December 5, 2012 by Stephane Allard
Lots of you have complained about a brutal decrease in reach during September. Some said this was something completely planned by Facebook in order to sell more sponsored posts.
Is that true? We don’t think so. We infer it’s rather due to bad timing for Facebook rather than anything else.
Here’s what really happened in our opinion, based on the data crunching of a sample of 260 Pages tracked with Wisemetrics.
1. Huge decrease in the number of Facebook users reached by Pages’ posts
(-41.6% on average) in September.
October numbers are a lot better, almost similar to levels found in june.
But it also seems July and especially August were pretty good month (+26.6% in reach compared to June).
One reason could (partially) explain the July/August performance : Pages have posted more during this period. (+31.6% in August compared to June) In general, more posts means more users reached.
2. Huge increase in the number of users’ negative feedback
+206.2% compared to August, and +171.1% on spam reports alone.
It seems there is thus a strong correlation between the number of users reached and the number of complaints by Facebook users.
Edgerank is now taking the “negative feedback” a lot more into accou
As you might know, Facebook’s News Feed is mastered by an algorithm (referred as “Edgerank”), this algorithm filter the content seen by the users on their News Feed.
Facebook confirmed us they use machine learning technology, this means the algorithm constantly learns and adapt in real–time from the data it has in hand.
We can infer that a spike in negative feedback made the algorithm immediately punish the pages responsible for this spike.
3. Users’ engagement was declining on Facebook
The Edgerank algorithm has been conceived to protect the user experience and to increase users engagement.
Or the number of engaged users (people clicking on Page posts) decreased in August by -12.7% and again by -20.5% in september.
What happened in september ?
In a nutshell : a sudden increase in complaints from users + less engagement. Facebook’s algorithm then automatically (over?) reacted to show less posts from Pages generating the complaints.
The fall has been all the more brutal that August was a really good month.
Numbers has been rising again and in October reach is close to what it was in June (-6.8%). Same for engagement : +11.8% in October compared to September. Slightly more (+9.3%) than the level it was in June.
Negative feedback fall by -20.4% in october compared to september.
Thus our research confirms the recent Facebook statement that said “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. [...] That’s a relatively large change. It resulted in a large decrease in spam reports.”
As we’ve already said before, the News Feed is becoming a very competitive place. Brands are posting more and more on their Facebook Page (+31.6% in 3 months), but the average Facebook user doesn’t spend 32% more time on Facebook every trimester.
A decrease in reach of Facebook posts is now a given. It will worsen day after day as more companies, more friends updates are competing for users’ same amount of attention.
Now more than ever, you really need to focus on News Feed Optimization.