The study analyzed more than 43 million posts from the top 20,000 brands on Facebook and found that all Pages suffered more than a 50 percent reduction in engagement.
It’s not for lack of trying. The volume of Facebook posts from top brands is up 25 percent over the past year, from 6.5 million posts to 8.1 million. That amounts to an increase from 72,000 posts per day in Q1 2017 to 90,032 posts per day in Q2 2018.
Even so, the Facebook Pages that posted the most suffered the biggest decline. While engagement fell regardless of posting frequency, those that posted 10 or more times per day saw a drop of nearly 66 percent.
One reason for the staggering decline is a stark increase in News Feed competition. Ever since Facebook’s recent ‘meaningful interactions’ update, the platform has heavily prioritized posts from family and friends over public content.
Since space in the News Feed is limited, this priority shift means Facebook users are less likely to see business Page content, no matter how relevant it is.
As for the public content that Facebook does choose to show in the News Feed, it has historically prioritized the distribution of posts that earn the most clicks, views, and reactions. But the latest algorithm update takes that a step further, prioritizing posts that “spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people,” meaning sharing and back-and-forth discussion in the comments.
That shift helps to explain why brands who have historically held to the ‘quantity over quality’ approach suffered the largest loss in post engagement. It’s difficult enough to create 3 or 4 posts in a day that inspire meaningful interactions with your audience, and much harder to do it when your output is closer to 10 or 15 posts per day.
Of course, Facebook users know that it doesn’t take much scrolling in the News Feed to find a post that explicitly encourages engagement (‘LIKE this if you’re an Aries or LOVE this if you’re a Leo to find TRUE LOVE!!’). But brands that systematically and repeatedly use this type of engagement bait to artificially gain reach in the News Feed will find it does more harm than good.
Facebook’s machine learning model can now detect different types of engagement bait — from posts that encourage reactions and shares to ones that ask for comments, tags, or votes — and de-prioritize those posts in the News Feed.
It’s the latest in a series of algorithm updates (including a fight against clickbait headlines) to reduce the spread of spammy, sensational or misleading content in order to promote more meaningful and authentic conversations on Facebook.
The recent data doesn’t paint a particularly rosy picture for businesses who rely on Facebook for traffic and leads.
For the savviest and most inspired content creators, there are still ways to work within Facebook’s guidelines to maximize user engagement. It’s easier said than done, but is possible so long as Facebook continues to show public content in the News Feed.
Such a strategy requires a deep understanding of a brand’s audience and the resources necessary to create content that inspires meaningful discussions and interactions.
But Facebook’s recent prioritization of friends and family over public content may have some brands asking, “Why bother?” Why spend more time and money creating highly-engaging Facebook content for smaller and smaller impact?
It’s a valid question. While some brands may choose to stay and fight for diminishing returns, others may prefer a future on Facebook not unlike Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. In other words, some brands will find the social network more valuable as a digital business listing instead of a platform for sharing content and earning attention.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Facebook becoming another Yelp. Review platforms and business listings are instrumental for discoverability on the web — they help potential customers find accurate hours and contact information, and offer customer reviews that are just as trustworthy as personal recommendations.
If there is one way that Facebook stands apart from other review platforms and business listings, it’s the popularity of the company’s messaging service, aptly named Messenger. Messenger now has as many users as WhatsApp (1.2 billion monthly users) and enables one billion messages between people and businesses every month.
While proactively earning customer reviews and keeping company information accurate will always be important, brands using Facebook as a business listing must contend with at least one additional responsibility: responding to customer inquiries.
Whether brands decide to fight or flee from Facebook’s News Feed changes, the latest update is an important reminder not to put all your social media posts on one platform. You never know when today’s biggest social network will become tomorrow’s MySpace.