October 25, 2017

How should you respond as engagement rate for Facebook posts continue to tumble?

The average engagement with Facebook posts created by brand pages and publishers has dropped 20% over 6 months since January 2017. This concern was highlighted by Buzzsumo after analyzing over 880 million post including paid promotion. If you are heavily invested in social media marketing using Facebook, this one is for you. By the time you finish reading this post you might even want to reconsider your approach.

Considering the trends the cost of engagement on Facebook will continue to rise with consistently diminishing returns.


Drop in Organic Reach- Is Facebook’s hype wearing off?

This isn’t the first time a drop has been reported. Since, the moment Facebook rolled out “Fan page” feature in 2007, brands and publishers have eagerly embraced the opportunity to draw in more audience. They have worked hard to create fan bases, and creating content for these fans. But it was in 2012, Page managers learned that only a fraction of the audience- 16% on average, could view these posts.

That fraction has repeatedly gotten smaller and smaller. A study by EdgeRank Checker found that during February 2012 to March 2014 the organic reach dropped from 16% to 6.5%. Research by Social@Ogilvy also found the organic reach to hover around 6% during this period. This research also shared that for Pages with more than 500,000 likes the could be as low as 2%.

Average organic reach of posts published to Facebook brand pages for all pages and large pages with more than 500,000 likes.

This is when the trouble started brewing and set alarm bells ringing and many publishers questioned the motive. Facebook tried to settle things down but it did not help much. Social Flow in its analysis found that the organic reach dropped 42% between January and May 2016. But Facebook later that in June, further modified its algorithm, with its Engineering Director warning pages to anticipate further dip in their reach.

Following these changes led to reanalysis, which found that between January to July 2016 the drop in organic reach was now 52%. Many in the industry proclaim that organic reach for Facebook posts is sure to reach zero. Click To Tweet Thus for all those likes, comments, shares from the fans you need to shell out money just to reach these very fans, in the hope that some of them will convert into your customers.

But as reported by the Buzzsumo study mentioned earlier in the article even the engagement has dropped by 20%. The study included posts supported by paid promotion. This is where it gets real and all the hype about Facebook starts to peel off.

Why is Facebook doing nothing about it?

When the alarm bells started ringing in 2014, many publishers voiced their concerns. To which Facebook’s VP of Advertising Technology, Brian Boland cited two reasons- tremendous increase in number of posts, and necessity of displaying more relevant stories in the news-feed. It strongly objected to the fact that changes were made to spur marketers to spend more on ads to maintain their reach.

Meanwhile Facebook continued to increase its ad tools and bait publishers. Soon after Facebook did change its stance.

Only this time went they made a case for marketers to do just that- Spend More!
According to this report by AdAge, when addressing the drop in organic reach the paragraph ends with a pitch wherein marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.”

Facebook’s ad revenues in the second quarter to 2017 increased 47% over the same quarter in 2016.- AdWeek

Facebook also makes it fairly blunt that marketers should think of fan acquisition as a tool for making paid advertising more effective. Making it quite clear that the main reason for acquiring a fan base is not for free distribution but rather to aid Facebook ads work better.

Thus, you spend on increasing your Facebook fan base only to get to later spend more to reach out to them. This is already happening.

Kurt Gessler, Deputy Editor for Digital News at Chicago Tribune voiced his concerns as to how despite growth by the page and doing everything recommended by Facebook the situation is only worsening.

Thus, answering the question as to why isn’t Facebook addressing the issue is simple.

Facebook’s business model itself is- Pay more for more Reach. Even the engagement with paid promotion has dropped.
Doing anything about it is just not in Facebook’s interest. As competition increases this cost of reach will continue to rise.

What can you do as a Publisher do about it for improving engagement?

There are many tips being shared such tweaking the ratio of posts, increasing video content, improving quality, using personal network and your employees for outreach, etc.. etc. This post by Hubspot details the steps to be taken to combat the continuous fall.

But that is just a short term solution. Whatever you do the the struggle on Facebook will continue to get messy and costly. Rather its better to plan in the longterm.

All of us got swayed by the savvy social media. But what we forget is that ultimately all that audience is on a third-party platform.
Check this video to understand it better.

The only digital real-estate that is truly yours is your website. Click To Tweet The community you build up on it will always be there. The best way to combat the failure of social media tools is to redirect the attention to your website. Using tools provided by Vuukle helps you to improve engagement on your website itself. Click To Tweet

What if the same percentage of audience you reach out to on Facebook were to directly follow your website. This delivers greater dividends. This audience is more loyal, more engaging and will be easier to convert into leads. Your website is the future and it is the one you can control.

Instead of incurring additional rising costs, make your website the main forte of digital efforts and increases revenue.


PS: Another blog dedicated to continuing this discussion seems likely. Share your thoughts about it.

Santoshkumar Pandey

Engineer by qualification, content & marketing expert by profession. Meditate, blibliophile & a creative geek.