Why Facebook’s latest news is old news

This post was recently featured as a guest post on Arctic Startup.

Recent TechCrunch and AdAge articles warned: “It’s going to be harder and harder for many businesses to reach fans on Facebook without paying for ads.”

This may read like a recent, even alarming development but actually this is simply a reflection of the natural growth and maturation of Facebook as a platform both for users and for marketing. As brands ramp up their content output on Facebook, the number of posts continues to rise – all fighting for your attention.

As a Facebook spokesperson confirms:
“People are connecting and sharing more than ever. On a given day, when someone visits News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show.”

Now most people don’t read through 1500 stories per day on Facebook (unless maybe they had a particularly slow day at work). So out of all that content, Facebook tries to show you what you’ll find interesting, using their in-house algorithm.

Edgerank – the arbiter of worth

This is where a lot of companies misunderstand their reach on Facebook, believing that every fan they have, every person who has ever ‘liked’ their page will see every post that they make. Wrong. Actually what happens is that Facebook shows your post to a limited number of your fans, estimated to be anywhere between 1-10% and watches how they react. No reaction? A handful of likes? It’ll sink like a stone and never reappear.

But if your post sparks some interest in terms of comments and shares (or a truckload of likes), Facebook will consider it interesting and bounce it back up in users’ newsfeeds so that more of your fans see it. And if it really is interesting, it’ll generate more comments and shares, which will bounce it up to even more people. Not only that, but it’ll reappear to fans who previously commented on it. And then the magic happens: it’ll start spreading to people who are not fans of that page, who – yep you guessed it, might comment and share it, thus spreading it further and further over the Facebook network.

Facebook again says:
“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.”

With so many companies competing for attention and getting better at it, even the best content can be left behind. Likewise, having a large audience is no guarantee that people will react to poor or uninspiring messages. Paying to advertise boring messages will simply magnify the apathy.

On the flip-side, thanks to the accurate targeting available through Facebook – hitting the right people with content they react to is not only a possibility, it should be a priority!

Perhaps then the question shouldn’t be ‘Will I have to pay for people to see my stuff?’, but rather ‘Is my stuff good enough to consider pushing in front of our target audience?’

And finding the answer to that question is a lot more fun!

Hint: It’s available through the data provided through your very own customers and fans.

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