Study of Facebook News Feed Changes: Page Post Comments Up 21%, Likes Up 9%, Impressions Down 25%

Following Facebook’s recent changes to the news feed, Pages are receiving 21% more comments and 9% more Likes, though 25% fewer impressions per post, according to a study by Page analytics provider EdgeRank Checker. Facebook had redesigned the home page to merge the Top News and Most Recent feeds into a single hybrid news feed in September.

The reports should come as good news to most marketers, especially direct marketers looking to drive more click throughs to their products. However, the the reduction in Page post impressions since the introduction of the hybrid news feed could hurt some institutional marketers that optimize for exposure or brand lift rather than direct conversions.

EdgeRank Checker based its findings on metrics pulled from an adequate sample size of over 3,5000 Facebook Pages during two weeks before the changes (9/3-9/17) and two weeks after the changes (9/24-10/8). The time frame is still too short for the study to be totally authoritative, and it will take a few more months before users and Page admins become accustomed.

Still, these figures should ease worries that the changes would drastically reduce engagement with Page posts, and help admins adjust their Page publishing strategy for maximum impact.

EdgeRank Checker ran a preliminary analysis of the same data after just one week of complete data following the changes. At that point, impressions were down 33%, Likes up 18%, and comments up 17% versus before the changes. The new numbers should be more accurate as they are based on the same data as the first study plus an additional week of reporting.

The News Feed Favors Compelling Posts More Than Ever

Over the last few months, Facebook has made a lot of changes to the site’s design and functionality  that impact how marketing content and ads reach users, and more changes are on the way. Most significantly, it redesigned the home page, scrapping the two-tabbed news feed interface in favor of a single combined feed with a Ticker of real-time updates on the side.

Previously, some users would visit the Most Recent news feed tab where they could view a more complete stream of updates from all their Liked Pages and friends. The removal of this feed is likely the cause of the 25.15% reduction in impressions per Page post. Users may also be scrolling through less of the news feed because they more quickly find engaging updates thanks to the new design.

The 9.43% increase in Likes and 21.15% increase in comments per Page post may be related to how the hybrid news feed favors posts published recently and that have received a lot of feedback. The combined news feed divides content into three categories that are dynamically ordered on the home page depending on how frequently a user check the news feed:

  • Top Stories – Updates that are highly relevant to a user because they have received a lot of Likes and comments or were published by friends or Pages they engage with frequently. Users can also manually mark or unmark updates as Top Stories to teach EdgeRank their preferences. Top Stories are the first thing users see in the feed if they haven’t checked the news feed in several hours or days
  • Recent Stories – Updates that were published in the last few minutes or hours. These are shown first if a user has recently checked the news feed.
  • From Earlier Today – Additional updates that are deemed somewhat relevant to a user. This is shown after the other two categories.

EdgeRank Checker believes the redesign and improvements to the news feed sorting algorithm have made Facebook’s EdgeRank more focused. In other words, highly compelling updates are receiving more visibility than before.

Previously, a Page post that received a high volume of Likes and comments still wouldn’t be seen if a user logged on a day or two after it was published. Now with Top Stories, users see all the most relevant updates that were published since they last checked the news feed.

Therefore, the first stories in the news feed are now likely to be of a higher quality than before, leading users to leave more Likes and comments. This feedback raises a Page’s EdgeRank giving their posts more visibility in the future, so its more important than ever for marketers to take the time to craft highly compelling updates that draw lots of Likes and comments.