New Facebook News Feed: Brands Will Reach Fewer Users

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new facebook news feed New Facebook News Feed: Brands Will Reach Fewer Users

For the past several months, we’ve been hearing marketers from across the globe gripe about the number of Facebook Fans they reach. Mark Cuban led the charge, insisting that Facebook was preventing its users from seeing the brand content that they so desperately wanted to see.

Facebook listened. And Facebook is calling you on it.

With the latest News Feed design, Facebook is giving users the opportunity to view more of the things they care about most. If Mark Cuban and others are right, that would mean that more of our brand content will be seen.

But Cuban and those who agree with him are wrong. And barring something surprising, many brands will not be happy with the results.

Giving Users More of What They Want (It’s Not You)

The new News Feed includes several options for users to view unfiltered content that they may have missed. The feed that could hurt brands the most: All Friends.

All Friends obviously doesn’t include brand content. And it is likely to be the most popular feed option after the default News Feed.

It’s impossible to say just how much these alternative feeds will be used. But the more users are on feeds that don’t include brand content, the fewer the opportunities to reach them.

Any increase in concentration of activity on friend content is unlikely to be good for brands. It’s difficult to come up with a scenario where the watering down of the News Feed will result in brands reaching more users (though I’ll consider one later).

Following Feed Will Be Ignored


And now here’s the biggest problem, and Facebook should make sure to email these results to Cuban and others.

If you agree with Cuban, you think that when users liked your Page, they were “subscribing” to your content. Not only that, they actually wanted to see all of your content — in similar ways that they wanted to see all of their friends’ content.

Now that we have the Following feed, we’ll find out whether this is true. And I think we all know where this is heading.

One of the cool features of the new feed system is that the order of the feeds will be sorted by those used most often. My guess: The Following feed will tumble to the bottom of most users’ lists.

So, could the Following feed result in reaching more Fans? Sure, if you believe the refrain that users care whether they are seeing 100% of brand content.

But I’m guessing that — at least in the early version of the new News Feed — brands will be reaching fewer people than they were before.

They Were WRONG: 10-16% Was Never Bad

The argument was flawed from the start.

Once we learned that “only” 16% (or sometimes less) of our Fans were seeing a specific post, many made the false correlation that Facebook was directly responsible by intentionally preventing the other 84-90% from seeing it.

This was never true.

The truth is that only about half of our Fans are on Facebook every day. And even those who are will only be on for a period of 30-60 minutes. Content — even filtered content — gets buried in a hurry on Facebook. If you miss a two hour window when a user is online, they probably won’t see your content.

So somewhere between 10-16% of our Fans saw our content? The target open rate for email — a stationary target — is 20%. And you expected that (or more) on Facebook?

No one ever talks about percentage of followers reached on Twitter. But I’d be willing to bet money the percentage is under 5% for a single post. Maybe under 1%.

We always had unrealistic expectations on Facebook. I never understood why. And my guess is that we’re about to pine for the days when we reached as many Fans as we once did.

Engagement and Relevance Should Rise

I know this all sounds disastrous. If you think Reach is an important metric, it could be. And even for the rest of us, there is reason to be concerned.

But it’s not all bad. If you adjust and take advantage of the changes to News Feed, you should benefit.

The bigger photos should result in attracting more engagement. The bigger videos should attract more video plays. And the bigger thumbnail images should result in more link clicks.

That’s why I preach over and over that you need to look beyond Reach. It’s entirely possible that Reach is about to drop again, but you may actually end up getting more engagement.

I’m looking further into the future here, but I envision Facebook eventually adding more feed options that apply to brands. Think about a Sports feed, for example, that automatically pulls in posts from the sports-themed Pages you like. Facebook could apply to this to a long list of categories since this segmentation has already been done when the Page was created.

If that happens (and I’m betting it will), this will allow brands to reach a more relevant and engaged audience. While I don’t expect users to spend much time on a general “Following” feed, I do think they’d find utility in themed lists for brands.

Effectiveness of Advertising Should Improve

This all leads to advertising. Of course it does.

If the segmentation of feeds results in brands struggling for exposure — or a perceived struggle for exposure — the immediate reaction will be to advertise. Or it will be for some.

I realize the immediate response here is anger. But let’s think this through…

Facebook is giving users more control than ever before to see more of the content that they want. If they decide they want to see friend content more than your content, is this Facebook’s fault? Should Facebook force your content on users?

In my opinion, the changes could significantly improve the Facebook user experience. And a better user experience could include seeing less of your content.

So it only makes sense that if you want to reach more people who aren’t otherwise all that passionate about your content, you should have to pay for this access.

But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that such advertising will be far more effective than it is now.

If you promote a post, the images and videos and thumbnails — as mentioned earlier — will all be much larger and will attract more engagement.

facebook ads new newsfeed from insidefacebook 600x292 New Facebook News Feed: Brands Will Reach Fewer Users

Image courtesy of InsideFacebook.com

If you run a marketplace ad on the sidebar, the ads will be bigger and will compete with fewer ads than before.

Screen Shot 2013 03 07 at 11.36.25 AM 273x500 New Facebook News Feed: Brands Will Reach Fewer Users

Image courtesy of InsideFacebook.com

If you run a Page Like Sponsored Story, your cover photo will be pulled in, which would likely yield better results. In fact, the organic version of this story should prove to be more effective than it is now.

facebook page like sponsored stories from insidefacebook 600x117 New Facebook News Feed: Brands Will Reach Fewer Users

Image courtesy of InsideFacebook.com

But there are other opportunities that may be coming, and they are related to the potential emergence of new feeds as described above.

Let’s use the current Music feed as an example. A music-related brand could theoretically create an ad that reaches non-Fans who follow that feed. Same with the Games feed.

And consider if a Sports feed were created. Or Food. Or Marketing. Or Technology. Or Local Businesses.

You get the point. The relevance of those ads could skyrocket.

Separating the Invested from the Freeloaders

One thing is certain: Those who continue to use the same, tired marketing tactics and who think that marketing on Facebook is meant to be “free” are in for a rude awakening.

I fully expect some level of an exodus of brands as a result. Those who refuse to spend for ads and have unreasonable expectations will be disappointed — probably angry.

But the rest of us who commit even marginal budgets (I spend between $100-200 per month on my Facebook marketing) will benefit from the new News Feed. Particularly those who get more visual.

It Depends on How Users Adjust

There is a scenario here where brands benefit and actually reach more users. Let me explain…

The problem with News Feed in the old form was that it was too easy to exhaust recent posts and get bored. I’m constantly on Facebook, and I’ll refresh and refresh and see nothing new — but want to see something else.

What if users continue to use the default News Feed just as much as before? What if they only switch to the other feeds when they are bored and want something more?

If this is the case, there’s no harm done. In fact, some of those bored users may just wander over to the Following feed to see more of our stuff.

Such a scenario would be huge for Facebook. It would mean an explosion in time on site.

But it all depends on how users adjust. They’ve been known to completely ignore new Facebook features in the past. I doubt they will this time, but it’s possible.

And maybe they’ll actually like the Following feed more than I expect. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Facebook will do the same. They’ll track what users like and don’t like. And you can bet they don’t want users to completely ignore brand content. So it’s possible an adjustment will be made by Facebook to compensate if such a shift away from brand content occurs.

Your Turn

How do you think users will adjust to the new News Feed? And how will brands be impacted?

Let me know in the comments below!3

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • Angelo Marolla

    I agree with you for what concernes the most used Feed: All friends. But I think that it could be an important step in favour of brands too. That because there will appear the sharing post too.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Good point, Angelo! This is our challenge to keep creating shareable content.

  • http://www.oursocialtimes.com/ Jeremy Taylor

    A relief to see that someone agrees with me. I never understood all the complaints about low reach. Companies seemed to have this belief that their content should appear at the top everyone’s Newsfeed – regardless of the quality, the number of other friends and pages that were vying for the same spot, their relationship with that ‘fan’, and even whether that person is online. Of course average reach was not going to be over 20%.

    I imagine most people’s behaviour won’t change when the new Newsfeed comes in, most will keep ‘top stories’. But with Facebook giving users these new options Page managers will no longer be able to complain. Fans will see your content if they want to.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I’ve come to the realization that people are nuts, Jeremy. There are two reasons people freak about Facebook Reach: 1) Facebook makes it so easy to know this stat, and 2) Facebook does filter content.

      The problem is that we automatically connect #2 to a “low” reach. Yet, what is the Reach on Twitter? Google+? And if the feed had been unfiltered, would Reach actually go up or would it go down? My assumption is that it would go down.

      No one talks about the benefits of EdgeRank, too — surfacing GOOD content when it otherwise would have been buried.

  • http://twitter.com/iamcbatt Carolyn Battle

    One piece I think you’re missing is that while yes, users have ‘liked’ people like Mark Cuban and other big brands, they have also ‘liked’ their friend’s start-up, or their sister’s band. In order to see updates from ANY page, they will see the updates from EVERY page.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ShaneDJohnston Shane Johnston

      I think you are spot on right Carolyn. Facebook should probably just let users self define who (brands or friends) they most want to hear from.

  • http://twitter.com/alisammeredith Alisa Meredith

    I’m with you, Jon. My concern about advertising, though, is that if people come to expect that the Friends feed will only show updates from friends, if Facebook allows us to advertise here, might that not really tick off users? I wonder if we’ll see more negative feedback on promoted posts and ads.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      It would absolutely tick off users, Alisa! Definitely something we’ll need to be sensitive to.

    • http://twitter.com/davemorse Dave Morse

      Alisa, I agree with you, but don’t think it’ll be the end of the world if they show Promoted activity by my friends. Not quite as targeted (because I have weird friends who Like the strangest things) but more engaging because, well, they’re my friends. “Dave Morse likes Tickling Birds” What? :) I agree with Jon’s perspective on the potential to improve ad engagement with larger sized photos + including cover photos.

  • http://www.facebook.com/judy.mcauslane Judy McAuslane

    Well, Facebook lives of advertisers. If they didn’t think it was a clever move in favor of brands, they wouldn’t have done this. Maybe it will mean that we have to pay for reach but so what – as long as the quality increases.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ShaneDJohnston Shane Johnston

    I wonder if they will implement a way for users to create their own filtered lists with the brands and/or friends that they/we most want to hear from? Did you get the new newsfeed yet Jon? I think Carolyn hit this issue dead on in her comment below.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Can’t they already do this with Interest Lists, Shane? It’s my understanding that users will be able to view these within the new Feeds area. Though admittedly, I have a hard time confirming these things since I don’t have it yet!

  • http://www.seftonmedia.com/ Steven Sefton

    Hello John, I think this is my first comment but I have been following you since you won Top 10 Blog Award from Social Media Examiner, well done BTW.

    You touched on something about reach against relevance and it’s something I talk a lot to potential clients before they come on board. Likes against REAL fans.

    I believe the new news feeds will be better for small businesses as it’s giving more relevance. For small businesses it only takes 1 or 2 new customers to make social media a success to them so having messages that are relevant within a news feed that is relevant to what they are looking for is only going to give a higher percentage on converting them.

    What do you think?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Thanks for commenting, Steven, and thanks for the kind words!

      You and I are on the same page on this. I really don’t care about Reach, for example (well documented!). I care about results, and those results tend to come from relevant engagement of some kind.

      It’s possible that Reach drops as a result of the new News Feed. But if engagement stays the same or goes up — and leads directly/indirectly to more business — there’s very little to complain about.

      • http://www.seftonmedia.com/ Steven Sefton

        Yes, exactly.

  • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri at Idea Girl Media

    Jon,

    Good stuff! I agree with you. Though I think we could still be in for a good surprise or two with ads yet.

    Alisa said some things below that are worthwhile to consider: Ticking off the user with ads. Hadn’t users been complaining about that before the new news feed?

    The typical user won’t take the time to figure out they can utilize the feeds as we know they can be. While I feel that additional feeds would be awesome, would they be used…?

    I think the new news feed is cool, and I’m along for the ride to see what comes. Lets see..

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Keri

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Agreed, Keri! Always need to consider the user. Granted, some will ALWAYS be put off by ads, so it’s a matter of balancing that. But I would more than likely avoid advertising in the All Friends feed, for example, even if users spend a lot of time there. Backlash is likely to be substantial.

  • Veronica Athanasiou

    Only hope for pages is the themed lists. I can see this new News Feed as a way to make Interest lists for users. Page admins will not have to explain to their fans how to create a list. It will be done automatically by Facebook and this is GREAT! Pages will end up reaching only those who are really interested, so they will probably add a new file to subcategorise the page (they are already doing it for places) and use all this info to create new lists that the user can visit when they’re bored of just seeing their Friends news. I believe eventually people will stop visiting the social platform just to see what their friends are doing, this is wearing off already. they want to know ‘what is going on’ and they will choose their field of interest. So I’m with you on the vision for themed lists. Great post, very inspiring, thanks!

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Thanks for commenting, Veronica! I can see Facebook potentially adding themed feeds that bring in content from Pages you don’t even necessarily like/follow already. Maybe even bringing in content based on specific keywords (though that could result in keyword stuffing).

  • http://twitter.com/Michele_Welch Michele Welch

    Great post Jon. But it makes me think. For those who they are their brands or offer services, my guess would be an even bigger increase in connection made through personal profiles. I’ve already observed an increase in friend requests from other professionals (as I too have made more requests).

    For those who use this strategy it may be the saving grace … or maybe not. I guess only time will tell. Now if only Facebook can find a way to monetize personal profile accounts, LOL.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Interesting point, Michele! However, I assume that only “friends” of a profile will see your content within the All Friends feed. This will not apply to followers of people who opened up their profile to the public — that content is still available within Following.

      So it could potentially be beneficial for local personalities who accept all friend requests, though I wouldn’t tend to recommend such an approach!

      • http://twitter.com/Michele_Welch Michele Welch

        Yeah, I see your point. Who you “friend” should be done with much thought involved. It can be a recipe for disaster. ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/RossSheingold Ross Sheingold

    Jon – great stuff AS ALWAYS – especially the part about the effectiveness of advertising once the redesigned newsfeed rolls out.

    My gut feeling is that the majority of time will still be spent on the default newsfeed, which will rely on Facebook’s trusty EdgeRank algorithm that we’ve all become accustomed to. However, for those seeking out a more segmented experience, the feeds will be extremely valuable.

    Here’s something interesting for advanced Facebook advertisers to think about: will Facebook Power Editor eventually allow advertisers to specify the PLACEMENT of their newsfeed promoted posts and sponsored stories beyond just mobile or desktop?

    For example – will brand X have the ability to target a newsfeed promoted post to their desired audience and specify placement ONLY within the “following” feed, rather than competing for the higher cost (and more disruptive nature) of the main feed.While fewer in numbers, users perusing the following feed will probably be more inclined to engage (and convert) as a result of branded content than those browsing the main feed. Of course, since the main feed will still receive the most impressions, targeting the right content at the right time to those users will be important as well – it just might be a bit more expensive.

    Thanks again for being on top of this stuff and creating a great dialogue about the Facebook ecosystem and advertising.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Agreed completely, Ross! I actually mentioned that a bit above. It would be great if we could target our ads in specific feeds. This could become increasingly valuable as new feeds are rolled out based on other categories.

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  • http://johnhaydon.com/ John Haydon

    Jon – awesome post here!

    I agree with you that the new newsfeed will be good for everyone.

    And one thing that’s good for brands is competition, which is about to get more intense. For example, up until now, photos were competing against text updates and links in the News Feed (in addition to other photos). Photos, which 39% more engagement than text-only updates, had a clear advantage. But now those same photos will be competing for attention with other photos in the Photos feed.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, John! Do you have the new News Feed yet? I don’t, but I’ve been told that the Photos feed only includes user photos. I can’t confirm that though!

      I don’t even have Graph Search. So bitter…

    • http://www.seftonmedia.com/ Steven Sefton

      That’s a great point John Haydon, even your pictures are going to have to be unique to shine out through the crowd.

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  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Very valid arguments, but I think at the end we all will need to wait and see how the majority of users behave. Human behaviour is many times unpredictable and illogic (e.g.: people are willing to pay a more expensive flight just to get some points in their frequent flyer program)

    There will be some new changes for sure, and I also predict those failing with the new rules will – once again – blame Facebook for their problems, rather than focusing on finding a solution. Change is inevitable, and the rule for success is adapt to it… My suggestion is: start experimenting with new types of content and as you see what works better with the new “rules”, roll out to a bigger level.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      You’re absolutely right, Antonio! My gut says that overall views will drop — though I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing as quality of views should improve. It’s entirely possible that views remain unchanged. If that happens, it’s because either people reject the extra feeds or because people use the extra feeds — including Following. And the final possibility is that use of regular News Feed remains the same and all other views are just gravy.

      All three are possible. We’ll see what happens. But we can be certain that what you say will happen — Some will fail and blame Facebook!

      Thanks as always for your wise words!

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottwayres Scott Ayres

    I think the different feeds will be nice, but my bet is that these feeds will be used as widely as Interest Lists.. Very rarely. So everyone will still be on the “Most Recent” which will include friends and pages…

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