Cara Pring

What do the latest Facebook changes mean for brand pages?

We've all heard loads about all the recent and upcoming changes to Facebook - the new Timeline profile layout, the Ticker, the Open Graph app functionality etc. But what does this mean for Pages? Zuckers has been pretty quiet on this matter, and there's some mixed opinions out there. So is it good for us Page admins, or bad? Will it decrease post impressions, or help with our engagement? It's certainly not an easy question to answer, but here's the closest I could come to a conclusion.

Facbook LoginIf you haven’t heard about all the latest changes (and upcoming changes) to Facebook, then you should probably ask yourself what you are doing on a digital marketing and media blog, because you are clearly living in a cave.  By now we are pretty well across the ticker and the upcoming timeline, as well as have some understanding of the increased app integration we can expect in the near future.

The glaring omission from all of these Facebook announcements has really been what all of this means for brands and their Facebook pages. Is it good news or bad news, or will it make absolutely no difference? It’s pretty damn unlikely it will make no difference given the gravity of the changes, so that leaves us with two options: good or bad. Or, maybe mixed.  The jury is still out on the overall answer, but here’s a few points to consider so that you may get some idea how it may affect your page:

Theory 1: It’s bad because your page posts are less visible to fans on their newsfeed

A recent post from All Facebook argued that the recent changes to Facebook – including the introduction of the ‘Ticker’- have led to a substantial drop in posts from pages appearing in the news feed of fans.  In their words, “The new Facebook news feed has practically erased from users’ homepages all brands that don’t buy advertising.” Is it true? 

Looking at my own feed I can still see a mix of brand posts – granted most of them are the ‘bigger’ pages (who probably do do advertising), but there’s at least one in there that is a much smaller player (and I’m pretty sure I’ve never interacted with any of its posts previously). Jury = still out.

Next stop: Page Insights. Looking at the insights from some of the pages I am admin for, has the impression data changed significantly?  Did impressions decrease post roll-out around September 20? This was interesting. The largest page I’m admin for (almost 100,000 fans) attracted 115,574 impressions for a post on 19 September, but just 11,561 for a post on 21 September. A post on 22 September attracted just over 24,000 impressions. Something was going on here – maybe this Ticker feature was ruining our reach. I promptly emailed my Facebook rep, asking for answers. What was going on? Why was Facebook biting the hand that fed it? This page in question was paying for a decent Facebook advertising campaign, so why was Zuckers doing this to our community? WHY!!!!???

My trusty contact emailed me back almost immediately, with the official Facebook explanation:

Because of an issue with Page Insights, Page posts impressions for Sept 20th and 21th are lower in Insights than the number of impressions that were actually delivered. We will not be able to recover the data for these two days.

Right, well that explained that problem.

Furthermore, he said:

We also heard confusion about the distribution of Page likes and post comments. Page likes and post comments are still appearing in News Feed and we did not change the algorithm in News Feed to favor friends. 

Which wasn’t exactly the question I was asking, but seemed to me to indicate Facebook wasn’t displaying fewer page posts than before because it hadn’t changed the algorithm.

To be fair, the engagement we got on the posts was probably fairly standard. Two of the posts achieved fairly poor engagement levels, but were not great content (damn marketing forcing me to post about sales!), whereas two posts in this period received higher than usual engagement. Personally I’m of the opinion that the Ticker isn’t sabotaging your Page posts.

Inevitably not all of your fans will see your content in the newsfeed anyway – there is always likely to be other posts that will take precedence over yours. However, if everything is published in the Ticker, at least you have a greater chance that more people might see it when you post in real-time. Maybe the answer is to post more frequently (as some have suggested), but you do need to be careful you don’t spam your fans because it’s not going to help your impressions or engagement levels if people unlike your page or permanently hide your posts.

Theory 2: It’s good because it allows better connection and more effective targeting

Others – namely Facebook itself – have purported that the new Timeline and Open Graph / apps functionality is going to make life easier (and better) for brands. Of course, they mainly mean brands that spend money advertising or creating applications, but still. Basically the argument is that the further integration with apps will allow better targeting for advertisers. For example a Promoter trying to sell tickets to an Offspring concert can now target not only everyone who ‘likes’ the Offspring page on Facebook, but also anyone who has listened to an Offspring song using the  Spotify app, or any other music-related Open Graph application. I can see how this would be quite handy for brands looking to target very specific audiences. 

The Open Graph apps also open up an opportunity for brands to develop their own applications to strengthen their connection with Facebook users and customers.  If you can get people to use your application, which automatically shares the interactions they have with you/your app/your site, you can imagine how your brand awareness might increase.  Of course, contrary to what many people are reporting, users will need to click a ‘Add to timeline’ button to have the information from the application shared with their friends. You can read more about all of this stuff in Facebook’s ‘f8 for marketers’ document here.


Theory 3: Mixed ramifications…

The last theory, and probably the one that is closer to the truth, is that there will be mixed ramifications for page admins as a result of all of these changes. Some, as listed above, will be good – particularly for bigger brands that have the money to put towards targeted advertising and fancy applications.  Other brands, who probably found it difficult to get their posts on even the old News Feed due to the algorithm Facebook employs to try and keep things ‘relevant’, might enjoy the opportunity to feature in the Ticker, even if it is only there for a fleeting few minutes.  A few minutes visibility is by far better than none at all.

Other consequences might be negative – like potentially less visibility in the prominent News Feed, where the core engagement is going to happen.  But there’s other potential negative results. For example, the new Timeline profile format erases a lot of the smaller, less relevant actions you take on Facebook. In the past when people have been stalking you, they have seen the pages you have ‘liked’ or the applications you are interacting with, and this information remained on your profile – forever (or not as it would now seem). They may have had to scroll a bit, but they would see it nonetheless.  Now, the Timeline lists a few of your ‘recent activity’ posts, which  might include these things, but this is quickly replaced with even more recent activity.  Given the Timeline is all about the major events and stories of your life, I don’t think it’s going to include the interactions you’ve had with pages and applications on there, unless you choose (for some strange reason) to manually ‘feature’ them yourself.

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s still something that isn’t going to help pages. In saying that, I quite like the new Timeline format myself. If you’re impatient like me and would like to get it now instead of waiting for Zuckers to roll it out to you, you can find out how to do so here


What about Timelines for pages?

IN the past when the Facebook team have rolled out changes to users’ profiles, they have eventually followed suit for pages.  My guess is that Facebook pages will eventually get their own Timeline format.  Zuckers didn’t mention anything to do with this at f8, or subsequently, but it seems like a reasonable bet.  What would this mean? It would mean you would have greater ability to shape the story that is told about your business. You could post about sales and time-sensitive announcements, but feature just the important and positive events and stories on your timeline. 

The Timeline is also much more visual, which would likely see an increase in engagement over a longer term, rather than just within the first few hours or days.

This could certainly be an exciting opportunity.

Have you noticed less page posts in your feed lately? Or a drop in engagement on your posts since September 20ish? What impact do you think these changes will have on your page?

 


COMMENTS

Posted by Mark Parker, 27 September 2011

Cara,
In reading your notes, I can't help get the feeling that Facebook has made a conscious move to start to focus on the big end of town and may, over the next 12 months or so, become less of a useful or cost effective tool for SME's.

So many of your thoughts here seem to include the underlying principle that 'all is OK if you're a big brand who's giving Facebook tonnes of cash'!

So where does this leave the SME brand? Those of us who don't need 100k+ fans but spend a reasonable amount of our marketing budget on (a) constantly updating our fan pages because Facebook keeps changing the system, (b) targeted ads via their ad platform, and/or (c) time, content, and resources (i.e. real money) to create engagement with the relevant micro-segments of the Facebook community.

The broader implications need some further debate

cheers Mark
PS. I enjoy reading what you write Cara, but some of the comments about living in caves/behind the times is getting old...

Posted by Cara Pring, 27 September 2011

Lame attempt at repetitive humour not appreciated: noted.

As for the rest of your comment, I actually disagree - at least to some extent. While obviously the greatest advantages of these changes will benefit the larger brands with more money to spend on advertising and app development, I still think there is a place for SMEs. Firstly don't forget that there are plenty of small businesses engaging in FB advertising - you certainly don't need to spend thousands to get results. Secondly, I don't think the algorithm has been skewed away from small brands (despite what others may say). Certainly for my Facebook page, which only has 320 or so fans (probably due to poor humour) is seeing similar, if not higher engagement on posts since the rollout of the Ticker.

I think you are probably right in that there needs to be further debate, and that is what I'm encouraging with this article. However it's probably still too early to know yet exactly what implications the changes will have or are having, but I'm sure Facebook won't turn its back on any customer base - including SMEs.

Posted by Shona Mackin, 27 September 2011

Its early days and we are keeping a close eye on the pages we manage, so far the majority of pages seem to be increasing in engagement.

It will be interesting to watch how many people freak out with the changes and jump to the "greener grass" of G+ and what the launch of their business pages will mean for business.


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Cara Pring The Social Skinny Cara Pring
Company: The Social Skinny
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Social specialist, founder of thesocialskinny.com and trained ninja. I've been fortunate enough to gain experience in marketing, media, events and social media strategy across a diverse range of industries - government, corporate events, club industry, private health insurance and the airline industry Read Cara's full bio

Latest Articles by Cara

July 17 | Facebook admin etiquette: when is it OK to delete negative comments?
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