17th January 2015

Is it the end for the ‘free’ Facebook?

By Jess Matthewman on Friday January 17, 2014

Facebook has changed a lot since it began in February 2004, (or should that be, ‘The Facebook’ has changed since then?)

A lot of these updates and redesigns don’t appear to change a great deal for businesses; however, the latest of these is creating a much larger and wider impact than normal – especially for brand pages.

This update, which although announced in December is only now fully coming into play, has changed the Facebook algorithm meaning the organic reach on brand pages is now lower.

The result is brand posts now appear in fewer fan timelines, which some have said is disastrous for company pages: if no-one can see your message, how can you attract customers?

Facebook has tried to reassure brands that it won’t be as damaging as people fear: they’ve pointed out that the change is to minimise the amount of irrelevant and ‘spammy’ posts users see, and that in the past week organic reach has only declined by two percent.

However, Facebook followed this by saying what a lot of people feared/predicted:

“We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

‘A-ha!’ cry the cynics, ‘Facebook is free no more!’. Well, it does seem Facebook is becoming more forward in its attempt to encourage advertising, but there are still ways of reaching your target audience effectively without paying for it.

Here are a few ways of playing the algorithm’s game:

Firstly, pay attention to your page engagement in order to capitalise on the ‘story bumping’ rule. ‘Story bumping’ is where an older story will appear in fans’ timelines because there is still active engagement on the post – for example, people are still commenting. If you actively monitor and respond to users’ comments and keep posts active, this will result in more fans seeing them.

Secondly, where possible, try to time your posts to ensure the one you most want fans to see follows a post that receives high engagement. This is based on the ‘last actor’ rule, which considers how much engagement the last brand update received when deciding how many times to show the latest post. So, if you have an important announcement, it might be worth posting this directly after a popular post that has attracted likes, comments and shares.

Thirdly, make good content. Sadly, there is no magic trick or formula for ensuring your content will be well received, but by being genuine in your posts, not begging for engagement (‘LIKE if you agree!’),  and by creating something valuable for your audience you will find you’re well on your way.

And finally, if you are extra eager to reach a larger audience, it might be that Facebook advertising is actually the most effective tool anyway. It isn’t overly expensive, and there are endless ways to configure the ads to reach your target audience. A good community manager will be able to help with this.

But what do you think, is it the beginning of the end for the free brand ride on Facebook?