wouldn’t show business page updates very often because users aren’t THAT interested in them.

    And regarding the comment about Facebook having a problem if publishers stop putting out content; Come on! I honestly don’t think I would notice for days if my feed only had posts from friends and they totally made posts from pages I’ve “liked” go away.

    Therefore, the paid promotion is Facebook’s way of letting you buy your way in front of your followers and I think lots of companies will do it because it’s worth it for them.

    Now Google+, that’s a whole new creature and with Google’s full might behind it you’re going to see more and more people using it. Especially as Google uses it to influence rankings.

    • I agree with you, Robert. I don’t really care if I ever see updates from the brands I’ve liked (company brands). They aren’t my priority. I’d actually much rather see updates from the blog brands (a.k.a. individual people) who’ve I’ve made connections with and started mutually beneficial blogging relationships with.

      I actually think that these type of brands have a leg up on the big company brands as their more personable and we actually care whats going on with them.

      Ti

      • I agree, Facebook will now give local businesses the visibility they need. Many people prefer to do business with local companies and who their friends recommend. It doesn’t matter how slick and shiny a corporate page is, if my mates are not using them… we;; I won’t be either.

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