Facebook Made Changes: Here’s What’s Really Happening To Publishers

By |2018-03-27T14:20:00+00:00February 14th, 2018|

It’s been a month since the start of a round of announcements from Facebook that seemed, on the face of things, would negatively impact publishers’ reach and traffic on the platform. Given True Anthem’s relationships with numerous premium media companies, we have access to an enormous amount of data that reveals what has really happened since the start of these algorithmic changes.

Let’s cut to the chase. In analyzing data over the last 90 days across our client base, we’ve actually seen reach and traffic on Facebook improve.

But before we dig in, let’s quickly recap the different types of reach. Facebook provides three metrics: organic, paid reach and viral reach. It’s important to understand each of these and how they affect the overall goals of audience-building and website traffic leading to monetization.

  • Organic reach is the number of unique people who are shown your post through unpaid distribution.
  • Viral Reach is the number of unique people who see your post or page mentioned from a story published by a friend.
  • Paid reach is the total number of unique people who are shown your post as a result of ads.

Increases in Organic and Viral Reach

We analyzed trends in organic and viral page reach, page/post engagement and traffic across True Anthem’s client base. Below is a Page reach analysis over the last 90 days. What stands out is that organic and viral reach has steadily increased for our clients.

The data is pulled from across all types of publishers using our platform. But it’s important to note that each publisher segmentnational news, local news, magazines, digital-only, etc.has been impacted differently.

What’s driving organic reach?

While organic reach has steadily grown, it’s not being driven by video. Below, you’ll see that in-feed video has seen a decline in organic reach over the last 90 days (especially the last 30 days), in counterpoint to the growing organic reach for photos and link posts. This tells us that passive consumption of video is not a strong signal to Facebook’s new algorithm.

Refocus on Engagement

The big variable in total Facebook reach has always been the network effect or viral reach. Our data shows that viral reach is playing a leading role to achieving more reach. As promised by Facebook, meaningful engagement, especially in the form of sharing, will be a stronger signal in the News Feed algorithm going forward.

Given how viral reach works, driving greater organic and viral reach requires a renewed focus on audience engagement, with an emphasis on encouraging shares and comments.

Note that Facebook will de-prioritize publisher Pages that try to game comments and shares. To that end, Facebook announced last week it is experimenting in the U.S. with a downvote button on comments to feed into its algorithm.

Reach and Engagement Don’t Pay the Bills—Traffic Does

We understand publishers do not monetize reach and engagement. So, what’s happening with traffic? We ran an analysis to see what the impact has been on link clicks. As you can see below, the average number of link clicks by link post has also increased over the last 90 days.

We believe this shows you don’t need to sacrifice traffic to drive meaningful, on-platform engagement. Instead, refocusing the activities of your social media team on engaging people via comments and shares on Facebook will improve total reach—and monetization—in the long term.

Ongoing Monitoring is Required

According to our data, there hasn’t been the dramatic declines many feared when first hearing about the changes, but each publisher segment has been impacted differently and we are monitoring the data and trends very closely and will continue to share our findings.

If your experience has been contrary to those of our clients, please reach out to us here and we can run a custom analysis of your social accounts.

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