Facebook’s Hybrid News Feed May Be Helping Big Brands, Hurting Local Businesses
Initial analysis of the Facebook’s move from a two-tab news feed to a single hybrid news feed showed Page posts receiving fewer impressions but more Likes and comments — overall a positive change. However, new stats from Page analytics vendor EdgeRank Checker a month after the changes show that while popular Pages with over 100,000 fans may be receiving 27.8% more engagement, small Pages with less than 5,000 fans may receiving equal Likes and comments than before, and those with under 1,000 fans have seen engagement drop 11.6%.
Facebook’s news feed visibility algorithm may be rewarding Pages with high fan counts — including those of big brands. This is because these Pages have essentially been endorsed by hundreds of thousands of users and have more to lose, and therefore may be more likely to publish high quality content. However, the hybrid news feed may make it difficult for newer Pages and those of local businesses to grow organically, increasing their need for paid Facebook ads.
EdgeRank Checker’s data is based on sample of over 600 Pages that have used its service, not just any random Pages. This means these stats are for Pages that have some serious interest in the performance of their Facebook Page. The data isn’t likely to be distorted by Pages with low fan counts that aren’t really trying to produce good content.
We analyzed an EdgeRank Checker released a study two weeks after the news feed changes that showed that show comments up 21%, Likes up 9%, and impressions down 25% on average for Pages across sizes. Now a month after the changes the trends are similar, with comments up 14%, Likes up 16%, and impression down 22%. However, Pages of different sizes show different trends and outliers can skew these averages.
To show what’s happening to the average Page, EdgeRank Checker looked to see what percentage of all Pages grew or shrunk in each of these stats. It found that most Pages were receiving fewer impressions, but that an equal number of Pages were losing and gain Likes and comments. This meant some Pages that were receiving many more Likes and comments were making the average data look for positive than it really is.
As there are many more Pages with low fan counts than those with high fan counts, EdgeRank Checker looked at the median size Page and found some unsettling stats, along with a 24% drop in impressions, Likes were down 15% and comments were down 20%. If the average across all Page sizes was positive but these stats for the median size Page were so negative, fan count must be a contributing variable.
It turns out that the changes have aided popular Pages but hindered unpopular Pages. For Pages of different sizes, here is the average change in the volume of Likes and comments per post:
- Over 100,000 Fans – Up 27.8%
- 10,000 – 100,000 Fans – Up 8.76%
- 5,000 – 10,000 Fans – Up 3.96%
- 1,000 – 5,000 Fans – Up 1.73%
- Less than 1,000 Fans – Down 11.64%
Most major brands tend to have at least 10,000 fans, so this may come as good news — they’re receiving a lot more Likes and comments. However, fledgling brands and local businesses than only appeal to a limited audience may find they’re receiving fewer impressions and engagement. This reduces return on their Facebook marketing investment and make their posts less likely to be reshared, a core way of organically growing their fan counts.
In reality, Facebook’s news feed visibility algorithm was likely tweaked to show users higher quality content, and this reduction in engagement is the unfortunate repercussion for some Pages. Facebook probably wasn’t trying to punish smaller businesses and other types of Pages, its just that smaller Pages are less likely to be devoting as many resources to creating and publishing compelling news feed posts.
If Facebook won’t make the posts of smaller brands and local business more visible to their existing fans until the accumulate more fans, these Pages may need to jump-start their Facebook marketing with paid advertising campaigns. In this way, Facebook is rewarding high quality content producers, but also getting smaller businesses hooked on Facebook ads that it can continue to sell to them as they grow.