Confused about Facebook Promoted Posts? You are not alone

 Some online community news sites aren’t feeling the love from Facebook’s new fee-based service dubbed “Promoted Posts.”  They’re feeling confusion.

By now community news sites posting to their Facebook pages will have noticed a drop down tagged “promote” on their posts. When using “promote” a page owner pays a fee to extend the reach of the post to more than 16% of its readers. To many sites, it’s news to learn that their posts are reaching only 16% of their facebook page readers.

Some bloggers have suggested that Facebook has been squeezing the pipeline of posts, limiting the number that would reach fans to create a greater demand  for the promoted posts service. Vadim Lavrusik, Journalism Program Manager at Facebook, said that nothing has changed.

“We’ve changed nothing about the way page posts are delivered to fans. The main point of confusion we’ve seen is that pages don’t realize that their posts were never reaching 100% of fans.”

Lavrusik offered that promoted posts is really a streamlining of the Facebook ads program. “All Promoted Page Posts does is offer an easy way for page admins to pay to promote a post using FB ads using functionality that already existed but is now in-line and easier to create an ad for a post,” he said.

That might be the case, but nevertheless, some community publishers aren’t seeing the value and are pulling out of Facebook advertising. Scott Brodbeck, publisher of said on the BlockbyBlock Facebook Resource group:

 “Well, it’s costing Facebook money from me. Given the reduction in Facebook reach from our page we decided to pull our Facebook ad campaign. Now we’re exclusively doing paid promotion with Twitter, which lets our Tweets reach 100% of followers.”

Liz Heron, social media director for the Wall Street Journaltested her Edgerank in an experiment and found that her reach had diminished. She invited her friends to join her on Twitter.

Other journalists who deal with big brand media companies think posts are not showing up because of a lack of “space.”

Space feels right to me. It’s like a limiting spatial element is entering the Facebook newsfeed. A “promoted” post is placed “higher.” If I’ve only been seeing 16% of the posts in my feed, there is scarcity in the space on my feed. Those who want to engage with me will have to pay to access my feed if I am not drawn to engage with them. If I change my preferences so I see posts from my friends, and then some brands are paying for access to my feed, then “other” kinds of pages — including subscriber and news site pages — won’t be seen. They’ll have to pay more to get me to see them.

In Facebook’s move to operate more like a search engine that “ranks” posts, those pages whose posts are not liked or shared could get bumped out of the stream, basically be treated like spam. It’s similar  to getting bumped off the “first page” or top of Google search results. One thing that’s different is that if this were Google you could still scroll a few pages down and see the post. It’s not the case here.

Lavrusik pointed to Facebook’s webinar explaining the dynamics of the promote feature. You can check that out.

Facebook has been pruning feeds, constantly monitoring the stream of likes, comments and hides in a news feed, said Philip Zigoris, a Facebook ads engineer, in a  blog post last week.  Natural selection is at work in Facebook’s algorithm, he said. You might want to give him a read too.

About 20 minutes into the video below from 2012 BlockbyBlock Community News Summit, Rich Gordon discusses the importance of Facebook as a distribution channel for independent online community news publishers.

“Social media is enormous and is especially enormous among small sites,” says Gordon.  “Having a regularly updated good engaging Facebook page is probably as important as having a regularly updated good homepage.”

That’s been the mantra for small business as well. But could that change as Facebook changes its algorithm and it becomes harder for a small site or business to reach its audience?  At this time, the bottom line appears to be that as the definition of engagement on Facebook becomes further refined in its algorithm, news sites will have to adjust to become more engaging.

That could mean spending more time asking your audience to click, Like, comment and share items. Also some journalists have observed these dynamics at work:

  • Facebook appears to be weighting how many people actually click on your link more highly. So your readers can’t just Like the post, they have to click through.
  • A post has to stand on its own as being engaging. A dud of a post is a dud of a post even if other  previous posts that day were engaging. It’s the post not the page that counts.
  • Image posts aren’t performing as well – so consider asking one or two text only questions a day.

You might want to keep those tips in focus as well. And then, wait, because just like the weather, the Facebook Feed is sure to change again.

Please share your thoughts and insights on this post and what you are doing with your social media strategy.

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on Google+ and on twitter at saduros.

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