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Facebook (Finally) Explains What Happened to Your Organic Reach

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We’re all aware that our beloved Facebook has gone through some…changes this year.

You may recall a certain blogger’s attempts to explain the new “problem with Facebook” in a clip that went viral way back in January, but the company’s own ad product marketing leader Brian Boland finally addressed the issue in a post that went live yesterday.

So what happened to that organic reach? Let’s review…

First, Boland attributes some of the decline to a simple content overproduction problem:

“There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it. On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook.

As a result, competition in News Feed…is increasing, and it’s becoming harder for any story to gain exposure…”

Seems valid. Also:

“To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person…News Feed is becoming more engaging, even as the amount of content being shared on Facebook continues to grow.”

Well, we’ve heard that algorithm before. The “why” essentially amounts to “we’re not Twitter“:

“People only have so much time to consume stories, and people often miss content that isn’t toward the top when they log on…”

…and testing shows that people are happier seeing the things they actually want to see–which apparently doesn’t often include content from the brands (and blogs) that they follow. But at the end of the day (sorry) it’s still all about making money, right? Wrong!

“If people are more active and engaged with stories that appear in News Feed, they are also more likely to be active and engaged with content from businesses.”

He forgot to add “paid” in front of “content”. But this seems like a bit of a contradiction, right? How can users be engaged with content from businesses if they never see it?

Boland argues that this is simply part of a larger trend across all social networks:

“Many large marketing platforms have seen declines in organic reach…Because the search engines had to work much harder to surface the most relevant and useful content, businesses eventually saw diminished organic reach.”

So it’s just a natural product of the digital business cycle, then? Boland implies that Facebook is more “transparent” than its competitors–it just takes a while to explain things to you.

But fans are still valuable, aren’t they? Sure they are:

“Fans make your ads more effective…Ads with social context are a signal of positive quality of the ad, and lead to better auction prices.

Fans can give your business credibility.

Fans can help you achieve your business objectives on Facebook, but having fans should not be thought of as an end unto itself.”

Now that’s some good PR speak. A bit of sage advice follows:

“Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals.”

…and now we’re at the heart of the matter. It’s not that Facebook wants more of your money, it’s just that Facebook is more effective when you pour more of that cash into it. The success stories that follow coincidentally all feature brands that paid to make the service more effective.

So if you really want Facebook to be worth your time, you’re going to have to allocate a bit more of your budget. Simple enough, right?

Finally, Boland admits that his company–which, lest we forget, has always been a for-profit business–might have some PR problems:

“And we must be more transparent with and helpful to the businesses that market on Facebook. We’re working hard to improve our communications about upcoming product changes.”

Now will Facebook take its own advice?

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