Brands that engage fans can worry less about changes to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm2012-10-05
(c) Can Stock PhotoSomething of an uproar has picked up steam as Facebook brand page administrators noticed a decline in the reach of their posts. According to one source, pages have lost 6.5 percent of their reach since Facebook implemented a change to its EdgeRank algorithm, which determines the updates that will appear in the newsfeeds of people who have liked a page. EdgeRank Checker was seeing reach of 26 percent before the change and 19.5 percent after. The post also reveals a drop in viral reach per fan and engagement per fan.
Other commentators, like Jeff Doak, peg the reach decline at between 24 and 63 percent and averaging at about 45 percent. One brand page to which Doak has access lost its reach to 100,000 fans, he claims.
In a response to the outcry, a Facebook representative emphasized that “the more engaging your content, the lower the impact this optimization should have on your reach going forward.” The spokesperson asserted that the change wasn’t designed to hurt brand pages but to make sure users got the most engaging content in their newsfeeds, which are now optimized “to show users the posts they are most likely to engage with.”
Brands are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. They don’t pay Facebook to maintain their pages and have little right to complain when the social network makes adjustments, whether those adjustments are designed to bolster company profits or improve the experience for its (recently announced) 1 billion users. On the other hand, a recent study found that half of consumers prefer to engage with a brand on its Facebook page than on its website, rendering the option of abandoning Facebook mostly unreasonable.
Still, rather than complain about lost reach, brands should redouble their efforts to create engaging content. Sadly, despite thousands of posts, articles, books, conference presentations, Slideshare decks and other content that reinforces the idea, most brands continue to focus on piling up the number of likes. That is a zero sum game.
Consider food-and-beverage rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Coca-Cola made headlines not too long ago when its brand page surpassed 50 million likes, more than any other page on Facebook; the company acquires a new fan every second. Pepsi lags considerably behind with a mere 9 million. Yet which brand is getting more value from its Facebook efforts? Consider these statistics:
- Pepsi’s fans are active 42 percent longer than Coke’s, whose fans are active for 51 days compared to Pepsi fans’ 73 days.
- Twice as many Pepsi fans engage more than once as Coke’s fans, with 46 percent of Pepsi’s fans engaging multiple times vs. Coke’s performance at 25 percent.
- 14 percent of Pepsi’s engagement comes from comments; for Coke, the number is only 10 percent.
- People who have liked the Pepsi page are 40 percent more active than Coca-Cola’s. 0.8 percent of Coke’s fans have actually engaged on the page—sharing, commenting, etc. The number for Pepsi: 5.3 percent.
- On Coke’s brand page, people reference “Pepsi” 57 percent more than they reference “happiness,” part of Coca-Cola’s branding message.
- More than half of Pepsi’s fans use their mobile devices to engage with the brand, almost 50 percent more than those using mobile to engage with Coca-Cola.
(These statistics come from this Mashable Business piece.)
Consequently, while I don’t have the stats to back the assertion up, I’d be willing to bet that the change to the EdgeRank algorithm has resulted in a greater decline in reach for Coca-Cola than it has for Pepsi.
The point here isn’t to bash one company or tout another (although, by way of disclaimer, I need to point out that I provide internal communications consulting for PepsiCo), but to demonstrate that engagement on Facebook trumps sheer numbers every day. Getting a like means next to nothing if that individual never shares a post, leaves a comment, watches a video or otherwise engages. It’s the interaction with content that pushes a post into fans’ newsfeeds. Far too often, the desire to build up the number of likes results in attracting a fan to a page once but, finding little worth engaging with, never returns.
Another example comes from the world of restaurant chains, where Starbucks is king of likes but YO! Sushi! had the highest levels of engagement at 6.4 percent. That means YO! Sushi updates show up in the newsfeeds of its fans at a considerably higher rate than those posted by Starbucks, which didn’t even make the top 10 last year.
There is no magic bullet for producing content that will spark engagement. It depends on who your audience is and what pushes their buttons. For some brands, it’ll be fun. For others, you need to teach them things they didn’t already know about their own business. Still others are looking for creativity. Or inside baseball. Or tips and tricks.
Whatever it is that compels your fans to engage, the more of it you offer, the less Facebook’s tweaking of EdgeRank will affect your ability to reach your fans.