Adam Smith

Science & communications officer, ANH-Intl

We’re going to need your help to navigate some choppy waters as social media enters a period of major flux and upheaval.  Can we rely on you to Stick around, Support and Share?

Facebook: From the sublime to the ridiculous

The ongoing, slow-motion spectacle of Facebook taking out a twelve-gauge shotgun, aiming it with precision at its toes and firmly pulling the trigger has reached the critical stage. Following its botched public sale in 2012, Facebook has quickly morphed from a free networking and information-sharing site with formidable reach into a ‘pay per post’ service.

In the brave new Facebook world that we’re rapidly moving toward, a page’s posts will reach a grand total of zero fans – i.e. those who have Liked the page that is the source of the post – in the absence of a payment to Facebook. So-called ‘organic reach’, where posts reach fans directly and non-fans via Likes and shares, for free, will be a thing of the past. The only exception will be personal vs organisation pages, e.g. Adam Smith’s personal page as opposed to that of ANH-Intl. Facebook’s per-post fees to reach significant numbers of people are, as you may have gathered, way out of the reach of specialist, donation-funded, non-profit organisations like ours (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Facebook’s per-post fees to ensure posts reach a certain number of people. These fees, currently optional, will soon become obligatory.

Toward Facebook Zero

Think we’re exaggerating? We wish we were. The problems are laid bare in a white paper by digital consultancy Social@Ogilvy. Facebook’s constant tinkering with its EdgeRank algorithm has already resulted in a 49% collapse in organic reach between 2012 – presumably post-flotation – and February 2014 (Figure 2). According to the white paper, “Facebook sources were unofficially advising community managers to expect [organic reach] to approach zero in the foreseeable future.” Our crystal ball tells us that the number of Facebook users from the donation-funded campaign and social change sector may rapidly go the same way, as they simply can’t afford to throw money at Facebook whenever they wish to communicate with their fans or supporters.

Figure 2. Decline in organic reach on Facebook between October 2013 and February 2014. Taken from Social@Ogilvy white paper, Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach.

Luke Brynley-Jones, founder of Our Social Times, isn't so sure that Facebook is moving toward zero organic reach. He points to Facebook user questionnaires aimed at identifying whether certain promotional posts are perceived as adverts. If Facebook's intention is to request payment from the companies responsible for the more blatantly advert-styled posts, asks Luke, how does that square with Facebook Zero – where everything is, in effect, an advert? Unfortunately, we suspect it's just a stepping stone to the ultimate goal.

Adapting and experimenting

Deeson Creative is our web developer and its considerable social media expertise has evolved alongside Facebook, Twitter and other social media portals. Deeson, with its acknowledged expertise in the field, has provided us with many of the insights that we explore in this piece, so you can be assured it’s far from some lightweight, unsupported conspiracy theory. As Emily Turner of Deeson explains, “Facebook’s recent changes, and similar ones being implemented by other social media sites like LinkedIn, are really a big experiment. No-one knows how the model of paid-for social media is going to work or what the routes to success are. Organisations are going to have to try things and see what works!” 

Call to action

In short, then, we’ll be making it up as we go along, much like everyone else. But, with thanks to Emily, Deeson and their recent Memchat event, here are a few things that we’ll be looking to implement in the near future:

  • Most important by far will be active engagement from our most important advocates – and that’s you guys! Sharing posts remains the most powerful method for widening the organic reach of our posts – so please, Stick around by visiting our page regularly, Support us with Likes and comments and then Share our posts with your Facebook network whenever you can. Remember, very soon you won’t be seeing our posts in your News Feed at all, unless we decide to go for the (expensive, and therefore unlikely) paid option
  • We can also track the success of each post via Facebook’s analytical suite and make changes to our strategy. Now that Facebook is moving to a model where everyone pays, EdgeRank no longer needs to determine which posts should reach a user’s News Feed/home page. In fact, we've heard that Facebook is replacing EdgeRank with the three analytical tools page administrators see when they click the ‘See Insights’ button: Page Likes, Post Reach and Engagement
  • Comments on posts, one form of Engagement, become especially important in the paid-for Facebook era
  • What it all boils down to is that you will only be able to see our posts by visiting the ANH-Intl Facebook page directly; and we need you to Like, share and comment on our posts in order to spread them around. We can then use Facebook analytics to see what kind(s) of posts generate the most Engagement, and tweak our strategy accordingly
  • This will take time, and it remains to be seen whether the gains in terms of getting the ANH-Intl message out via Facebook is worth it for the man-hours we invest in post development and analysis. Since a significant amount of Facebook Engagement comes from fake Likes originating from so-called ‘click farms’, we’re pretty skeptical at this point. After all, when the major result of paying for Facebook posts is an artificial boost in popularity thanks to fake accounts Liking our page, it begins to look like a gigantic scam. Watch the video below to see exactly what we mean! We will, of course, keep you informed
  • We will be looking into alternatives to Facebook, such as Google+. This will be tricky, since the beauty of Facebook was that it was easier than ever to reach an enormous pool of people, from all walks of life and with vastly differing interests and opinions. On many social media alternatives to Facebook, there is the danger of ‘preaching to the converted’
  • In the meantime, please: Stick around by visiting our Facebook page regularly, Support our posts by Liking them and Share everything you think is relevant with your contacts.


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