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Posted by on Jul 16, 2012 in Blog, Social Media Advice | 6 comments

Help! No one is seeing my Facebook page updates!

This is the first in a four-part series discussing the recent updates with Facebook pages, and how you can make the most of these changes and continue to make Facebook an integral part of your marketing strategy. You can see the second post in the series here.

A few weeks ago, most Facebook Page admins woke up to this below each one of their Page’s posts:

Facebook reach

At first, everybody was super excited: “Wow, I can see exactly how many people saw my post! That’s awesome!” A few days later, the mood had changed slightly: “Wait, why is only 26 [or 15, or 32, or 22] percent of my followers seeing my posts?”

And then, a few days after that, Facebook unveiled this below each page’s posts*:

Wait one hot minute. So now, not only were most of your fans not seeing your posts, now you had to pay if you wanted more of your fans to see what you were putting up? The confusion turned into outright rage. Everyone went ALL CAPS and exclamation points. Posts popped up everywhere:


“UNBELIEVABLE. Pay to post?? Facebook FAIL.”

“I BUILT MY FANBASE, and now I have to PAY TO REACH THEM? #smh”

To say people were angry is an understatement. People were enraged. And, to an extent, rightfully so: Building a fanbase takes time. It takes effort. It takes content. Lots and lots of content. Lots and lots of good content. You write, you share, and you do it well enough that people choose to find you and follow you on various social networks so that they can be apprised of when you next write something enlightening/funny/thought-provoking/totally amazing. I completely understand the disbelief. To be suddenly told that (a) not everyone was seeing your posts, and then (b) that you had to pay to reach those people who had already expressed an interest in what you were doing is, well, obnoxious. Facebook seemed predatory. Conniving. Evil. All that Facebook “it’s free and always will be” hoopla started smelling an awful lot like a meadow full of cows and their male consorts.

Here’s the deal, though (and I know I’m not going to make any friends when I say this): Facebook is not out to get us. We have never actually reached all of our fans (at least, not all at once, not with every post). What Facebook was doing was not reducing the number of people who saw our posts; they were actually giving us the opportunity to reach more of our fans (albeit, for a price).

Before you all start coming after me with pitchforks and torches, allow me to explain.

When Facebook placed those handy little numbers below each of our page posts,

Facebook reach

they were actually telling us something that had already been taking place—for years, actually. None of our fans have seen every single one of our posts pop up in their newsfeed—ever. Here’s why:

Facebook employs an algorithm (i.e., a fancy formula) called EdgeRank to determine who sees what in their News Feed. It’s done this for years; it’s nothing new. If you really want to get down and dirty with EdgeRank, here’s what it looks like:

Facebook EdgeRank Algorithm

Image via Inside Facebook

However, in case you don’t want your brain to explode from the math, here’s the deal: Every single post a page or a person creates on Facebook is assigned a value for every single person that is a fan or a friend of the page or person. This value is determined by three things:

  1. The relationship between the person and the other person or page. This is called affinity.
  2. The type of post is it (picture, comment, like, share, post). Different types of activity have different EdgeRank values. Facebook assigns greater value (or weight) to what it calls rich media, i.e., pictures, videos, polls, questions.
  3. How long ago this post was created, or time decay.

When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. The Facebook EdgeRank algorithm is smart: It knows what and who you interact with most often, it knows that you’re more likely to be interested in things that are recent, and it can tell when an item is popular enough that a lot of people are interacting with it. If the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm weren’t policing our newsfeeds, they would rapidly spiral out of control (akin to what happens on Twitter—you look away for a few seconds, and all of a sudden there are 578 new tweets on your feed, and you go crazy just trying to keep up). Because Facebook attempts to be not just a sharing mechanism but also an interactive social outlet, it tries to mimic what you would do in everyday life—tune in to what you want to hear more of, and tune out what you couldn’t care less about.

EdgeRank is the reason for why almost every single one of your best friend’s status updates pops up on your Feed, while hardly any posts from your crazy Aunt Sally show up. You interact much more with your best friend (you have greater affinity), and you go out of your way to avoid Aunt Sally. Facebook notices this, and does the work for you. It’s the equivalent of call screening, except you don’t have to grimace through Aunt Sally’s rambling voicemail about her cat.

The same thing happens with pages. When you interact more with a page (through likes, comments, and tags), then your affinity with that page increases, and it makes it much more likely that you’ll see that page’s updates more frequently. In the same vein, the more your fans interact with your page, the more likely it is that they’ll see your posts in the future.

I know this doesn’t take the sting out of knowing that only a small percentage of your fans are seeing your posts; in fact, now that you know this isn’t something new might make things worse (“Oh, good heavens, you mean to tell me this has been happening all along?”). However, take heart: Over the next few days, I’ll discuss ways in which you can reach more fans without paying for it, how you can transition your fans from your page to your profile (in case that’s the route you want to go), and how you can make it easy for fans to make the switch.

Stick around—we’ll get through it together.

* Note: The Promote option is only available for pages that have between 400 and 100,000 fans. If you don’t see it yet, don’t worry; you will once you get to that number.

Upcoming posts in this series:

Disclosure: These articles were originally published in the Novel Publicity free advice blog.

Questions? Leave me a comment!

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  1. Very informative. And you’re right. FB isn’t out to get us. I think understanding how it all works makes a big difference in perspective.

    • Hey Tracey! Knowledge is power, as Francis Bacon says, and the old adage certainly holds true when it comes to Facebook and fan pages. It doesn’t take the sting out of things, but at least it allows you to understand them. I hope you find this series useful! Thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Anne. I’m still a bit of a pantser when it comes to all of this networking stuff. I will eagerly anticipate the next post in the series.

    James Garcia Jr recently posted..Tweep Nation PodcastMy Profile

    • Jimmy, so glad you enjoyed it! The rest of this series will be coming out over the next week–I hope you find all three of the other posts just as useful!

  3. Nice job putting all of this in plain English, Anne. Some of this “affinity” stuff is downright creepy, but it all seems to work. If it weren’t for all the sneaky stuff they try to get away with in their privacy settings, fb would be OK by me. And yes, I do want to know how I can reach more fans without paying for it.
    Gary Gauthier recently posted..In Defense of Indie WritersMy Profile

    • Thanks, Gary! I’m pretty okay with Facebook–I think they’re just a little dumb about communicating their changes (which are usually, for what it’s worth, announced on their blog. But who reads THAT except for tech-nerds like me)?

      The second installment will be up today–I hope you find it useful!


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