If you’ve been promoting your brand and books on Facebook via a Fan Page*, then stories like The Free-Marketing Gravy Train Is Over on Facebook (from Time Magazine’s site) may have you in a tizzy. Don’t be.
Those articles are either intimating, or stating outright, that this is some kind of plot on Facebook’s part to force Fan Page owners to either pay to “boost” their posts or pay for ads in order to maintain the same level of exposure, or “Reach”, as they’ve enjoyed in the past. I don’t doubt Facebook is very much interested in selling “boosts” and ads, but the truth is that you don’t have to invest in either of those things to increase your Fan page posts’ Facebook Reach.
*Note that this post only applies to Fan pages, not individual Facebook Profiles (aka “Timelines”). This is because there are no tools for measuring engagement or boosting posts on Profile/Timeline pages: those pages are supposed to be for private individuals to engage socially with their private networks, they’re not intended to be used for marketing purposes. So if you want to deal in Reach on Facebook, you need a Fan page.
How Do I Know This?
I manage a few FB fan pages for my day job and I’ve been observing the ‘Reach’ trends on both ‘boosted’ (promoted for a fee) posts and non-boosted posts. The ones with the greatest Reach are ALWAYS the ones with the most “engagement”: Likes, clicks, Shares, comments. This is regardless of whether or not a given post has been ‘boosted’, and in fact I frequently see non-boosted posts far exceed the reach of boosted posts.
It’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg loop once the post is out there, because you have to get initial Likes, clicks, Shares and comments to improve the post’s visibility in your Fans’ newsfeeds. Higher visibility leads to more Likes, clicks, Shares and comments, and so on and so on.
FB is keeping the details of their Reach algorithm secret, but based on what I’ve observed it goes kind of like this:
You post something to your fan page. Facebook says, “Okay, we’ll show this post in the newsfeed of a very small test group of your Fans, and see if it gets any engagement. If it does, we’ll show it a larger group. If it gets more engagement from that new group, we’ll show it to an even larger group.” And so on, and so on. So Facebook isn’t just blowing smoke when their reps say the new algorithm is intended to ensure that only the most ‘engaging’ stuff gets pushed to users’ newsfeeds.
Context, and Specifics: How Many People Get To See A Post Immediately, and Ultimately?