How changes to Facebook's news feed affects small businesses

FaceBooks thumbs down

Changes to Facebook in the later part of 2013, and specifically the way the news feed is created,  means that people will no longer be presented with all the posts by people or businesses they are following.  This will have an obvious, and sometimes devastating effect on small businesses that rely on Facebook to inform their followers of new products etc.

In a recent post on Slate.com Paul Szoldra wrote that the changes are "designed to restrict the reach of posts  that get little reaction from friends and followers, but to promote posts that get high levels of engagement."

The problem is that this approach is quite different from Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ where content remains unfiltered, and raises the obvious question why Facebook did it? Well two answers spring immediately to mind:

  1. to generate money, ie the only way for a business to ensure a post is actually view is to pay for it; or
  2. to try and make it easier for their users who were drowning in posts, and with an average number of 300 friends some users possible are drowning in posts.

In a private correspondence to me one of our authors wrote: "Basically Pages people like no longer appear in their timelines as FB felt it would be spamming a persons timeline and we were all too dumb to know how to control the flow ourselves so they just removed it. Meaning, unless a page liker went and sought out the page they like... they won't see the updates."

Derek Muller, the curator of science video blog Veritasium, has a pretty large following across a number of social media channels: 21,000 Twitter followers, more than 1 million YouTube subscribers, and 118,000 Facebook fans. But unlike Twitter and YouTube—where his content is not filtered—his Facebook fans who have "liked" his page only ever see a fraction of what he posts.

"The problem with Facebook is that it's keeping things from you," says Muller in a new video. "You don't see most of what's posted by your friends or the pages you follow."

After reading Paul's comments on Slate I was understandably pissed off with Facebook. However, when a photo of my pooch (Banjo) appeared on Pawpals' Daycare Facebook page and immediately attracted 39 likes (compared to my own previous best of 10 likes)  that's where I got worried and started investigating moving across to Google+. I mean, how can a small publisher hope to compete with the happy smile of cute dog?

Banjo at Pawpals

But, really, what has been the actual effect on the number of 'views' for our posts from our Facebook feed? Having crunched the figures I was surprised to find that the changes hadn't actually affected us all that much as you can see from the following graph which tracks organic (ie not paid for) views over the course of the year. 

Time Analysis of FB Views

Indeed, the trend of views over the course of the year (the black line) has shown a slight improvement over the course of the year. (The post on the 30th which garnered 733 views was in relation to the new cover for the paperback version of Frontier Incursion). Now certainly part of this may be a result of the increase in those liking our page over the course of the year, but unfortunately I have been unable to pull that information from the FB insights.

Graph of most popular posts on FBLooking at what type of posts attract the most views, and disregarding the aberration of the post announcing that we'd just signed the a new distribution agreement with Wheelers (the large library and school supplier) the most viewed posts were covers, and the most popular cover was Frontier Incursion. I therefore remain unconvinced about the claim that FaceBook has tweaked its  algorithm to reduce the weighting of happy cats (I mean just look at the popularity of Leonie's Starcat).

And what does this mean for Hague Publishing? Well given the reality we're not going to give up on Facebook, but it does mean that we will be putting more time into building our presence on Google+. And more importantly we will continue to try and get people to add themselves to our maillisting. Then regardless of what Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ do in the future, we still have our own list.

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