We are all too familiar with the constant and often frustrating changes that Facebook makes to their format and their policies. You login one day and suddenly everything has changed; there was no warning, often times there was no explanation. You begin the time-consuming task of relearning the new structure, often only with the help of friendly posts sent around by friends who are a step ahead of you in the learning curve. And often times you’ll see rumors going around: rumors about Facebook policy changes that may or may not be true.
One such rumor began circling just prior to November 1st. The rumor was directed at Business Page administrators. The rumor stated that if fans of your business page had not interacted with your page in the previous week (I believe this timeframe was a guess), that that fan would cease from getting your feeds in the future. Of course many page owners were angered and panicked by this suggestion; would we still be able to reach our fans, would our advertising dollars have been flushed straight down the toilet?
As someone who likes to do my research and learn the actual facts, I began searching through the Facebook forums trying to either corroborate or debunk this rumor. Now anyone who has ever attempted the arduous task of navigating around the Facebook help forums, knows that this is a daunting proposition. At best it is searching for a needle in a haystack. At worst, you find absolutely no answers, and of course there is no way to contact a “person” at Facebook. Facebook’s customer support (that’s a joke!) is simply put, a big black hole.
After hours of searching around the forums, and of course having no luck, I took to the trusted Google search. I could find nothing. Since that time, I have attempted to do my own analysis to find out what is really going on with Facebook page stats. I began asking my friends and my fans and low and behold, I discovered that the rumor did in fact appear to be true. Friends began telling me that they had not been receiving my fan page feeds in weeks now, in some cases over a month. I began surveying other business page owners and it was the same story everywhere. Everyone was scrambling trying to figure out how they could reach those fans that had suddenly fallen into the same black hole. There was no way.
As a business page administrator, there is no way to “send a message” to all of your fans at once. We used to have this ability. It was taken away. Then we could simply reach our fans by posting a status update. But now it seems that that is only reaching fans who have interacted with our page in some undetermined, “secret” amount of time, an algorithm that seems to be undisclosed and well-guarded by Facebook.
Business owners everywhere are extremely angered and frustrated by this change to our Business Pages. But in my view there is an even bigger injustice taking place here: many of these same business owners have paid hundreds, even thousands of dollars on targeted Facebook advertising. I have raved to my peers about how valuable Facebook advertising is; rather than posting a generic billboard on a freeway, where you have no idea who you are targeting, Facebook gives you the ability to target exactly the demographic you seek to attract, those people who share the same interests that you are promoting. As far as internet advertising goes, it was brilliant. I was definitely on board. And it worked. As a result of a targeted Facebook advertising campaign, as well as my own viral marketing efforts, I have managed to gain over 25,000 fans in only six months. And I was very happy about this. That is until I stopped being able to reach those fans.
Now if I look at my Facebook Insights, at best only about 10% of my fans are receiving my feeds. Now I fully recognize that this is partly impacted by who is logging in when, how far down in one’s feed your update falls, and whether or not they are actually seeing it. I get that, and that is not what I’m talking about. I also get that fans have the right to opt out of your feeds, and that internet norms requires fans to have that option. I understand that fact as well, and am also not referring to those people. I have now surveyed dozens of friends and fans, all of whom have verified to me that they did not block my feeds, as well as dozens of business page administrators and the answers are all the same: even when scrolling back through days and days of old feeds, many of our fans are no longer receiving our updates at all.
I tested this theory by having those same fans (who are no longer receiving my updates) go back to my page and interact with it in some way: either by liking or commenting on an update. My theory was that once they interacted with the page again, they would resume getting my updates. This proved to be true. But now the question is, for how long will they continue to receive my updates? I’m sure that this same undisclosed algorithm of Facebook will still be in effect; I’m guessing that if these same fans do not interact with my page within some set amount of time, they will again cease to receive my updates.
Business owners are angry. Advertisers are even more angry, and rightfully so. It certainly does not seem right or ethical business practice that business owners and those of us who have spent substantial amounts of money on advertising, should not be able to access those same fans who still wish to be receiving our updates. I am calling on Facebook to address this issue immediately.
UPDATE- December 22, 2011
Today I received this information from a writer at TechCrunch, shedding some light on the Facebook algorithm:
Again, I am calling on Facebook to please address this issue and to answer these questions: Of what benefit is it to Facebook to prevent business pages and advertisers from reaching fans that have chosen to be there? Why does Facebook want to undermine and anger the very business owners who are keeping them in business?