More Is Less: The Truth About Facebook Fan Engagement After Timeline (Part 1)
This is the second in a series of blog posts that examines the effect of recent changes to Facebook on my (and others’) Facebook fan pages.
While Facebook and "hard-core" Facebook supporters claim that the recent switch to the new timeline format is no more than a design change, I believe other more significant changes, about which Facebook has not informed its users, are negatively impacting the effectiveness of Facebook as a social media tool.
I started to research my Facebook page effectiveness when I saw fan engagement plummet after I implemented the new timeline on March 25. According to Facebook, the “Likes,” reach and the number of people “talking about” the page are going up.
However, both fan engagement and referrals to my website (which is one of the main purpose of the page) have dropped significantly after the switch to the timeline (AT) compared with before the new timeline (BT).
When I dug deeper to determine the cause, I found strange and unpredictable functionality with respect to the way page posts are fed to fan news feeds from business fan pages such as mine. The overall result is page performance that pales in comparison to what it should be.
I believe fans like a page because they want to get information and posts from that page. I also believe Facebook is manipulating / censoring / gatekeeping the information flow between fan/business pages and their friends/fans. I believe page owners and administrators should be told how and why this is happening and thus be better equipped in deciding whether to continue using Facebook as way to communicate with their stakeholders.
The results of my research and analysis to date is below; I continue to gather more information, and will post it as and when I can. Thanks for reading the post.
Fewer “likes” on all posts (AT)
I posted the link to the article without an image, and the post garnered 39 likes and 11 shares.
I featured the same post, this time with an image (which should have increased post likes), on April 3, 2012.
Despite the fact that the page fan base had increased by about 26% (i.e. to about 31,500 from about 25,000), and its reach increased by 69%, to 15,921 on April 4, from 9,437 on January 5 (FB changed the way it reported page statistics in December, and “reach” figures are not available for September 2011), the result was astonishing.
The number of post likes actually dropped by 49% (to 19), with one tenth as many shares (i.e. one on April 3, compared with 11 in September).
I posted the link again on April 22, with the following results: 28 likes and three shares, again despite the fact that, according to Facebook, the page “reached” 39,651 people (not 39,650 or 39,652 mind you, but 39651!) during the week of April 16 – 22.
So, since the April 3 post, the page’s reach supposedly increased by 150% and the number of likes on that particular post increased by less than one-third of that (i.e. the post likes increased by 47%).
More telling is the fact that, since the September post, the number of page fans increased by 28% (to 32,000 from 25,000), while the number of likes on this post decreased by 28% (ironic that it should be the same percentage!).
Okay, you may say: “One post does not make a case.”
So let’s look at couple more.
I first posted this quote and flying heart image on January 7 (BT) when the page had about 27,500 fans.
I don't know the exact number of fans that day, but I do know it was less than 28,000 because I topped 28,000 on my birthday January 28.
The page reach, according to Facebook, was 9,437
The post got 71 likes and 19 shares, as you can see for yourself in the picture if you get out your magnifiying glass :P!
(If you're interested, I've gathered all the images and put them in a gallery at the end of the article so you CAN actually SEE the numbers by clicking and enlarging the screen shots if you like).
When I reposted the quote and heart on April 20 (AT), the fan base had increased by 16% (to 32,000 from 27,500), and the reach by 480% (to 41,550 from 9,437).
Given those numbers, one might reasonably expect an increase in both the number of likes and shares on the post.
But (you guessed it!), such was not the case.
Quite the opposite.
In fact, the number of likes on the post dropped by 35% (to 46), while the the number of shares remained the same (19).
In case you're STILL not convinced there's something fishy going on, take a look at these BT and AT screen shots from one of my other pages @SheQuotes in this gallery. The BT screen shot shows post likes from March 15 - 18; the AT screen shot was taken April 9.
Am I doing anything different BT and AT? No. Other than A LOT of experimentation to find out what works and what doesn't DIFFERENTLY than before in the hope that I can change things around.
Some say there are techniques one can use to beat the FB algorithms that are purported to lie behind all of this. I don't believe there are, because I'm already following all the "best practices."
I believe, based on my own personal experience, a great deal of experimentation over the last month, and conversations with other page administrators, that it pretty much doesn't matter WHAT you do. The cards are stacked against you, me and a whole WHACK of other Facebook fan pages that are experiencing the same issues and problems.
More to come...
BTW, the screen shot gallery is here: