The new Facebook has further destroyed Page reach

The introduction of the “New” Facebook layout has further de-prioritized Facebook Pages and Groups.

Stories we produce that routinely garnered 1000 readers now get 400. Stories that earned 400 readers now get 100.

I noticed this first a few months ago and thought it was just COVID-19 related. “People might be using their news feeds differently,” I thought. But it also happens to be around the same time early adopters could switch to the new Facebook layout. Pushing Groups into a separate tab and Pages into further oblivion is probably the right move for Facebook. Pages and Groups have been nothing but bad press and trouble for Facebook.

Businesses already struggling with COVID-19 closures aren’t getting any help unless they pay for Facebook reach. For all those businesses that spent years building up their audience, I’m officially of the stance it was all for naught.

I’ve written before changes in the algorithm where Pages were degraded. At one point, Pages had just as much chance of showing in a person’s feed as photos from your aunt. But now, the rate clearly seems to be single-digit reach. A page with 1000 followers can likely expect to only get a message in front of about 100 of them, maybe less.

Adjusting for “content quality”, we’ve seen this play out on several Pages with audience sizes and types that span the gamut from extremely loyal, rural, urban, big and small, and slightly engaged.

Here’s a breakdown of posts, some of which are very similar to posts made in the past that always performed well and how they perform today in a 24-hour span, which is about the life of any post:

AudiencePost TypeAvg. Clicks (Historical)Avg. Clicks (Today)
5000+Event Announcement~70036
2500-500Small town story~60052
500Local / professional development~40044
200Local fundraiser~8012

Engagement rates, like “likes” and comments are also down. Even stalwart post types like job opportunities and hiring are down from historical averages. We used to see 2,000 or more people on a staffing Page see such a post. Now, in record unemployment, we see about 500.

At least once a week I meet or talk to someone who asks, “Did you see that post I made on Facebook?” And the answer from myself, one of their customers, or some other interested individual is “No.”

Pages were always destined to reach this point. If only for the cynical reason that requiring businesses to pay-to-play was good for Facebook. “Congratulations, you built a page with 5,000 fans. You’ll need to pay us $20 every time you post something you want all 5,000 people to see,” seems to be the response now.

Initially I thought maybe people were tiring of Facebook. That people were waking up to the notion their stream was just a slog of low-value and low-interest posts. But we’ve not seen any evidence of that. If anything, people are spending more time on Facebook and their feeds are maybe more inundated with junk, falsehoods, conspiracies, and memes than ever.

“But Justin, maybe people just don’t find your posts interesting.” That could be, and I wondered that for a while. But as time has marched on the last couple of months, even evergreen posts that always could be counted on for 500 or more clicks is now barely cracking double-digits.

Likewise, we’ve seen a drop in Facebook referral traffic to sites in numerous industries, including sports, athletics, nonprofit, and professional services.

My personal hunch is Facebook is now serving people posts and feed items that are in a very narrow range of interests. Maybe that includes a Page or two. But my experience has been the same 20-25 people, whom I barely know, never comment on, never even talk to, and yet there they are, flapping around like a dirty gym sock on a shower rod.

How to counter the decline in Facebook Page reach

Like YouTube, the answer is always: do what’s best for the platform and hope you get some benefit, too. I’m of the opinion businesses rarely achieve both. But if you want to counter the Page reach issue, the best tactics seem to be:

  1. Posting more. A lot more, most likely. Twice a day at a minimum.
  2. Post more directly into Facebook and avoid links to third parties.
  3. Post videos longer than 3 minutes and make them very, very good. Holding your phone at your chin isn’t going to cut it.
  4. Some businesses might consider posting insane offers, like 50% off. But that’s unlikely to be sustainable.
  5. Reply to every comment someone makes.

For most clients, we’re encouraging people to think long and hard about how much value they put in this. Short of living and breathing in Facebook all day (which would be really dumb), most people have actual work to do.

About the author

Justin Harter

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