In March 2012 Facebook made a major change to how their Fan Pages work that has significantly reduced your Post Reach, which is the number of fans your posts are sent to. In other words, when you did a post before then, it would have been sent to most of your fans. The change initially reduced your post reach to about 16% of your fans. The percentage is heavily influenced by how often your fans engage with your page. Since then, this number has been drastically declining to, in some cases, as low as 2%. However, you can increase your Post Reach by paying Facebook to do so.
As you can imagine, there has been significant backlash to this change but Facebook has remained resolute and has provided a consistent argument to justify this change. The basis of their argument is that Facebook is primarily a social network and members would prefer to see posts from their friends instead of business pages. So posts from Friends are prioritised at the expense of Fan Page posts. Basically, Facebook is saying that business pages can be less intrusive for free but must pay for more visibility.
This approach by Facebook is certainly going against the grain of how most social networks work. The success of any social network is totally dependent on the content submitted by its members. If your friends were not posting those interesting photos, funny videos or juicy personal details you would not be on the network. So you befriend someone on Facebook then keep coming back to the network because of the content being posted by your friends. Similarly, you like a business page for a particular reason and you continue to engage with that page as long as you find the content engaging.
Therefore, it’s your Facebook profiles and fan pages’ content that generate the network’s greatly needed visitor traffic. Without your content there are no visitors. However, you must now pay to reach the same visitors that you took the effort to grow. In fact, the more successful you are at growing your fan base, the more Facebook penalises you. This is because the larger your fan base the higher the minimum charge for reaching more of your page’s fans.
Let’s examine Youtube.com, another network that also depends on your content to survive. Again, it’s your content that keeps visitors glued to this network but the main difference from Facebook is that you don’t have to pay to reach the audience you have built. On the contrary, you may even be paid for the visitors you generate. YouTube.com offers its members ad sharing revenue through its YouTube Partner programme. The programme must be offered in your country and you must meet the terms set out in the programme policy guidelines to participate.
Facebook has been experimenting with many different revenue models and you can bet there is more to come. Will this current model prevail, will other networks copy this model or will Facebook compromise as it sometimes does? The truth is that some companies may find the cost very affordable when compared to reaching a similar offline audience. In addition, it reduces the amount of spam you receive on your timeline from over-aggressive page owners.
I have been observing and monitoring the changes being made by Facebook since this monetisation feature was implemented. My view is that it is here to stay, at least for a while unless some major lawsuit prevails. It means that companies have to start being more observant of the reach of their posts and find creative ways to increase that reach. And in some isntances it may be worth it to pay for more reach. Ultimately, you need to start scrutinising your return on investment as you continue to use Facebook as a marketing channel.