When musician Ryan Trauley logged into Facebook to check the performance of a recent post to his band Oulipo’s page, the results shocked him.
“I have 800 fans on my page, but this post I wrote about my show was only seen by 10 people. I don’t understand how that’s possible,” said Trauley.
Ryan isn’t the only one surprised. Every day more artists are noticing that they’re reaching fewer and fewer fans on Facebook. Why is this happening?
Facebook is reducing the number of people who see your posts in their News Feed organically. They’re accomplishing this by cutting down on a number called “Organic Reach*,” which refers to how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page.
ReverbNation has been a longtime advocate of artists promoting themselves using social media. In 2007, we developed Band Profile, the first Facebook app for artists. Band Profile was designed to help artists take advantage of the growing platform, and to share everything with their fans, from songs to updates to merch.
Since then, ReverbNation has continued to integrate products closely with Facebook, including tying our ad offerings into Facebook through its API. In fact, we were one of the first partners invited to use their API (Application Programming Interface).
Given our front row seat to the ever-changing landscape of Facebook, I spent some time talking to those knowledgeable about the platform. I asked two key ReverbNation team members some questions and received some interesting responses.
Why aren’t people seeing my posts?
Jed Carlson, President of ReverbNation, cites two primary reasons your posts aren’t being seen:
- The high volume of users and activity on Facebook
- Limited organic access to your fan base
“You have a lot more friends in your network than you did five years ago. Just by simple math, you can conclude that there is no way for Facebook to put the things you post on your page in to the News Feeds of all your fans,” says Carlson.
I did some research, and found that there are upwards of 1,500 possible stories that can be displayed on a typical user’s News Feed every day (Source: Track Maven). I also learned that people are liking more Pages. According to Facebook’s director of product management for News Feed, the total number of Pages liked by the typical Facebook user grew more than 50% last year (Source: Facebook).
How does Facebook determine what will be seen?
Facebook determines what unique posts to show users through an algorithm called EdgeRank. The percentage of users who do end up seeing your post in their News Feeds represent a term Facebook calls “Reach.”
“Facebook uses more than 100 indicators to determine which fans will be most receptive to your posts. It’s well-known that posts that are engaging – meaning that they get more likes and shares from fans – are favorable in the algorithm and have more reach,” explains Carlson.
Why is Facebook limiting organic access to my fan base?
As a publicly traded company that has as much influence as major players like Google, Facebook has to keep up with trends and make money. To do this, they need to take greater control of their platform. Digital media expert Kurt Merriweather, ReverbNation Senior Vice President and General Manager of Industry Services, explains:
“Facebook was able to grow in size by giving brands, including artists, opportunities to grow their business and connect with fans. As they’ve turned their attention toward revenue, they’re trying to move features that were previously free to paid.”
One way they’ve done that is by limiting how much reach your posts get organically, and then asking you to pay to reach more of your fans. Now the only real way to get most of your fans to see your posts, and get that coveted reach, is by paying for Facebook ads.
“You used to be able to access your Facebook fans by creating really good content that got likes and shares from users. The more likes and shares you got, the more likely it was that the post would be seen. Now, you not only have to create compelling content, you also have to put advertising dollars behind it to ensure it’s seen in News Feeds,” adds Merriweather.
How Do Facebook Ads Work?
Facebook offers ads that appear in the News Feed and ads in the right-hand column (Sidebar ads). The image below is how a typical News Feed appears on a desktop site versus on the mobile site.
Notice that on the mobile site that there is no right-hand column, and on the desktop site, Sidebar ads are clearly separate and easily ignored. Ads placed in the News Feed cannot be ignored because you’re forced to see them when you scroll through your feed, on both desktop and mobile. This type of ad is an example of “Native Advertising*,” a method that shows users ads in their stream or News Feed that are sometimes so subtle that the average user doesn’t recognize that they’re ads.
If you’re an artist looking to make the most of your advertising dollars, I recommend exploring how you might be able to utilize News Feed ads. Learn more about Facebook advertising here.
What does it mean for an artist?
You can’t rely on reaching your fans through Facebook unless you pay to boost your posts. While at first that may sound like bad news, it also poses a great opportunity for artists who take the time to understand the system.
“A lot of lip service and attention has been given to how negative this is. While there is a negative aspect, there is an opportunity as well,” offers Carlson. “Fans are not being cluttered with every band’s message like they used to be, and artists with a plan and a budget can capture more of their audience than artists without one. If you’re a local band that has a Facebook strategy and money to put behind it, you can make an impact with fans if you’re willing to pay.”
Do you still have to create compelling content?
The short answer is yes: putting money behind a Facebook ad doesn’t automatically mean it will be seen or will be successful. Quality content is more impactful than ever. Both Carlson and Merriweather recommend testing posts on your page and seeing how they perform before you decide to put advertising dollars behind them. For example, if you post a photo that gets 25 comments and the next day you post a link that gets only 5, you’re going to want to promote the photo rather than the link.
And you’re able to make that decision before spending a single penny.
What else should an artist take away from the continuing changes?
Don’t entrust all your fans to Facebook. Facebook needs to be a part of your strategy, but it cannot be the only thing that you rely on.
“Use Facebook as a tool, but keep your home base elsewhere. Social media is always changing, and there is always going to be something new. It’s crucial that your identity lives on multiple areas of the Web,” says Merriweather.
As people engage with your content online, you can use a variety of methods to obtain direct fan contact information. Don’t forget that email remains the most important tool you can use to maintain fan relationships, and it can often be created and sent free of cost.
Want to know more about what kind of content will really catch the attention of your fans? Stay tuned for a follow-up post, and in the meantime, let us know what steps you’re going to take next on Facebook in the comments below.
*For more information on Facebook-specific terms, check out our Glossary of Facebook Terminology