An Experiment: Testing Facebook’s News Feed Filtering Algorithm

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testing composition facebook news feed An Experiment: Testing Facebooks News Feed Filtering Algorithm

Facebook recently reported in a sales PDF that organic Reach is going to drop due to competition in the News Feed. Many marketers were upset by this, claiming they were once again being forced to pay for ads — led by an inflammatory post by AdAge.

I have plenty to say on that topic. But I want to be as scientific in my response as possible. And it can’t all be said in a single blog post.

As a result, I’m going to start slowly. Today’s goal is to dig deeper than the typical reactionary blogger and marketer when it comes to the quality and composition of the News Feed.

Back in August, Facebook shed light on how they determine what you see in your News Feed via their filtering algorithm (also known as EdgeRank). Facebook’s goal, they said, was to show you more of what you care most about and less of what you don’t.

Of course, brands in particular balk at this. We hate that we don’t reach 100% — or 20, 30, 40 or 50%. So instead of testing this, many brands straight up assume they are being screwed.

Now that reports indicate that organic Reach will drop further due to increased competition in the News Feed, I figured this was a good time to take a closer look at what is shown to me.

As a result, I am putting Facebook’s claim that they show me the content I care most about to the test. In particular regarding content shared by brand Pages.

The Experiment

Facebook said that the typical user would receive approximately 1,500 stories per day from friends and Pages if the News Feed were unfiltered. Instead, users are shown only about 300.

[NOTE: Keep in mind this includes a TON of light-weight stories. Friend commented on this post, liked that post. Friend checked in here, played an app there. Trust me, you don't miss the majority of those 1200 stories!]

So the first thing I did was go to my News Feed and open a spreadsheet. I then went story by story and documented the source of those stories covering the past 24 hours.

If the source of that story was a friend or a public figure I follow, I simply classified that as “Friend.”

If the source of that story was an organic post from a brand Page that I like, I wrote down the specific brand that it came from.

And if the source of that story was an ad — regardless of whether I otherwise Like the Page associated with that ad — I classified it as “Ad.” Note that this would include any Sponsored Stories that mentioned my friends.

A few things I was looking for…

  • Are organic posts from Pages being squeezed out?
  • Are ads taking over the News Feed?
  • Are the posts I’m seeing from brands what I actually want to see?
  • Is the number of stories being displayed consistent with Facebook’s claims?

Let’s find out…

The Breakdown of Stories

facebook newsfeed source breakdown 700x366 An Experiment: Testing Facebooks News Feed Filtering Algorithm

I actually received quite a few more stories than the 300 Facebook says to expect — 373 in all. Here is how those posts are broken down:

  • 239 Stories from Friends (64.1%)
  • 106 Organic Stories from Pages (28.4%)
  • 25 Ads (6.7%)
  • 3 Stories from Lists (0.8%)

I don’t know about you, but this seems like a fair breakdown. Not too many ads. Organic stories from brand Pages aren’t being drowned out. Lots of stories from friends.

The Breakdown of Page Stories

facebook organic page post distribution newsfeed 700x366 An Experiment: Testing Facebooks News Feed Filtering Algorithm

Now, here is where it gets interesting…

Those 106 Page stories came from a grand total of 38 unique brand Pages, for an average of 2.8 per Page. Most marketers seem to assume that only some of our posts are shown. But really, based on what I’m seeing, it appears I see almost everything that I care about most.

When I looked through that list of 38 Pages, these were definitely all brands I care about most (or have interacted with recently). And what’s funny is that I rarely — or almost never — comment on brand posts. But Facebook “somehow” knows what I like.

Take a look at what I saw from the brands represented the most:

  • Mashable – 16
  • TechCrunch – 15
  • The Onion – 10
  • Green Bay Packers – 7
  • Post Planner – 5
  • AllFacebook.com – 4
  • NFL – 4

I almost never comment on content shared by these brands (Post Planner being the one exception). But I do read comments. And I do click on links. This was enough to tell Facebook that I would like to see a combined 31 link shares from Mashable and TechCrunch covering a 24 hour period.

Answering the Questions

Okay, so now let’s get back to some of the questions I was hoping to answer…

Q: Are organic posts from Pages being squeezed out?

It sure doesn’t seem that way. More than a quarter of the stories I saw in my News Feed covering a 24-hour period were organically from brands. I certainly don’t want 50% or more of the stories in my News Feeds to be commercial.

Q: Are ads taking over the News Feed?

Not at all. Only 6.7% of the stories I saw were ads.

Q: Are the posts I’m seeing from brands what I actually want to see?

Absolutely. I saw 31 posts total from Mashable and TechCrunch. As I look through the list of brands represented, there is a good reason for all of them to be there.

Q: Is the number of stories being displayed consistent with Facebook’s claims?

Yes. In fact, I saw 24% more stories than Facebook said I should expect.

Closing Thoughts

First of all, it’s quite clear to me that Facebook is showing me the content I want to see, particularly from brands. Or to put it more accurately, what I end up seeing is engaging content — I don’t know what I couldn’t see. Looking at that list, I have no complaints or arguments.

Second, what I see here conflicts with the biggest complaints from brands in a couple of ways…

One claim is that brands can’t enter the News Feed without paying for ads. This is clearly not the case since 28.4% of the stories I documented in this study were organic posts from brands.

Another claim is that Facebook is preventing brands from reaching people who actually want to see their content. Well, that’s certainly not the case for me when it comes to Mashable, TechCrunch and others. I’ve shown Facebook through my actions that I like their content, and as a result I see a ton of it.

This doesn’t mean that brands don’t have an argument. I understand the feeling of being shortchanged when you pay for ads to increase Likes but then can’t reach those users in the News Feed.

But you know what? That falls on us. The 38 brands that reached me during this 24 hour period have provided compelling content that inspires me to interact with them in some way. As a result, I see their content regularly.

Sure, filtering content certainly does fatten Facebook’s pocketbooks by making it more necessary to advertise. But — separating my roles as a user from that of a brand for a moment — I fully believe that it also improves my experience consuming content on Facebook.

The filtering isn’t perfect. Maybe Facebook should expand the number of stories highlighted in News Feed per day to 500. Maybe users should be given an unfiltered option.

But what I’m not seeing here is filtering done for the sole purpose of screwing brands, at the expense of user experience. If you want to reach more Fans organically, you need to compete with the mounds of content that users could see every day. To be “preferred,” you need to do one of two things: 1) Be awesome or 2) Pay to reach them.

Or you could do both and get even greater results!

What do you think? Are you seeing what you want to see in your News Feed? Let me know your thoughts 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).

  • Julie Gallaher

    You consider Mashable, Techcrunch and The Onion brands? I consider them news media. What about brands whose primary product isn’t content? Businesses that sell product or services didn’t seem to do well in your survey.

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

      I consider anything that falls within a page a brand in this case.

      I don’t like many pages that fall under a product model, to be honest. And if I do, I doubt I interact with them.

      • Julie Gallaher

        I had read that Facebook was giving more emphasis to news media in the feed to better compete with Twitter. I specialize in working with small businesses – hotels. restaurants, salons, auto repair, etc. How are they impacted by this?

        • Tracy Wisneski

          Important question, Julie. Perhaps you could conduct a similar experiment on your own page and share those results with us.
          I’d guess that small business brands likely have less interaction, but it would be very interesting to test.

          • Guest101

            Yes. One thing I noticed is that these organic posts from brands are from really big brands. Small pages with a few hundred or a few thousand people are not represented in this breakdown. I often have to go hunting for page posts I want to see from smaller pages I have liked. In fact, the smaller the page, the harder I have to work to find their posts. I have even visited these pages be search after I have “liked” them in order to see what’s new.

    • kgal1298

      I wonder if that’s because of lack of interaction. I know my issue with product related brands I follow is that they don’t post anything relevant to talk about. Most of the time from them I see “We have a new product”…I saw it I don’t click the link and I don’t comment so FB would never see that as relevant to me, which if that’s the case then that would explain the lack of newsfeed stories those brands can reach. Maybe Jon has different insight, but I wonder if that’s the case there.

      • Adrijus Guscia

        Agreed. Average Small Business doesn’t send multiple updates a day, it’s good if they do 2 updates a week. So no wonder they don’t do well. The less activity the less exposure. No one’s fault but your own!

  • Gabe Smith

    Thank you for this post, Jon. I have a should we be focusing on the engagement as the primary metric for increasing our reach?

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

      That hasn’t changed much, Gabe. You always want some sort of click from your Fans. Otherwise, they are ignoring you. Whether that means Facebook hides your content from them in the future or not, being ignored is not what you want!

      • Brian Souders

        This drives me nuts. Just because people don’t click doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you. Consumer A sees your post about an event in the newsfeed ad attends the event. Consumer B is a “fan” of your brand and likes everything. He sees your post about an event in the newsfeed and automatically clicks “Like.” Which one is more valuable? Just because you can measure stuff doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Last time I checked, companies are still buying billboards and stadium advertising.

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

          Sure, but which group of people would you be most willing to bet saw value in your post:

          1) 1,000 people who didn’t click anything
          2) 1,000 people who clicked

          There may be some value in those who didn’t click, but let’s be real. If someone NEVER clicks — I’m not talking about not clicking a single post, but not clicking for an extended period of time — the odds they care about your content are pretty slim.

          • Brian Souders

            No doubt. But I believe there are people using Facebook as a “News Feed,” wanting to SEE info on their favorite relatives, friends and brands. They look at a post or a picture, think “Cool,” and move on. It makes a mark on them, but they just don’t think it’s SO cool or important that it’s worth clicking like or commenting or sharing. I’m curious in research on how people really feel/interact with Facebook posts – I bet for most, lots of stuff is interesting, but it has to be REALLY cool to get a click. Others mindlessly click everything a brand/person posts. My point is that Clicks/Engagement shouldn’t be the only metric that matters, as you wrote. Maybe for your business, that is critical; but we sell $10,000+ vehicles that people sometimes take a year or two to decide to buy. It helps to be in their feeds showing them cool stuff/events so when they make a decision, its in our favor.

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

            “They look at a post or a picture, think “Cool,” and move on. It makes a mark on them, but they just don’t think it’s SO cool or important that it’s worth clicking like or commenting or sharing.”

            This is my point. You don’t need to like/comment/share to tell Facebook you like something. Just clicking the comments to read them, click a photo or link tells them what they need to know. That’s how Facebook knows what I like. I rarely interact with brands.

          • Matteus Åkesson

            Great exchange, Brian and Jon! I think the mistake a lot of people make is to see Facebook as an “sender-reciever” information channel, instead of a “sharing” place for interaction. I think we TALK about sharing but most people just don’t understand that it’s truly different from sending. Facebook will punish posts that people don’t click on in any way. In other words, if what they want is to be reminded of something, or confirm something they already know – find somewhere else than Facebook to share this with them – such as your website. On Facebook, share clickable stuff. If you send out things where people only have to look and move on to be satisfied, they will stop seeing it and stop being satisfied. (Or forget about you).

  • Julie Gallaher

    Great info, by the way

  • Berend44

    Would be interesting to see what the percentages are of 4 hours back and then check it 3 times a day. Don’t think people actually check out the full 24 hours.

  • http://www.wisemetrics.com/ Stephane Allard

    Hi Jon, great study. Very interesting. How many Pages are you subscribing to? That would be interesting insights considering only 38 of them have been displayed on your news feed.

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

      A few hundred, Stephane, but it’s tough to say what that means over a 24 hour period. Many aren’t that active.

      • http://www.wisemetrics.com/ Stephane Allard

        Yes indeed. Another element to consider : since Facebook has introduced the new link post format, it takes a lot more screen estate than previously. Thus Facebook can show less posts in the news feed.

  • Jason Nyback

    Jon, your exactly right. I’ve got over 24,000 Fans on Facebook and really work hard on the engagement with them. Since last Friday my average post reach is up about 300% to 400% and holding. And it was good before the Friday Facebook changes but since then it’s got even better.

    The biggest reason – engagement! I find that it is a bit of work but well worth the effort in terms of results (sales, new coaching students, newsletter subscribers, exc).

    Great post man!

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

      Love it, Jason! Here’s the thing. If one brand is getting knocked out of the News Feed, SOMEONE is benefitting. Sounds like it’s you!

  • Eric Leszkowicz

    Thank you for doing all the statistical work on this.

    I actually was amazed that the ads were as low as they were, but I guess they may seem more prevalent since they appear early in the feed each time you visit?

    The only correct that needs to be made is that you need to spend less time getting information on the Packers and more on the Kansas City Chiefs. I think that would improve quality of life.

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

      Hah! The Packers certainly don’t help my quality of life right now!

  • msaffer

    This makes absolute total sense. I am like you were I rarely comment or like posts but am always clicking through to read articles. That explains why I see many many posts for certain page throughout one day!

    Great insight once again!

  • http://www.WindyCityParrot.com/ Mitch Rezman

    We’re currently spending zero on FB ads by design but will re – visit ads after the first of the year. In the meantime our organic reach has tripled in the past 90 days (just beginning to hit 6 figures) in spite of lining Mr Z’s pockets with our pennies. this same argument (pay to play) has bounced around Google & Adwords for the past 5 or 6 years. Trust me Facebook is on the same page as Google is with Hummingbird – Quality Content + engagement on Facebook is like clickthrough/bounce-rate on google.

    BTW we’re staying with a 100% Image/post strategy which in theory should be working against us. according to everything I’ve read. We keep our posts down to less than 30 words. So much as you demonstrated Jon – it’s all about testing.

    • http://www.commerceforcreatives.com/ Steve Fisher

      Yeah, if it’s working for your audience who cares what “should” be working against you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jensmithsocial Jen Smith

      Totally in agreement with you Mitch that FB is on the same page with Google’s recent Hummingbird algorithm change. My SEO clients that have generated engaging and CONSISTENT content weren’t penalized by Google and I believe that Facebook’s update will be similar. Great post Jon…as always :)

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

        Good comparison to Google. I’m really happy I never learned much of anything about SEO beyond knowing I needed to create a lot of quality content focused on a single niche. No penalties, but better yet, I’m getting HUGE benefits while the cheaters get buried!

  • kgal1298

    The part of the news feed change I don’t like and I don’t see as an improvement is the bump up of old stories and I changed my feed to show me most recent. Not sure if this is an internal issue they are having or I’m just incredibly lucky to have it effect my feed. Was that included in your analysis as well? Or do you not see the bumped up posts at all?

    As well some brands I will see the same story twice, but I think to notice that you’d have to be on for a week since some brands I believe just double post the story.

    In the mean time it’s true you can change your reach…did reach go down? Yes, which is noticeable, but it’s likely those are just people who didn’t interact with you to begin with and only saw the post. In the mean time my post reach keeps going up and down this week it’s up 83% from last week. Most of what I learned is it depends on the content. I can do quite well with certain stories rather than others. For example when I have to share videos I get very poor engagement verse say doing a gallery post or a share from another page. I think it just comes down to knowing your audience though and catering the social content you release to that.

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

      I definitely see story bumping, and such stories were included in my past 24 hour analysis. I didn’t separate those, however.

      Yeah, this is why I really don’t pay much attention to Reach, particularly regarding small sample sizes. It’s up, it’s down, it’s all around. And it often has a whole lot to do with the quality of my content.

  • Jeff Norman

    Hey Jon,

    TLDR: Have you written any posts on how Brands can improve their organic + viral reach, as well as their PTAT stat, and not have to resort to paid reach?

    Thank you so much for this well-studied and analytic approach to discerning the truth for marketers about Facebook’s PDF on paid vs. organic reach, as Facebook continues to mature as a revolutionary platform.

    I completely agree with your conclusion that it’s up to us as marketers to program content that will resonate with our audience, and that we’ll know the success of that programming based on how our audience responds. Vivid and engaging content coming from a Page we’ve already Liked should, in theory (and as we seem from your research) in practice as well, lead to Brands and advertisers seeing natural growth and positive like/comment/share response via organic reach. And with such response, organic reach should grow in kind.

    HOWEVER: How can Facebook possibly discern whether or not my Brand’s fans actually like my content, when it only organically reaches an infinitesimal percentage of them?

    My page, for example, is relatively small at about 1300 likes. My most recent post — based COMPLETELY on organic reach — was only seen by 85 people. That’s only 6.3% of my Fanbase!

    And it would be one thing if Facebook had shown a percentage of my posts to ALL of my fans, and, based on only 6.3% of them actually being interested, decided to only show my posts to 85 people (and that’s including fans AND non-fans reached in the newsfeed via stories fans created… not even sure what % of that 85 are actually my fans!)

    BUT — I have NEVER reached more than 10% of my fanbase organically via Facebook. Every “hit” post on my page has benefited from page reach. And that proves my theory — if more of my fans saw my posts…. MORE OF THEM WOULD LIKE/COMMENT/SHARE!

    Facebook apparently has implemented an algorithm that has it the other way around: if more people would like/comment/share your posts, we would show it to more of your fans. But that’s ineffective. Particularly for small-fry pages such as mine.

    Because I don’t spend hours and hours curating and planning and timing my content for nothing. Like so many of us, I’m a meticulous + dedicated marketer who does much research to determine what works for my Fans, and what won’t.

    Furthermore, this begins to impact an EXTREMELY important “virality” metric for marketers — the People Talking About Us statistic. What I’ve found: the more posts I promote with paid reach, the more fans like/comment/share, and the higher my PTAT rises. When I go even ONE DAY without promoting a post… my PTAT stumbles. Therefore, it could be argued that PTAT is a for-pay statistic that doesn’t really benefit from organic reach — unless you’re George Takei.

    Thanks, Jon

    –Jeff

    facebook.com/bobonoirhollywood

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

      In theory, you should reach more people you don’t normally reach as those you do reach interact with your content at a higher rate. Also, advertising to reach those you don’t normally reach will help if they interact with that ad.

    • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

      Jeff- Honestly speaking looking at your page I can see why your posts aren’t getting interaction. They are either way too lengthy or confusing. On many you post in both English and French which for someone that only speaks English I was confused, and likely vise versa for French speaking individuals.

      Also I notice your post popular city is listed as Paris, yet you are mainly talking about things happening in L.A., which is fine, but is not going to appeal to your French followers.

      You should consider targeting your posts by language or country so that French posts only show to French speakers, and English post to English speakers. Also you’re a comedian, which is cool as I love going to comedy clubs, yet I see hardly anything comedy related in your posts.

      I’d re-evaluate what you are posting and who you are posting it to…

  • http://www.commerceforcreatives.com/ Steve Fisher

    Jon,

    Is there anything else you did as part of this? I like the idea but a sample size of one isn’t really doing it for me.

    At the very least I’d like to try it myself and see how my own feed compares with your’s.

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

      Nothing all that complicated here. I did exactly what I described. Just went story by story and documented where it came from until I reached a post that was time stamped as “yesterday.”

      • http://www.commerceforcreatives.com/ Steve Fisher

        Just making sure.

        It’s easy to skip a detail or two and end up with results which aren’t really comparable.

        Actually, what time did you start the check?

        Thanks.

        -S

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

          Hah! Not positive on the time. It was probably around this time yesterday.

  • JennBrooks

    Excellent!

  • http://www.youbeingsocial.com/ Jennifer Quinn

    Jon, thanks for doing this work and posting your findings. Definitely will share!

  • Claire Chesneau

    I know my part of the UK is the backwoods compared to the sort of work that you doing, but what I am seeing is just what you are describing – FB shows me the interesting stuff I want and doesn’t bother me with ‘straight ads’ pretending to be content. The same result from my reach figures – if I am dull/boring (currently the local museum’s endeavours..) I get ignored, if I touch on the ‘scandal of the day’ (parking restrictions) my figures light up and I am suddenly ‘reaching’ 1000 people (big stuff for me).

  • Adam Phillips

    Nice post! I’m curious – in your findings did you notice if certain post types (links, status updates) appeared more than others (photos and videos). There is plenty of talk in the industry about Facebook being more “news” focused, this would favour posts that are more informative as opposed to strictly visual..

    Do you think that your analysis might have been affected by the type of brands that you follow, seeing how the ones that you listed are news sites and primarily stick to posting links?

    Thanks,

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

      I didn’t dig that far, Adam. But good question! I think there were a lot of friend photos, to be honest. After that, lots of link shares from brands.

  • http://www.thatsupergirl.com/ Nikole Gipps

    I love how thorough you with with this, Jon. Great work!

  • gregcooper

    Even if Facebook changes the algorithm and it does punish brands, Facebook doesn’t owe brands anything, especially non-advertising brands. Facebook is in the market to make money. Not to give brands free advertising.

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

      They’re also in the market for creating good user experience. Getting flooded by bad brand messaging is not a good user experience.

      • gregcooper

        Exactly. I don’t understand why there are brands (but lets face it, most of them are small businesses) complaining when Facebook makes any change. Here’s a thought, maybe what you post is worthless. It doesn’t contribute anything to the community.

        • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

          Most complaining are crappy internet marketers.. translated as freeloaders…

  • http://bakedsocialmedia.com/ Russell Allert

    I would be interested to know how many pages/brands you like, Jon. And how many of those you DID NOT see in that 24 hour period.

    I think this would put your (amazing) research into a better perspective.

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

      I like a few hundred, Russell, but that doesn’t mean much. Since it’s over a 24-hour period, I’d have to go page-by-page to see how many of those pages published anything. I’m guessing fewer than 50% (maybe quite a bit less) are active every day.

      • http://bakedsocialmedia.com/ Russell Allert

        I understand what you are saying, Jon, but even if only 25% of those pages posted something in that 24 hour period, that’s 75 pages (based on 300 pages) who never managed to get on to your newsfeed.

        By Liking a page I am assuming you have an interest in them and therefore some of them would have posted something you would have been interested in.

        I do like your experiment, but it is limited in both scope and context (that’s not to say it is not useful).

        By NOT including those pages that posted something you are interested in which never made it into your feed, you are only telling half the story.

        Of course, this would also depend on how much you interact with these other pages compared to the ones you have listed in your article – but this goes to my point of not having all the evidence.

        Again, great article but I would like more information (but understand why you don’t want to go to that depth as it would be time-consuming).

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

          Meh. There’s a lot of stuff I like that I like because I “like” it. I really don’t care if I see it in my News Feed. And exactly. I probably never interacted with them, which is why I don’t see them as much.

  • FJ

    Excellent work, Jon! Objective analysis, very powerful and clear.

  • Ivan

    Is jonloomer.com a Facebook subsidiary? Be honest… Your “experiments” — if they’re are to be believed (lots of gullible people out there who’ll buy into *any* study they read) — are of the head-scratching variety. Apart from a commenter that says “I spent $1 on FB ads and had a $3 trillion return!” or the guy who says “I never spent a dime on FB and our Likes and Shares have grown by 1,443,453,458% in the last year!” EVERY SINGLE FB page owner I know/have inquired (not millions; just a couple of dozen or so) has seen a MARKED drop in page views/likes/shares on FB in the last 12-18 months. Not ONE exception. Oh, it’s because they’re doing it *wrong*. Never mind the fact that they (and myself) seemed to be doing it just right a couple of years ago… And maybe your feed is kept clean because of some deal you have with the FB Powers That B — but on my feed, the number of ads has grown exponentially in the last year. Again: Is jonloomer.com a Facebook subsidiary? Be honest…

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

      Hilarious. No.

      Guess what? My reach has dropped. I don’t care about reach in general. I care about specific actions.

      And you know what? I also understand that we as brands are intruding on a natural experience between friends and family. So I fully realize that if we suck — if we don’t find a way to be engaging — people will ignore us. And in that case, Facebook has every right to apply the same rules they apply to us that they apply to users. If we’re ignored, we won’t be shown to that person often unless we do something awesome.

      I make no guarantees. I profit from Facebook marketing. But it takes a ton of hard work. There are no shortcuts. And I don’t recommend you go after cheap likes and don’t tell you that you can make millions or billions by just being there.

      I recommend you keep reading my posts. I think you’ll find I’m pretty straight forward. It’s why I share my own data.

      • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

        You mean you don’t work for Zuck? Come on man!

  • Guest

    Great research as always, Jon.

    My qualm is this: The people who Liked my page opted in for a reason. On some level, they must have found something I’m doing worth their Like. While I understand Facebook’s dual goal (to serve users with relevant content and make a profit doing so), I think the user should be largely responsible for actively, rather than passively, deciding what makes it in their feed.

    As a user myself, I don’t need Facebook to determine what updates I receive from pages I’ve opted in to any more than I need MailChimp/Aweber/etc. to decide what emails I should receive if I’ve opted in to someone’s list.

    If I don’t find the content valuable any more, I’ll happily opt out or hide the content.

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

      This is the typical argument, Jonathan, but I don’t buy it. I like TONS of pages, and most of the time it’s just because I actually like something about the product. I don’t care if I see them in the News Feed.

      You know what? As soon as I like that page, I will see their content in the News Feed because my activity was recent. Facebook will take that Page Like as a sign that they want to see it.

      But if you can’t grab them — if they don’t interact with you or click ANYTHING — Facebook will eventually favor something they actually care about over your content.

      This isn’t just Pages. As you saw, I still see PLENTY of brand content. But I don’t see all of my friend content either. And if I never click anything they post, I probably won’t see much of their stuff.

      There are about 300 slots available for a 24 hour period. You need to live with that. And your job is to get into as many of those 300 slots as possible. You do that by creating great content and getting any kind of engagement that you can.

    • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

      Yeah I’ve Liked over 4000 Pages. There is no way in the world I could ever consume all of the content that comes from those pages in addition to nearly 700 friends and not counting Lists I follow or other people I follow. An algorithm must be in place to show me the content from pages/people I most interact with. Just because I like Coca-Cola doesn’t mean I want to see their posts. Maybe we should be more careful with what we Like, but the average user isn’t and could care less about Reach and etc.. And the average user will not “opt out” or hide the content.. They’ll just stop engaging with your page if your posts suck…

  • http://www.8sd.com/ Gareth Everson

    This will be an excellent, fact-based benchmark that’s in your armoury and you can add to over time whenever this topic comes up, Jon. I know it will have taken plenty of time to create this, but it’s a great ‘authority’ positioning piece for you.

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

      Thanks, Gareth!

  • http://www.spiderworking.com/ Amanda Webb

    I’m pretty sure that Facebook wants to keep user experience good and at the moment that means not too many ads (and well targeted ads when I do see them) and a slow moving feed that I can digest. I think as businesses we often forget why people go and use Facebook. It’s not to look at what my business page is doing today, it’s to interact with friends. I’d love it if all pages produced great content, I’d also love it if my friends didn’t share dodgy stuff too!

    Didn’t Facebook say recently that they were going to prioritise ‘news stories’. I assumed this meant we’d see more reach on our links and news in general. I’m watching and hoping. Having said that Facebook is my top social referrer to my website and those who visit from the web do tend to stick around, so maybe it’s already working. Mashable and TechCrunch mostly post links and newsy links, maybe that’s behind the large amount of content you see from them.

    Finally, do you think Insights might be a bit broken at the moment? Do you remember a couple of weeks ago that the stats went missing for a day? I’m still seeing suspiciously low stats on some updates, sometimes I’m getting more likes and comments than I am views.

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

      Exactly! So many brands forget, Amanda, that brands are intruding on the “social” of Facebook. While I invite some posts from brands, I’m truly there to interact with friends. If nothing comes from brands in a day, I really don’t care.

      Yes on the news stories. I’m with you. I hope to see an impact there as well. There was a report released recently that shows an uptick in referral traffic, but that seemed to be more about the new like button. Still worth noticing.

      Reach is always broken, which is one reason I ignore it. There have been several times when everything suddenly goes to single digit Reach for no reason. I smile and ignore it. Really don’t care.

  • Sarah

    I also follow Mashable and have noticed that they tend to post something every hour, making it more likely it will show up. It’s exhausting as a consumer, but seems like it is working, as your research proves. Do you think there is something to be said for increasing our daily posts to maximize reach and interactions versus finding the best time or day to post?

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

      I do! See my post for today!

      • Sarah

        And I see that now! Facebook just got more exhausting for brands! Good tips. Thanks!

  • Amanda Brazel

    Hi Jon, thank you for the very straightforward scientific approach to this very hot topic. I like your style. I am writing strictly as a fan of facebook and not a marketer even though I am in the social marketing field.

    My question is why does Facebook try and ‘control’ the content that is being shown in my newsfeed at all? I mean after all, I chose to like a page or brand or person for a reason, which says I’d like to be connected with them. Why is Facebook even attempting to ‘judge’ what I want to see and what I don’t want to see. I know for a fact there are many brands that I am not connected to that I want to be connected to and truthfully I’d rather be the one who decides to stop following a page, a brand or even a friend for that matter.

    I realize there are no easy answers for the many complicated issues that arise from running a social network. However, I have to believe there is a better answer. I don’t mind paying Facebook for the opportunity to market my business. I also know it is up to me to create quality content and offers. I am a business owner and I get it. However, it seems they just make it so hard and complicated. It feels like they are trying to be something they are not and it seems they have more upset, frustrated fans then happy ones. It used to be so much fun. Now it just seems complicated and controlled in a way that folks don’t want it to be.

    Thank you again for your insights.

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

      Hi, Amanda! Well, Facebook says that based on their testing, people interact far more with a filtered feed, and I believe it. Keep in mind again that they know what you interact with most.

      Without the filtered feed, Facebook is Twitter. I like a few hundred brands, and my News Feed would be taken over by their marketing messages. My response would either be to unlike hundreds of pages or use Facebook less often.

      People often complain about Facebook reach, but how many followers do you reach with a single tweet on Twitter? That’s what you’d be looking at with an unfiltered feed.

  • Stefano

    Hi Jon,

    Great post, congrats.

    Just one thing. To take your first answer even farther you could consider the following data:

    Go to the brands pages and, over the same period of time, count if the number of posts they posted are the same number of posts you saw on your newsfeed.

    Maybe, Mashable posted more than 16 posts, TechCrunch more than 15 and so on. In which case would make sense to claim that “just some of the posts are shown”.

    If you could still update with this data we all would appreciate.

    All the best

  • Molly P.

    You are so right when stating “you need to do one of two things: 1) Be awesome or 2) Pay to reach them”. We have been struggling with the drop in reach the past few months, also. Recently, whenever making a post that links to a blog article we have only received 15-20 clicks. After backing a post now with only $5 our reach has increased 70x but most importantly, we are receiving 400-500 clicks.

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

      NICE!

  • Patrick C

    “When I looked through that list of 38 Pages, these were definitely all brands I care about most (or have interacted with recently).”

    The “(or have interacted with recently)” part of this statement is really interesting to me. I’ve been chewing on this a lot lately & actually just started testing a bit.

    My question is: Can a brand increase the Organic (or Fan) Reach of an organic Facebook Post by prefacing it with a (perhaps slightly off brand) post whose sole purpose is to drive social engagement?

    I know that sounds sketchy – like an attempt to game the system – but hear me out…

    For example, let’s say I’m operating an ecommerce site and I want to drive traffic to a landing page (off Facebook) for a “limited time sale” that I am running. I create a great graphic & engaging copy for an organic post to inform my fans of the, let’s say, 20% off sale.

    Does that organic post containing that link have a better chance of reaching more fans (and thus potentially getting more clicks) if an hour before posting it, I post some sort of funny meme or “linkbait” type post that gets a heightened amount of engagement? Certainly the folks who Like, Comment, Share or click on that meme/”linkbait” have an elevated probability of seeing the “20% off sale” post that’s coming next.

    I’m not necessarily encouraging this or saying it’s an ethical or solid content marketing strategy (or maybe it is) – that’s a whole ‘nother discussion – but nonetheless I think it’s a super interesting tactic to study.

    Essentially it’s just the age old psychological (and marketing) strategy of priming: “an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus.” In essence, the Facebook News Feed algo is inherently designed for priming, so why shouldn’t brands take advantage of that?

    Food for thought…

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

      In theory, yes. That’s the way Last Actor should work. And you wouldn’t even need to be “gaming” anything. I know that when I share links, my engagement won’t be as good as when I share a text update. Text updates are simply more conversational. Or if I were to share a photo with a new feature, people will click it and comment if they have it yet. With my link shares, I get link clicks and a few likes, comments and shares, but different types of engagement.

      So, yeah. It would make sense if I did a text or photo share (like I normally do) an hour or so before I announce a product launch. I say an hour or so because — and I can’t say for sure — but I’ve always felt that if I post back-to-back Facebook will throttle me. And that makes sense. Posting a few minutes later is annoying.

  • Paul Kozar

    You should cut out the Packers feed and you would have that many more interesting posts replacing it.

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

      HEY NOW!

  • http://www.TheMarketingSpot.com Jay Ehret

    Jon, Great work, and this is an excellent snapshot of the current state. However it does nothing to compare with how things were, say three months ago. So it cannot comparatively answer the question of brands being squeezed.

    One thing occurred to me in reading you post and the the comments below, Mashable is getting a lot of visibility. Curiously, Mashable has started showing up prominently in my feed when it rarely used to show. Makes me wonder if Mashable and Facebook have a “special relationship” to show more often without being pegged as a sponsored post.

  • http://www.myrlandmarketing.com Nancy Myrland Marketing|Social

    Hi, Jon…very thorough post and analysis, thank you. Could the reasonable % of ads have anything to do with this timeframe being sandwiched between what we used to see as better organic reach and the realization by brands that they need to start spending money and advertising on Facebook….meaning the number of ads hasn’t caught up with Facebook’s new reality? I don’t know the answer, just curious if this could be contributing to what you observed. Thanks!

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

      The number of ads actually shouldn’t change since Facebook has a fixed amount of real estate.

  • Kevser

    Organic reach of my fan page of 240K has declined nearly %60 as of 7 December. Ok Facebook has changed its altgorithm and I have been affected. But when I look at the reach numbers of my rivals I see that thay have not been experiencing any decline. Does this change not affcet all of the pages? If not, how Facebook chooses who to decline? Thanks in advance..

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

      It doesn’t affect all pages. My understanding is that it impacts about 75%, and some have seen an increase. It all comes down to user behavior.

  • letrain

    I just went through and quickly performed a similar experiment on my own personal Facebook page and looking at the last 100 posts in my newsfeed, 53% came from pages, 20% was from friends, 18% from Business Insider (which, lately, has been dominating my news feed to the point that I’m ready to hit “unlike”), and 9% were ads or sponsored stories. Mind you, of the posts that I saw from pages, all posts came from the same 10-12 or so pages of the 423 pages I’ve liked. I realize that they all differ in their posting behavior, and that contributes to that number, but I’ve noticed lately that pages that I used to see in my feed, and that I interacted with (like, clicked, shared or commented) have been non-existent in my timeline, no matter what time of day I check in on my account (which could be 7 p.m. or 2 a.m.). Your post is very interesting, but I’m not seeing the same results in my personal feed.

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

      Very interesting. I’ll first say that 100 posts is a very small sample size, but I know it takes time to go through it all! Personally, 53% is a TON of organic page content. It’s Facebook, after all, so you’d expect to see more posts from friends. My suggestion: If you want to see more from certain pages, go back into those pages you think aren’t being represented and actively participate. Facebook is obviously taking some sort of cues from you to show what they are.

  • Tracy Wisneski

    Love to see solid research behind articles!

  • Matteus Åkesson

    I have one question. The stories that I see in my right-hand side ticker – are they the filtered feed, or the full feed?

    And a comment – one type of story I’d gladly see not at all is a post I can’t like or comment on, because the poster doesn’t allow friends of friends (that’s me) to comment. I’d say that’s really lousy optimization by facebook. Why not show me a nice commercial ad instead? At least I could do something with it – or know to ignore it! I don’t exactly feel welcome when I can look in on my friend’s conversation with a their friend, without being allowed to participate.

  • filippo

    Interesting test John. I noticed pretty much the same results on my business pages and news feed. I also noticed another fact: facebook posts without external links (to the original blog post for example) have much more reach, than facebook posts with external links. Did you or anyone notice the same thing?

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

      Links in general have shown to get low reach for quite some time. But that will depend on the virality of the link. In general, if it’s a marketer trying to get someone to go somewhere, there’s less trust involved — and it’s more work for the reader. Users are much more likely to engage with a text update or photo, which will also result in more reach.

  • Michelle Pescosolido

    Very nice experiment….

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