Facebook EdgeRank: The Truth About Page Feed Reach and Promoted Posts

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There have been a lot of articles circulating through the blogosphere over the last several days about whether or not Facebook intentionally adjusted the EdgeRank algorithm to get brand pages to spend more money on promoting posts to their fans. Blogs like Dangerous Minds and Ars Technica cited a noticeable drop in reach for their pages at about the same time new page post promotional features were launched. If you noticed this happening on your brand pages, you might wonder if Facebook was gaming you, too.

A better understanding of user-consumption habits and the purpose of EdgeRank quickly debunk the money grubbing rumors. Here’s the one fact you need to keep in your head: On any given day for any given post, an average of 16-20 percent of your fans will see that post in their news feeds. Why?

First of all, you can’t expect 100 percent of your fanbase to be logged into Facebook and scrolling through their newsfeeds at the time you post something to your brand page.  That’s just not realistic. Second, of the ones that are online, only a portion of them actively engage with your content in some way. The fans that clicked like and didn’t bother to interact with anything they saw on your page have already indicated to Facebook that your page doesn’t interest them as much as other content available on Facebook.

The whole purpose of EdgeRank is to keep users coming back to Facebook over and over by ONLY serving content that interests them in their newsfeeds. Without EdgeRank, Facebook users would have to deal with a fire hose blast of everything they have ever connected to. The news feed would be nothing but meaningless noise without some filtering.

Those are the very basics.

In September, Facebook made some changes to crack down on spammy content. First, the news feed controls for users became more visible and easier to use. Now people are far more likely to hit that drop-down arrow to either hide content they don’t care for or report spam to Facebook.

Also, EdgeRank was updated to be more aggressive with spammy pages. Will Cathcart, Facebook’s product manager for news feed, spoke to TechCrunch about how EdgeRank changed.

We made a relatively large ranking change in September that was designed to reduce spam complaints from users. We used [spam] reports at an aggregate level to find Pages or apps generating a lot of reports [and decrease their reach]. We’ve also added personalized attempts to reduce presence of posts you’re likely to complain about.

Basically if you never click, Like, comment, or share posts by a Page, Facebook made that Page less likely to show up in your feed. Cathcart says “That’s a relatively large change. It resulted in a large decrease in spam reports,” meaning it succesfully made the Facebook news feed better.

So, what do you do besides spending money to promote your posts to the newsfeeds of your fans?

The most obvious answer, in light of what EdgeRank is doing, is to rethink what and how you are posting. Are you giving your fans value or just pushing your latest and greatest widget? Go back through your posting history to see what your fans interacted with. The BEST way to stay in a user’s news feed is to post updates, pictures, videos, and links that they click on, like, comment on, and share. If your fans actively engage with your content, then you will stay in their news feed.

Beyond that, there are a few tips and tricks to keep even your lazier fans up to speed with what’s going on. Check this out from Success.com:

1.) Have your fans add you to their Interests.

Ask that your fans click on the gear located on the top right hand side of your brand’s page, and then click on ‘Add to Interests List.’

2.) Ask your fans to receive notifications from your page.

This is still in beta (not yet available for all users), but there is now the option to receive red pop-up notifications from any of your favorite fan pages. Hover your mouse over the ‘Liked’ button and click on ‘Get Notifications.’ Fans can always opt out of getting notification flags.

As far as spending a little money goes, Facebook can still give you the biggest bang for your buck over other digital advertising options. You don’t have to spend big bucks to get big results when promoting your pages posts. Again, the key to success is sharing great information that adds value to the user experience.

Michelle Stinson Ross

Michelle Stinson Ross

Content & Outreach Goddess at AuthorityLabs
Michelle Stinson Ross is a digital marketing industry recognized authority on the outreach power of social media. She has worked as a community manager and... Read Full Bio
Michelle Stinson Ross
Michelle Stinson Ross
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  • Great post Michelle. Some real gear turning thoughts here. My only concern is that it was not only spammy pages that took a hit. Small to large Page admins i’ve spoken to, covering varying subjects, and across properties we track, all lost reach. And while I can’t quote him, one industry insider who works with many of the top brands on Facebook told me they saw an average of 25% loss across the board. Putting that knowledge together with the reduction of spam reporting is intriguing. As if to indicate that even if people chose to ‘Like’ a brand, they would sooner report for spam instead of unfollow?

    Another odd anomaly is that photo and link post types, the type that people engage with and share most frequently, are receiving less organic reach than text-only posts, as I describe via my post over on AllFacebook. This has been confirmed by many top Facebook Page owners and admins. Far to diverse and plentiful to attribute to lack of interesting posts or spam. And in several cases where a post went very viral, it’s organic reach still didn’t exceed text-only posts with almost no viral activity.

    That said, in that aforementioned AllFacebook post, I was certainly “poking the bear” though in all fairness, I don’t think it is very hard to understand why page owners would feel the coincidence was just to much.

    • Actually, now that you’ve mentioned it, I can see users hitting the “hide” option on a post in their newsfeed far more often than clicking through to the page to unlike. Takes less effort and they don’t have to navigate back to their feed to pick up where the left off. Yet ANOTHER reason to make sure what you’re doing on Facebook is A++

      It’s too bad that Facebook makes the impression that they are doing something sneaky, because I would love for page owners to embrace the paid options. By using those tools with no fear they can actually create a very tight and devoted fan base that will click, love, and share day in and day out.

      And yes, I’m heading over to check out the awesomeness you posted on AllFacebook 😉

  • Agreed. Loved the TechCrunch article, too. I’ve been writing about this for months, but it helps tons to have people like you with a large audience discussing it, too.

    Even before this thing really blew up, I’ve been crunching the numbers on this. We’ve been told that about half of all Facebook users are on Facebook on any given day . Immediately, cut out 50%. Then, the average user is on for only 30 minutes per day (or, more accurately, 60 minutes on the days they are on Facebook). The lifespan of any piece of content on Facebook is short, EdgeRank or not. It gets buried in a hurry. If you don’t post it and your Fan isn’t on to see it within the first 30-120 minutes, forget about it.

    In the end, 16% sounds very reasonable to me, before even considering EdgeRank — particularly for international brands that have to cover 24 hours. And not to mention… if there were no EdgeRank, would more people actually see your stuff, or would it simply shorten the lifespan of a post because it gets buried so quickly?

    I’m just not convinced that anyone is actually harmed by EdgeRank.

    • It’s funny how our expectations get warped by the hype sometimes. Facebook loves to crow about the 1 billion active MONTHLY users. We tend to get stars in our eyes with numbers like that.

      But we don’t have an expectation that our followers on Twitter see everything we post. And on Twitter it’s up to the users to filter and sort their feeds to give them what they really care about. I think a lot of brands would be giddy with a solid 16% reach of any given tweet among the huge followings that can be cultivated on Twitter. On that basis, my personal tweets to the people following me would reach about 370 people each time I click send. For my little corner of the Twitterverse, I like those numbers…. wish they were real.

      EdgeRank is doing the same filtering on Facebook based on the user’s activity. If anything, I would give it up to Facebook for creating an advertising model that works. I’m no fan at all of Twitter ads.

      • Exactly. The one mistake Facebook made (if it’s a mistake) is making the Reach of each post so obvious. It works both for them and against them. It creates a lot of freakouts. But they don’t seem to care much about that. And it definitely is great motivation to buy an ad. But I can pretty much guarantee that no one would be making a peep right now if that number wasn’t so obvious.

  • Alex Garcia

    Even though all your points are valid, it is undeniable that they are willing to spam every newsfeed if you pay for it, but not willing to spam it for free. So it is a money grab. As usual Facebook does not care about the user experience as long as they can get money for it. They suck at customer service and they will always will.
    And the #1 question you left out is how effective are these ads? Yes a lot more people saw your ad when you paid, but how many went and bought something as a result.

    • Even promoted posts that get clicked as spam will not continue to get served. Facebook wanted to be sure that as they enhanced the promoted features, users weren’t getting their newsfeeds crammed with spam. Poor performing ads have always been shelved quickly. And spam never performs well. People don’t want anything to do with it. That’s why there is a little “x” in the top right corner of the ads in the right margin. Users happily report ads they don’t want to see.

      • Alex Garcia

        I can see that no matter what the argument is you are going to keep defending Facebook Edgerank. What about this?
        Edgerank should not exist. People subscribe and follow others by choice. There is no need to limit my posts in my newsfeed. As you said it yourself I can always delete, report, ban, unsubscribe from whoever I don’t want to pollute my newsfeed.
        I don’t understand why do I need Daddy Facebook to sort things out for me, when they have never been any good at figuring out what I like.
        Just send me everything and I’ll take care of it. I don’t have to keep wondering if someone send me a post and I didn’t receive it or if what I sent was received by all my followers.

  • Facebook ads truly are under-rated, most will go for adwords before even considering FB ads, truth is FB ads def. allows you to target your audience with more precision.

  • I’m really confused by the defense of Facebook’s EdgeRank when it comes to Fan pages. It’s the same song and dance as Google’s quality team . Content is King vs. Engagement is King.

    The reality is, Facebook wants you to run campaigns to purchase likes. After, Facebook then wants you to pay to reach those people you just paid to like your page. This isn’t a non-profit company, and they are under increased pressure generate revenue.

    Ask any Facebook page admin (of over 50k fans) a simple question… have you ever reached over 50% (even 35%) of your audience without paying for it? High engagement for organic posts will only reach about 10% more of the audience.

    Facebook will continue to shrink the organic reach of fan pages (even individual users) in effort to have those pages pay for promotion. For brands with a million plus Facebook likes, they are asking for $5-$10k per status update to reach 100% of your audience. If you’re ahead of the curve, you’ve already started developing/growing audiences outside of Facebook.

  • This article is great. You opened my eyes to a problem I have understood little about. Yes, I noticed a decrease, and yes I have received likes from foreigners (promoted posts, too). The day someone from Facebook told me to manage my permissions so that all posts are only shown in the US, is the same day that they took away 100 likes. These likes were PPC and they had to have been worth at least $.64 to $1.00. The person I spoke to did not understand what I meant by “I want my money back and until then I have paused advertising.” It’s comical.

  • Michelle…the 16% number has became more of a stretch over the last few weeks. 20% is highly unlikely as Edgerank appears to have tightened the numbers even more. And the 16% that are supposedly seeing the post are very deceptive numbers.
    People using their mobile devices to access Facebook are basically always logged on even though they may not be utilizing Facebook. So basically in this situation the mobile user may be part of the 16% although never seeing the post made. Over the last 2 weeks I have seen a drop from 15% to closer 10% on the content posted from my site. Photos are definitely getting punished more than status updates with just words.
    I spent a lot of money advertising for fans in the past and I find it repulsive that I an now forced to regularly pay to reach these fans I have already paid for. The few experiments I did with paid promoting were a disaster. The numbers were much less than guaranteed.

  • Leanne Phillips

    Speaking as a Facebook user and not a page owner, I’d say it’s harmed me. I only realized just recently that I’m not seeing some of the things I *did* see up until recently, and I hadn’t realized it – you know, it’s hard to see the absence of something. Now I have to try to figure out how to get Facebook to put those back into my news feed again. I don’t use my ‘Like’s and ‘Shares’ as a way to manage what I’ll see in my feed; I use them to mark something I really liked or to share something I thought deserved to be shared. Just because I didn’t feel inspired to share it doesn’t mean I don’t want to *see* it.

    I use the ‘Hide posts from X’ liberally – everything that, while I *like* them, I don’t really want to follow. I don’t want to lose the things I *do* want to see just because I don’t ‘engage’ with those things often enough.

    So…as a user, what *do* I do to see, say, CBS News or Politico show up in my news feed again?

  • Chris

    You seem to be misinformed. Facebook has already made it clear that the reach is based on the response. Thus, not everyone is going to get an update when new content is posted to a page.

    And by the way, it’s not an issue of scrolling through all the updates from various feeds you have subscribed to in order to find a specific update to a page you liked. I’ve had loyal followers tell me that even after scrolling through all their feeds they didn’t see my updates. They didn’t see my updates because Facebook didn’t give them the updates!

    Therefore, it’s impossible to reach all the people who liked the post, because not everyone is going to get your update. How could people respond to a post they don’t know exists? So the reach based on response system has been a failure from day one!

    Furthermore, when page owners invest hard-earned money in advertising to get people to Like their pages, and Facebook doesn’t send out the updates to the people who liked the page, that is essentially an unethical business practice, in my opinion. Not only are you (the page owner) not getting what you have paid for, the people (those who liked your page) who want what you have to offer are not getting everything you are offering to them.

    • Let’s not forget making it so complicated and convoluted that you need a degree (from Harvard perhaps?) to even make sense of it all. Seriously, how hard would it be to a.) have your SUBSCRIBERS see your posts, and b.) be able to hit people in a specific location by zip code? MySpace was doing that YEARS ago.

  • Edgerank, simply put, is a bunch of crap. I totally agree with the commenter above asking the million dollar question – “Why do I need someone filtering things that I’ve already filtered myself?” Another asks, “why do I need to ‘buy likes’ just to have to turn around and again ‘buy notice’. These people are exactly right, and the reason I’m totally changing the way I’m doing things. Facebook to me is a way to connect and have a conversation with friends like I would on the phone or on the street, nothing more. The “advertising” side is a money grab, nothing more. For example, I’m a musician. I need to let fans know about shows. What are my options? Post to a location? That feature is useless on Facebook. MySpace was doing zip code stuff about a million years ago and facebook still has no viable function for that. Buy an ad? Yeah, right. They don’t work. You could post a hundred times a day and still barely hit anybody. Why is it so hard to have your stuff seen by the people that subscribe to you? Can I create an event and invite people? Sure! You just can’t do it conveniently (adding people in a certain location) or do a mass listing (ever try to invite people from your thousands of friends by checking that little box to select EVERY SINGLE PERSON while trying to discern who might actually be a viable participant? Now I get blasted with ads from other musicians all over the place who I’d never get to see because they live in different states. I KNOW the same thing happens to my ads because I’d done it. The categories they make you pick from are ludicrous. Why would I want to post an ad to be viewed by 120,000 country music fans when I just want to hit the people in a few specific zip codes?!??! Please, I would LOVE for someone to prove me wrong about this stuff and tell me exactly how to do it. I’ve tried everything, I’ve read dozens of cut sheets and books about the subject. Even when I THINK I have it figured out they change something. The literature can’t even keep up with all the changes. SOMEONE PROVE ME WRONG!!

  • DR.

    Question for anyone in the room. I & my wife just started a business and we are using FB as an avenue to promote. We are receiving a lot of love, but something just doesn’t seem right. The love seems a little fabricated. We are receiving a lot of likes from foreigners i.e. Malaysia, China, Pakistan etc. We’re getting more likes from outside the country rather than inside the country. Almost like are promotion is targeting them specifically. And majority of the likes I don’t think they even speak English. I find this very weird. Almost like someone is telling them or delegating them to like our page instead genuinely liking our page & products. I’m I tripping or is there something behind this???? I just find it to be not genuine.