This is a guest post by Anne Chaconas

This is the first in a four-part series discussing the recent updates with Facebook fan pages and how you can make the most of these changes and continue to make Facebook an integral part of your marketing strategy.

A few weeks ago, most Facebook fan page admins woke up to this below each one of their page’s posts:

At first everybody was super excited: “Wow, I can see exactly how many people saw my post! That’s awesome!” A few days later, the mood had changed slightly: “Wait, why are only 26 [or 15, or 32, or 22] percent of my followers seeing my posts?”

And then, a few days after that, Facebook unveiled this below each of the page’s posts*:

Wait one hot minute. So now not only were most of your fans not seeing your posts, but you even had to pay if you wanted more of your fans to see what you were putting up? The confusion turned into outright rage. Everyone went ALL CAPS and exclamation points. Posts popped up everywhere:


“UNBELIEVABLE. Pay to post?? Facebook FAIL.”

“I BUILT MY FANBASE, and now I have to PAY TO REACH THEM? #smh”

To say people were angry is an understatement. People were enraged. And, to an extent, rightfully so. Building a fanbase takes time. It takes effort. It takes content. Lots and lots of content. Lots and lots of good content. You write, you share, and you do it well enough that people choose to find you and follow you on various social networks so that they can be apprised of when you next write something enlightening/funny/thought-provoking/totally amazing.

I completely understand the disbelief. To be suddenly told that (a) not everyone was seeing your posts and then (b) that you had to pay to reach those people who had already expressed an interest in what you were doing is, well, obnoxious. Facebook seemed predatory. Conniving. Evil. All that “it’s free and always will be” hoopla started smelling an awful lot like a meadow full of cows and their male consorts.

Here’s the deal, though (and I know I’m not going to make any friends when I say this): Facebook is not out to get us.

We have never actually reached all of our fans (at least, not all at once, not with every post). What Facebook was doing was not reducing the number of people who saw our posts; they were actually giving us the opportunity to reach more of our fans (albeit, for a price).

Before you all start coming after me with pitchforks and torches, allow me to explain.

When Facebook placed those handy little numbers below each of our page posts,

they were actually telling us something that had already been taking place for years, actually. None of our fans have seen every single one of our posts pop up in their news feed — ever. Here’s why:

Facebook employs an algorithm (i.e. a fancy formula) called EdgeRank to determine who sees what in their news feed. It’s done this for years; it’s nothing new. If you really want to get down and dirty with EdgeRank, here’s what it looks like:

Image via Inside Facebook

However, in case you don’t want your brain to explode from the math, here’s the deal: Every single post a page or a person creates on Facebook is assigned a value for every single person that is a fan or a friend of the page or person. This value is determined by three things:

  1. The relationship between the person and the other person or page. This is called affinity.
  2. The type of post it is (picture, comment, like, share, post). Different types of activity have different EdgeRank values. Facebook assigns greater value (or weight) to what it calls rich media, i.e., pictures, videos, polls, questions.
  3. How long ago this post was created, or time decay.

When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. The Facebook EdgeRank algorithm is smart. It knows what and who you interact with most often, it knows that you’re more likely to be interested in things that are recent, and it can tell when an item is popular enough that a lot of people are interacting with it. If the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm weren’t policing our news feeds, they would rapidly spiral out of control (akin to what happens on Twitter — you look away for a few seconds, and all of a sudden there are 578 new tweets on your feed, and you go crazy just trying to keep up.) Because Facebook attempts to be not just a sharing mechanism but also an interactive social outlet, it tries to mimic what you would do in everyday life — tune in to what you want to hear more of and tune out what you couldn’t care less about.

EdgeRank is the reason why almost every single one of your best friend’s status updates pops up on your feed while hardly any posts from your crazy Aunt Sally show up. You interact much more with your best friend (you have greater affinity), and you go out of your way to avoid Aunt Sally. Facebook notices this and does the work for you. It’s the equivalent of call screening, except you don’t have to grimace through Aunt Sally’s rambling voicemail about her cat.

The same thing happens with pages. When you interact more with a page (through likes, comments and tags), then your affinity with that page increases, and it makes it much more likely that you’ll see that page’s updates more frequently. In the same vein, the more your fans interact with your page, the more likely it is that they’ll see your posts in the future.

I know this doesn’t take the sting out of knowing that only a small percentage of your fans are seeing your posts; in fact, now that you know this isn’t something new might make things worse (“Oh, good heavens, you mean to tell me this has been happening all along?”). However, take heart. Over the next few days, I’ll discuss ways in which you can reach more fans without paying for it, how you can transition your fans from your page to your profile (in case that’s the route you want to go) and how you can make it easy for fans to make the switch.

Stick around — we’ll get through it together.

*Note: The “Promote” option is only available for pages that have between 400 and 100,000 fans. If you don’t see it yet, don’t worry; you will once you get to that number.

Upcoming posts:

  • Increasing your Facebook page reach—without spending a dime.
  • Using your Facebook profile as a fan page (instead of your Facebook page).
  • Moving from page to profile? Strategies to get your fans to make the change.


About this post’s author:

Anne Chaconas was born in Central America and educated in the U.S. Northeast. She moved to the Deep South for love and currently lives on the East Coast (and misses winter terribly.) Her snarky husband, adorable daughter, three rambunctious cats, and two very adoring dogs keep her busy. Salve Regina, her debut novel, will be available this fall. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, GoodReads and Tumblr.

About the Author

  1. Oh, believe me–I don’t like it, either. I think that if you “like” something you should be able to see it on your feed without needing to interact with it. However, I do understand the rationale behind it, and I can appreciate it. It’s all very love/hate. I’ve seen some effective uses of the “pay to promote” feature by some indie authors, although the jury’s still out on whether I will ever do it myself. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see how my own non-paying promotion strategies work out first. Those take much longer to bloom (although I do believe they’re much more effective in the long run, since you’re building relationships).

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, Anne, but the reason we have (or would have) an unreadable blur of facebook posts rolling across our screens is that we have 400 or 3,000 facebook friends. Same with twitter with “following.” We don’t have these large numbers because we’re that sociable. We have them because we’re promoting stuff. Indeed, we count on our friends having just a few friends because if they had a small city of people posting to them, they wouldn’t be able to read the blur themselves. That would include our brilliant promotional posts. Now, I can block posts, or they can, or both of us can. I don’t see the problem. It’s just the cost of doing business.

  3. That’s a good mindset to have, Dane–it will definitely save you a lot of headaches and stress! 🙂 Indeed, having to expend a little extra money or time to promote something without knowing if it will be effective is certainly ONE of “the costs of doing business.” However, for many people, Facebook is a primary source of marketing, and they have spent a lot of time building up a fanbase that they suddenly realized they are not reaching at all. For them, this is a very serious problem that they need to solve or find workarounds for.

    Also, not everyone is on Facebook and Twitter just to promote. 🙂 At least, I’M not. I use it primarily as a vehicle to keep in touch with friends, family, and acquaintances. The fact that it works very well as a marketing tool is a bonus.

    Thanks for reading and commenting–I appreciate it!

  4. I definitely agree, Kerry–if I “like” a fan page, it’s because I want to be informed of everything they’re up to on Facebook, even if I don’t interact with them. In fact, most fans are passive–they’re just there to watch the action. EdgeRank treats those bystander fans poorly, as if they don’t matter as much as more vocal fans.

    It’s very much a catch-22: To view more things from the pages of which you’re a fan, you have to interact more with the page, but in order to interact more with the page, you have to view more things. Which can’t happen unless you interact. It’s definitely annoying. The best way, I’ve found, is to periodically go to the pages I’m a fan of and interact. It’s obnoxious to have to go beyond just the NewsFeed and actually have to go to the pages, but it’s the most surefire way to get things popping up on your feed again.

    As for the “voice” option: When you’re on a Facebook page that you’ve created, and you post or comment on it, you’re posting or commenting AS THAT PAGE (for example, when I’m on my author page and I post, I will be posting as my page name, “Anne Chaconas, Writer” and not as my profile). The “voice” option lets you choose–do you want to post as your page or as your profile?

    Hope that clears things up a little! Let me know if I can help in any other way!

  5. Hi, great article thanks. I have a question. I just ran a competition to give away a book. I have 562 page likers and with just £4 ukp promotion fee 671 people have seen the post. How does that work? How can we have more people see it than there are likers?

  6. Thanks for the explanation, Anne. I don’t have a fan page, but I’ve felt horrible for those that do. It makes sense to me now, but like Pavarti above, I still cringe at it.

    @Kerry I don’t know if I’m just slow, or if it’s not promoted much, but about six months ago I figured out that I can “subscribe” to my friends’ posts and have them appear in my email. (and I shifted my Facebook email back to my own) That way I’m not missing out on comments from the several people I want to hear from regularly, even if I don’t actually get on FB. And I just found out I can actually reply from my email account! Don’t know if it works with Pages or not.

  7. Hey Barry,

    Glad you liked the article! Now, about the number of people who have seen the post: It’s not your fans who will see it. If one of your fans like the post, then it appears in their news feed, which then means that THEIR friends might see the post. And if one of THEM likes it, then THEIR friends might see the post. That’s how more people than the number of fans you’ve got can see a single post. It’s a pretty nice ripple effect. 🙂

  8. Hey Jennifer!

    Thanks for commenting–if you ever get a fan page and need some help figuring it out, let me know. 🙂 Always glad to help.

    Thought I would put my two cents in regarding replying to posts from pages via email–as far as I know, you can’t. It’d be pretty nifty if you could get page posts via email and reply to them that way–but then you’d never get on Facebook, and how would they ever make their advertising dollars count? 😛

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