Facebook has never kept its tweaking of news feed posts a secret, but since the introduction of its promoted posts option, articles accusing the platform of reducing the reach of unpaid posts in order to enhance Facebook's revenues have gone viral.
A post by Dangerous Minds pointed out that it isn't just brands who now have to pay to attain the reach they got for free prior to the introduction of "promoted posts"; it's every user on Facebook.
NY Observer opinion writer Ryan Holiday too noted that "messages now reach, on average, just 15 per cent of an account's fans" and "in a wonderful coincidence", Facebook launched promoted posts, he said.
The new EdgeRank algorithm forces brands to be more strategic with social media, experts acknowledge. But does it also force regular users to do so? Perhaps.
In a response to Campaign Asia-Pacific, Facebook said that it "constantly monitors signals from people in news feed, not only when they engage with a story or ad, but also when they hide a person’s story or a Page’s ad that they might not want to see or report a story as spam".
By taking this into account, Facebook makes adjustments to the "ranking system of news feed" to ensure that the stories seen are as "engaging as possible".
"We have done this in the past and will continue to make adjustments so that people see the most relevant stories to them, every time they log in," read the statement.
The solution, said Facebook, is either to pay or be more interesting.
According to Facebook, regardless of whether brands or individuals are paying to promote a story or just posting one to a page, "the newsfeed will always optimize for stories that generate high levels of user engagement and filter out ones that don’t".
When asked point blank if Facebook has deliberately restricted the reach each post receives in order to charge users and advertisers to attain the same reach as before, the only response the spokesperson would offer was to affirm that "Facebook do [sic] make changes to news feed occasionally but the fundamental way it works has not changed."
Facebook's full response is below:
While we make changes to news feed occasionally, the fundamental way it works has not changed. We mentioned earlier that news feed works to serve up messages—organic and paid—that people are most likely to interact with. Level of engagement with a message or ad is an important signal as to whether the message should be shown in more people’s news feeds.
It’s important to note that we constantly monitor signals from people in news feed, not only when they engage with a story or ad, but also when they hide a person’s story or a Page’s ad that they might not want to see or report a story as spam. Taking these signals into account, from time to time we make adjustments to the ranking system of news feed to ensure that news feed stories continue to be as engaging as possible. We have done this in the past and will continue to make adjustments so that people see the most relevant stories to them, every time they log in.
This doesn’t change the fundamental goal of what Pages should optimize for and what news feed surfaces: engaging stories, organic and paid. Regardless of whether you’re paying to promote a story or just posting one to your Page, the news feed will always optimize for stories that generate high levels of user engagement and filter out ones that don’t. So in Page Insights you may see that the organic reach of not-so-engaging posts is lower. Posts that get good organic engagement, however, should continue to achieve healthy reach.
What this means for businesses is that monitoring what types of posts are getting good responses is key, and always has been. Use Page Insights to determine what types of content—videos, posts, questions, etc.—are getting good engagement versus what types aren’t. Take a look at our Page Publishing Guide for posting best practices, and make sure to use our Page post targeting features so that you reach the audiences most likely to respond to your messages. And for posts that you see are getting a lot of responses, you can promote them to extend your reach to more news feeds.
Update: Facebook's PR agency Zeno Asia has been in touch to clarify that the response issued in reply to Campaign Asia-Pacific's direct request for a response from Facebook was in fact taken from this blog post on the subject, "Is Facebook 'gaming' the news feed so I pay for more ads to extend my messages’ reach?” .
This article first appeared in Campaign Asia-Pacifiic.