Reports from Page administrators and data from our PageData service indicate that the launch of Places has decreased the prominence of official Page updates in the news feed. Significant decreases in impressions-per-post and new Likes per day for Pages coincide with the introduction of Places stories. This suggest an alteration has been made to Facebook’s algorithm that determines what users users see in their news feed. We suspect that the weight of Page updates has been decreased while Places stories have been temporarily given a relatively high weight.
The apparent reduction in the weight of Page posts in Facebook’s algorithm causes these posts to appear less frequently in the Top News and Most Recent feeds. This drop in impressions-per-post in turn leads to less likes and shares by users – the actions that drive traffic and new likes to Pages. The end result is that Pages will have to post more engaging updates and buy more ads to maintain previous growth rates.
We’ve received reports from a Page management company that impressions-per-post are down across all their clients and test accounts. One Page we have access to experienced at 40% drop in impressions-per-post since August 18th.
The result of the drop in impressions is a decrease in new Likes gained per day for most Pages, with the most popular Pages taking the biggest losses in growth. All of the top 10 biggest Pages on Facebook experienced an 50% to 65% drop in average new likes gained per day from their levels before August 18th, the day Places launched.
Michael Jackson’s Page, which was gaining an average of 75,000 likes per day from late July through mid August, has been gaining only 27,000 likes per day on average since August 18th. Facebook’s own official Page was gaining an average of 116,000 likes per day from late July through mid August, but that rate has similarly fallen to an average gain of 46,000 likes per day over the week since Places launched. The drop is not confined to large Pages, as smaller Pages with around 1.75 million likes such as Nutella Italy, BMW, and Incubus have also seen 25-50% drops in new likes per day.
In the past, Facebook has temporarily highlighted news feed stories generated by their newest product. When Questions launched in late July, many felt their news feed was being overrun with Questions stories, but soon saw them become much less prominent. Social game-generated stories dominated the news feed in the period following the launch of the Facebook Platform, but these types of stories were also dialed back over time. However, the prominence of a new story type has never come so clearly at the expense of another type as with the shift in visibility from Page posts to Places stories.
Interestingly, many Pages also saw a large dip in new likes gained per day on August 13th, followed by a spike on August 17th. Facebook may have been altering the algorithm on these days. One possible explanation for why Page updates were so affected is that Places pages have the potential to be merged with official Pages. This means Page posts and Places stories would both link back to the same merged Page/Places page in some cases.
Facebook may have increased the weight of all posts that could lead back to a Page before there were any Places stories, resulting in the pre-launch spike. Then the next day, the increased total weight and impressions may have been divided between Page posts and the new Places stories, resulting in the drop in impressions-per-day for unmerged Page posts.
Facebook has previously biased the news feed to temporarily highlight stories from new products. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Facebook Questions saw high visibility in the news feed in the days following the product’s launch, but then became much less prominent. Application stories have too been reduced since they dominated the news feed in the period following the launch of the Facebook Platform. If the decrease in weight for Page posts is also temporary, users can expect to see less Places stories and a reemergence of Page updates in their news feed in the near future. If the change is permanent, Page admins may need to seek alternative methods of gaining new likes. As when Facebook reduced the weight of application stories, this could mean spending more on Page marketing.
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