A social media manager who doesn’t keep his or her finger on the pulse of Facebook can log in one day and find the whole system has changed. This isn’t because they aren’t paying attention or because they’re bad at what they do, but because Facebook has a habit of making a lot of little tweaks that add up to a big change. Here are a few things you need to know.
1. The Sky is Falling, and This Time It’s Because of Organic Reach
Dust off your tin-foil hat from when were all panicking about Facebook losing 80% of its visitors by 2017 and place it firmly on your head for this one: brand organic reach will inevitably hit zero. Rest in peace, organic reach.
The white paper by Social@Ogilvy studied the effects of Facebook’s algorithm restrictions on organic reach. In both December 2012 and 2013, Facebook restricted organic reach, and brand exposure has continued to drop in the past three months. They suggest the organic brand reach will continue to plummet, and soon hit zero. Marketing Land has already taken the liberty of creating a counter argument.
According to Social@Ogilvy, reach is considerably more restricted for larger pages with >500K ikes than for the average page. These larger pages are only seeing a reach that’s slightly greater than two percent, while smaller pages are averaging a six percent reach. Remember, a two percent reach at 500,000 likes is still exposure to 10,000 fans, while a six percent reach to 100,000 likes is 6,000. If Facebook didn’t scale down the reach to larger pages then the little guys would never stand a chance.
Small brands: it sometimes feels like the odds are stacked against you on social media, but Facebook is trying to throw you a bone with this one.
2. When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens (and Provides More Exposure)
Facebook is going to start suggesting pages based on who the ones you currently follow tag. For example, if you follow the Atlanta Braves, and they tag the Atlanta Falcons or Major League Baseball, those two pages will appear as a suggested pages or posts to like. It’s the same concept as liking a page because your friends do, you just need to start thinking about pages as if they were your friends.
This also presents an opportunity for Facebook users to see your updates even if they don’t like your page. Brands that tag other brands can continue to increase their reach and exposure – no matter what Facebook’s algorithm says.
Facebook’s algorithm works like a snowball. When something starts to pick up traction, the algorithm shows it to more people, therefore giving it even more traction. By tagging other pages, you’re opening the door for more likes and comments, which can give a post a much needed boost.
3. Not All Traffic is Created Equal
A recent study by Pew research found that direct traffic results in longer time spent on a news site and more page views than traffic from search and social. The researchers analyzed online behavior of one million users and discovered that direct traffic tends to translate to about five minutes on the site, but traffic from search and social only translates to about two minutes. Direct visitors also look at five times as many pages.
Normally I’m a major fan of Pew, but this data seems rather obvious if you take a step back and look at it objectively. Someone who is going directly to a website is familiar with the type or content, or at least wants to learn more about it. They’re going for the brand and what it offers. Conversely, someone who finds a page through search might not be familiar with the brand at all, but just wants an answer to their query. After they find the information they need, they’ll bounce. As far as Facebook is concerned, anyone with an engaging headline and picture can draw readers in; the challenge is getting them to keep clicking around instead of returning to their News Feeds.
Despite the seemingly anticlimactic data, there was one interesting point: The New York Times only gets seven percent of its traffic from Facebook, while 37 percent is direct. BuzzFeed on the other hand gets 50 percent of its traffic from Facebook and 32 percent directly. Know where your readers come from.