Over and over again I see the same story milked by the media for every ounce of ad revenue its traffic provides.
The gist is that big, bad Facebook and their evil bottom line is the reason everyone’s post reach keeps going down and down and down.
Let me explain why we may only have ourselves, as marketers, to blame. Here’s a hint, it has nothing to do with content quality.
Back in the Day
I first started pulling industry-wide social media stats over two and a half years ago. In fact, November 21, 2011 was when the last major bug was squashed and numbers started piling up in my database. Let’s see what we know about that day:
Let’s say that the ski industry represents 0.01% of all Facebook page fans and use ski fan growth (which we know) as an indicator of overall growth (which we don’t). That number really doesn’t matter because the ratio won’t change and that’s what’s important.
This gives us 24 billion page fans. Divide by 830 million users and we’ve got users liking about 29 pages each.
What Else We Know
We also know that the Facebook Newsfeed provides the vast majority of post exposure and that an algorithm we call “Edgerank” is the driving force behind that. In generic terms:
“EdgeRank is the name commonly given to the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what articles should be displayed in a user’s News Feed…[which is] shorthand for ‘Facebook’s feed prioritisation algorithm’.”
In other words, Edgerank prioritizes content to decide what shows up in a user’s feed. Which means not everything makes it.
Now, let’s assume that the original EdgeRank was designed with a certain Newsfeed volume goal in mind. Meaning, engineers knew how much content would overwhelm a user and tried to keep the volume Edgerank showed you within that range. For the sake of this analysis, I’m going to assume that this volume goal has remained largely unchanged ever since.
Back to the Future
So let’s fast forward to the the last update we have from Facebook on their users which came December 31, 2013. Here’s what we know:
So let’s run the numbers again. 1.23 billion fans account for an approximate total of 60.2 billion page likes or 49 pages per user. That’s a 70% increase in pages liked per user. Along the way, the frequency at which brands post has climbed very slightly, but we’ll give Facebook the benefit of the doubt and assume posting rate has stayed level.
In other words, the number of brand posts a user could potentially be exposed to is 70% higher in December 2013 than it was in November 2011. And remember, this does NOT include Newsfeed competition from any growth in a users’ friend count.
For years we’ve been giving Edgerank more and more stuff to choose between every time it populates a user’s news feed. But if the volume of the feed doesn’t change, why are we so surprised that fewer and fewer posts are making it through?
We can blame Facebook all we want, but I don’t think it’s their fault.
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