Is Facebook Meddling With Your News Feed Exposure?

We caught up with Chad Wittman, founder of EdgeRank Checker, to see what factors are affecting the drop in impressions for Facebook pages — whether fans aren’t sharing anymorecontent is less engaging, ads are crowding out organic content, or other factors.

DY: Facebook is now a public company with earnings pressure. The Wall Street Journal surmised that Facebook switched to a paid game. Will running ads help your news feed exposure?

CW: Facebook is the only one that can officially address that question. However, in my opinion, I believe leveraging ads would most likely boost your affinity with the users that engaged with the paid media, meaning that Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm would most likely reward these interactions, even though they are paid for. This would give a higher probability of reaching these users when utilizing organic options in the future. To be clear, this would be the result of engaging paid media efforts, as opposed to Facebook simply issuing preference to advertisers.

DY: Most of us have seen ads in the news feed — up to three on the left and seven on the right, for a total of 10 potential ads per page. And Facebook recently added mobile ad units for applications and enhanced targeting for promoted posts. What does this mean for page owners?

CW: Facebook is an obvious drive to increase revenues. It continues to push the envelope to squeeze out more advertising opportunities. It must walk a fine line between growing revenues and irritating users. Facebook wants to ensure that it can provide a wide gamut of advertising opportunities throughout its network.

The enhanced post targeting announcement was the most intriguing move. The move appears to be an effort to appeal to two different goals. By allowing elaborate targeting right from timeline, this removes a step in the process of applying paid media to your content. It also allows large brands the opportunity to target more specific demographics in the efforts to reach their already acquired fans.

DY: Now that default tabs have gone away and fewer folks are even visiting pages versus just staying in the newsfeed, are apps less important nowadays?

CW: Apps within tabs have definitely taken a big hit. However, apps have still retained value through open graph. An excellent example of an app that has tremendous success through open graph is Spotify. Facebook has essentially removed the focus from apps that reside on pages and placed the emphasis back into the news feed. This keeps the apps that are truly driving interactions and utilization in front of the user’s friends. For the companies that can solve users’ needs and have the resources to develop an app, they should continue to allocate resources toward development.

DY: For those here that run social for global brands, should we make one main page or have multiple country-level pages?

CW: I believe that with Facebook’s latest announcement regarding enhanced post targeting, having one large global Facebook page is now officially the most effective strategy. Without specific targeting, large brands struggled with one global Facebook page. Fan demographics ranged across a wide variety of variables, including the type of content they wished to consume. With enhanced targeting, this will help large brands start to specifically target their content to improve engagement and reach. Each demographic can now be targeted with different content, which should increase engagement for these large global brands.

DY: How about retailers with many stores? How should they manage a central page and store-level pages for maximum impact?

CW: Facebook has left these types of retailers in limbo. On the one hand, many of these local branches have interesting promotions or value that the main corporate brands do not offer. On the other, these small local branches have more difficulty acquiring fans to their store-level pages. They also often lack the resources to properly conduct an effective social media strategy.

I look forward to the days when Facebook implements a solution that works for both the local branch and the corporate brand. I believe that the future of social media will enable customers to ask real-time questions to local retail branches to enhance their service — asking the price, availability, and opinions of products before visiting the retail store. I see this as a hybrid of online and local shopping, and ultimately, a future key component of future social media marketing.

DY: 57 percent of Facebook’s 955 million users are currently on mobile. How does Facebook treat mobile differently, and what can we do to show up here? Some suggest that local content is prioritized, in addition to higher-engagement objects.

CW: I have not seen any evidence to suggest that geographical proximity has any influence in the reach of objects in the news feed. However, it only makes sense to implement this input signal into the EdgeRank algorithm in the future. This is an important and valuable signal to enhance the browsing experience. Utilizing geographical proximity also allows Facebook to handle the excess flow of data into the news feed without sacrificing removing valuable content. The news feed would be more relevant to each individual user while still allowing brands to interact in the way they’re used to. Using geographical proximity could also help solve the brand versus store-level page dilemma.

DY: You said that a comment is worth four times more than a like. How do you determine this, and then what is a share or check-in worth?

CW: A while back, we measured how likes and comments influenced clicks. We found that the average post that received a like received an average of three clicks. However, when a post received a comment, it received an average of approximately 14 clicks. This is obviously a drastic difference, especially considering the value of a click. When we talk about the return on investment of social media, most executives want to see things like click-through rates and actual sale conversions. By generating comments instead of likes, this actually drives these bottom-line figures.

Unfortunately, we did not measure how shares impacted clicks. We also did not look at check-ins. These objects were a little more difficult to analyze due to their direct impact value. For example, shares often contribute to further engagement and impressions — it’s a bit more of challenge differentiating. We hope to further look into more interesting data in the future.

Readers: What have you noticed on your news feeds recently?

Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.

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