Facebook Changes Stripes Once Again, Organic Brand Posts Now Endangered

Facebook late Friday announced yet another push to reduce the number of organic brand posts it says are cluttering its users’ newsfeeds. In an update to its “volume and content controls for promotional posts” taking effect in January 2015, Facebook said it will further limit the number of promotions posted organically by brands to the users who liked them.

Facebook did not disclose the magnitude of the new controls, but said they would affect organic posts that “feel too promotional,” and cited three specific criteria:

1 – Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app.

2 – Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context.

3 – Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads.

The move likely will come as a blow to brands that have invested heavily in promoting their Facebook presence to consumers in an effort to get them to like them and to follow their brand content newsfeeds. Already industry executives had been monitoring the percentage of organic brand posts passing through Facebook’s so-called EdgeRank algorithm, a mathematical formula that helps Facebook determine how many and what kind of posts to come through users’ newsfeeds.

Facebook utilizes the algorithm to ensure that users are not overwhelmed with extraneous clutter from irrelevant or marginal posts, but executives who have been monitoring the performance of the algorithm have said in recent months it had fallen to low single-digit percentage reach for brands posting to Facebook users following or liking them.

Those moves, as well as the new update are likely to be a boon for Facebook — forcing many brands to shift from organic to paid strategies — because the only way for them to effectively reach consumers on Facebook will be through advertising. But even that is heavily gated by Facebook.

Facebook said the update is being made in response to research it conducted among its users, which it described as “part of an ongoing survey” involving “hundreds of thousands of people.”

Facebook did not disclose explicit guidelines for what constitutes overly promotional posts, but showed two examples (the Tiger Therapy one above and the Bunny Puzzle Cube one below) and warned that “pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

As part of the announcement, Facebook also reminded brand marketers they can always utilize a paid option for reaching Facebook fans.
“For targeting specific audiences with predictable reach, Facebook advertising offers ways to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or app downloads,” it said.

A smattering of comments posted by business users on the Facebook For Business news post were generally positive, but at least one raised an important question not just for business posters, but for business newsfeed readers.
“I follow a lot of local business pages for article shares and news,” commented Michael Parnell, manager at North Highland, adding: “Does this mean their articles won’t reach my news feed and I’ll now be forced to see even MORE pictures of babies and children from my friends, unless those businesses pay to reach me, even if I like them??”

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