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June 6th, 2012

Do Page Owners Now Have to Pay to Reach Viewers?

Rumours have been circulating over the last few weeks that Facebook will be making page owners pay to have their posts reach their fans. Is there any truth to the claim? As with many rumours floating around Facebook this one has derived from a real Facebook feature but does not tell anywhere near the whole story. We explain what is really happening here.

After their recent IPO Facebook have inevitably been looking for new ways to maximise their revenue stream. Despite a successful last few years the social network giant are still under pressure to “deliver the goods” to their new shareholders and potential investors.

So they have introduced a new feature called paid promotional posts, where Facebook users can create status updates and pay to get them seen by as many friends (and friends of friends) as possible. This feature is now both available for both personal profiles and Facebook page owners. Essentially it’s Facebook’s latest form of advertising.

However much confusion lies in the implication that if page owners decide not to use the paid promotion post service then their posts will receive less (or no) views from their fans. This is not necessarily true.

Depending on your experience and knowledge of how Facebook works you may or may not know that when you make a status update – regardless of if it’s from a personal profile or a business page – it hardly ever reaches all of your friends or fans newsfeeds. In fact the percentage is often very small.

Why?

Because of EdgeRank. EdgeRank is Facebook’s “cutting edge” algorithm that decides what stories will end up on a Facebook user’s newsfeed by trying to anticipate what that user will want to see. You see, once a Facebook user gains more and more friends it is going to be a tremendous effort for them to sift through the inevitably endless amounts of updates, photos and other stories from all their contacts every time they log into Facebook.

EdgeRank tries to pick out what is important, so for example EdgeRank may decide that new photos of a kitten belonging to a friend you have not seen or heard from in 2 years may be less important to a user than let’s say a family member changing their relationship status. Thus the pictures may not end up on the user’s newsfeed but the family member’s relationship update will.


Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm chooses what you see on your newsfeed

Many factors play a part in determining a stories success and visibility on Facebook. For example if you regularly interact with a page or a person on Facebook their status updates are more likely to appear on your newsfeed. The level of interaction on a specific status update (i.e. likes and comments) will also increase the chances of it appearing in a user’s newsfeed as well because EdgeRank takes that increased interaction as a sign that the story is more newsworthy. An inevitable by-product of EdgeRank is that page owners will attempt to produce more engaging and higher quality posts to increase interaction and thus post visibility

Facebook are always going to be fine-tuning the EdgeRank algorithm to make it as effective as possible but it has been around much longer than paid promotional posts, meaning a user’s regular (non-paid) status updates have been subject to EdgeRank for some time now. The introduction of paid promotional posts has not affected the visibility of regular posts and updates at all, thus the rumours stating that page owners now have to pay to get their fans to receive their updates because of this new feature is misleading. Well actually it’s just plain wrong.

Also worth noting is that rumours like the one below that advise users to hover over the Like[d] button on a fan page and check “show in newsfeed” does not mean that all a pages posts will appear in their newsfeed.

Facebook is now requiring page owners (us) to pay to have their status updates read by every subscriber. If we don’t, status updates only show up in less than 10% of news feeds, even though you have “liked” the page indicating you want to see posts from this page. However, there is a way around it! Hover over the button on this page where it says “Like” and then make sure you are check marked to “show in news feed” if you want to get all the updates from us. Thanks!

In fact this will make little difference at all, since pages you Like will be checked to show in a users newsfeed by default. This does not bypass the EdgeRank algorithim. It’s a false rumour and should not be circulated.

If a Facebook user does not wish to allow EdgeRank to determine what they see (or don’t see) then this can be accomplished by using Facebook lists and organising friends and pages in these lists to make sure you receive all of their updates. Lists are like alternative newsfeeds but you get all of the updates from the people and pages you have included in that list and you can have as many different lists as you like. We talk more about setting up lists and their benefits in our article here.

So no, your posts don’t go to everyone, but then again they never did. Paid promotion posts are entirely optional and will go to more people because they are not subject to the EdgeRank algorithm like regular posts are.


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  • Angela

    Very helpful. I wish there was a date on the post so I could know when this was written. Thanks.

  • http://topherknowles.wordpress.com Chris Knowles

    Good to see some considered common sense about this, my news feed is currently full of bands freaking out about it.

    It’s annoying how many people think Facebook is a not-for-profit organisation that owes them something.

  • http://www.fruitbatwalton.blogspot.co.uk Mike Lindley

    ta for the info quite a few bands are worried about it and unsure what’s going on….I’ll spread the word

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  • http://scalablesocialmedia.com Alisa

    Thank you for addressing this rumor. It’s right in Facebook’s Help pages https://www.facebook.com/help/promote but all sorts of Social Media “Experts” are spreading this misconception.

  • http://www.justnovetlycakes.co.uk Lisa Lewis

    Thank you for this – very informative and helpful.

  • Pingback: What musicians need to know about Facebook’s paid promotional posts | | Musicroom Blog - Everything for the Musician Musicroom Blog – Everything for the Musician

  • http://www.beyonddishonor.com Mike Lock

    My band did a reasonably thorough experiment on the “pay to promote” concept, with a control. Check out the whole story on our page facebook.com/beyonddishonor. I know, it sounds like a shameless plug, but we really did the experiment!!

  • http://www.phyrra.net Phyrra

    Thank you so much for clearing this up!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406364120 Alee

      Great post, Joe. I think the other update from Facebook that will have an imapct on cause marketing campaigns is the change to Apps. Many cause marketing campaigns on Facebook utilize apps that enable you to conduct virtual actions (such as Timberland’s ‘Virtual Forest’ campaign). Now, when you authorize an App and “Allow” it to post content to your wall, that app will be able to post your future actions without your permission. From the app developer’s standpoint, this is a positive. From the user’s standpoint, perhaps less so.

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  • http://nige.do nigedo

    Thanks for stamping on some of the FUD. Facebook settings may not be the best in usability terms, but no-one benefits from the circulation of erroneous information.

  • Mick

    Good article. But it should be noticed over the last 8 months the number of fans reached has gone down by around 50 percent on my fan pages. Not because of bad content, but the algorythm has become more strict so to speak.

  • Ash Morris

    Thank goodness for this. I didn’t even need to verify the claims of this rumour to know it’s false. How hard is it for people to think:
    “I like over 1000 pages on my facebook, and yet I don’t get stupid amounts of spam each day, hmm I wonder why?” and then think about how that affects pages and the users they reach.

    I’ve had an inordinate amount of pages post this up, some of which I’d think would be smarter than that. I’ve never had chainmail spam that’s frustrated me so much.

  • http://www.international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk joseph

    This article is good to read, the issue thats pissing me of is this. There is a crazy insane Amercian lady that actualy thinks this is not true. She has even gone to the point of now closing her buisness page down and moving to a website that she will not actualy get no larger hits as she is refusing to use Facebook. Facebook it the best tool to use this type of advertising on. Sha has also created a petition with change.org and its spreading like wild fire and people actualy believe her. Please someone educate her ffs

  • http://www.homemadejam.org jam

    “In fact this will make little difference at all, since pages you Like will be checked to show in a users newsfeed by default.”

    Why then is this option often unchecked when the like button is hovered? If it’s selected by default wouldn’t it always be checked already? What would cause it to appear unchecked?

    • http://regainyourday.co.uk Lianne-carla Savage

      Jam – it is unchecked if a person actively chooses to block a page. Usually because the page is too spammy. On your insights this shows up as ‘negative feedback’

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406357305 Christa

      Love the recap on everything here and agree with all, eslpicaley with Megan’s comment above. And you re right, Facebook is promising an updated analytics tool by the end of the year or beginning of next so that’s something to look forward to for pages. The harsh truth (in my opinion/experience) is that brands on FB GROSSLY overestimate exactly how many folks actually SEE their page in newsfeeds. I m sure John would agree. If they knew how many people were actually paying attention to their updates, they d be shocked. And these new additions to Facebook will only make it harder and harder to be seen, so I m not sure if brands will get savvier, or more desperate I m not trying to sound dramatic, and for the most part I really think these changes (and upcoming ones) could be really good for brands. Brands just need to evolve with Facebook be adaptable, and quit being so focused on that PULL relationship. It just doesn t work. You re already where the people are , so stop trying to constantly bring them to your page, talk about you, and respond to you so frequently. People really need to tone it down on the level of postings, but let’s not go there that s a whole ‘nother comment. Anyways, no matter how you spin it, most brands on FB are still insanely focused on promoting. I mean, it s in the marketing DNA they/we can t help it. But the way I see it, FB users will only be able to take so much of that, and the brands that ultimately will do well and stay noticed in the newsfeed will be those that provide some kind of value, aren t pesky or salesy, and have content that can actually entertain you even where there s nothing going on in the campaign department Am I being too harsh? Joe/John, what do you think?

  • http://www.supastrikas.com Gareth Morgan

    Thank you, very insightful. was trying to find info on this from FB to no avail .

  • http://photofairytales.co.uk Sarah (@photofairytales)

    That’s a good point that Jam makes – I found one of my own pages wasn’t showing up in the newsfeed anymore, checked and found that I had to click the button to make it show up again. Not sure how that would happen when its my own page..?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406364849 Love

      Another big mistake bnards make is that they when they attempt to engage, they keep the “topic parameters” too narrow. For example, a breast cancer org will only talk about news and other info related to breast cancer. But they miss that breast cancer survivors (and their families) get sick of talking about that every day. To broaden parameters, they should talk about healthy foods to eat, share articles about awesome bras for mastectomy patients, share videos from fans celebrating birthdays, and tips on having sex.

  • Wendy

    Thanks for clearing this up — it does beg a question however. If brands can buy promotion posts in order to be seen on Newsfeed and not be subject to EdgeRank, what’s to keep brands from just taking over newsfeeds with paid posts?
    and, I also agree with one of the commenters who said EdgeRank has become much more strict as of late. We were seeing as many as 15,000 + shares surrounding certain posts and now we see half of that around similar posts…this is in a matter of months.

  • Franca Condo

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