Facebook this week is rolling out an update which it says means businesses and brands should see a 20% drop in reach for some of their content — a move which will see performance numbers for some types of content plunge as it rolls out.
Or as Australian startup founder Jane Lu calls it, “the latest algo f**k around”.
As the social media giant explained in November:
Reach counts will now be based on viewable impressions. On Pages, we’ve historically defined reach as a person refreshing their News Feed and the post being placed in their feed. For paid advert reports, we’ve moved to a stricter definition that only counts reach once the post enters the person’s screen (“viewable impressions”). With the stricter definition, we estimate that reported reach will be 20% lower on average.
So, Facebook’s only going to count content when it actually displays on a screen, whereas before it might have been counted when it was below your thumb waiting to be pulled into the viewable screen area.
To anyone unfamiliar with some of the current conversations around metrics in digital media, this is just common sense, but it’s a reflection of the industry’s focus on transparency and accountability in measurement at the moment.
The change went live this week.
“[It] will provide Page owners with a more precise measurement of their audience and offer a more consistent measurement methodology across both our paid and organic reach reporting,” Facebook says.
“Since this is stricter reporting, some Pages may see lower reach figures than before.”
In an acknowledgement that the change is likely to cause chaos in the lives of some marketers, Facebook added: “We know some marketers may rely on the previous metric for their own reporting, so over the next few months we will continue to provide the old reach metric alongside the new one in the Page Insights overview section and in the Page Insights API and export.”
But before you freak out, Jon Loomer, explains: “You should expect [reach] numbers to drop. But the number of people who actually see and engage with your content should not change.”
This sentiment is echoed by Jane Lu, founder of Showpo, an online retailer which relies heavily on social media to drive marketing and sales.
Lu has been vocal about her company’s relationship with Facebook — although, admittedly, not always getting it right — and sees this recent update as a new opportunity to experiment.
“When the algorithm to a social platform changes, it’s actually a blessing in disguise as it allows new opportunities for growth hacking,” she said in a recent blog post.
“We all know that organic reach is only continuing to decline for Facebook and is pretty much at an all-time low (I still remember the days when we had 33-50% engagement!), but as I’ve come to realise, it’s not time to throw in the towel on Facebook yet.”
While she says the algorithm change has caused “quite a bit of panic in the startup world,” she says “it’s nothing to worry about”.
The latest change is “on how they report organic reach to be more in line with how they report paid reach (which is good actually),” she says.
“Facie had been blurring the definition of views and reach stats for a long time (almost all organically).
“So – it’s nothing to worry about.
“The numbers may come down a bit for organic, but if you’re creating good content, that content will still have the exact same real world impact it did before when the numbers were fudged previously.”
Lu says seeing the numbers as “fudged” says a lot about the faith some marketers have in some aspects of digital data right now.