Is Facebook Losing Its Effectiveness for Businesses, Nonprofits & Churches?

facebook Mark CubanLast week tech billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban rocked the social media world when he blasted Facebook for charging organizations thousands of dollars to make status updates visible to people who already “like” their Facebook Page, saying his companies would be “reducing any and all emphasis on Facebook.”

At its inception, Facebook users were able to view in their newsfeed ALL the updates from their friends and the Facebook Pages they “liked.” But more and more Facebook has been filtering the newsfeed causing users to see fewer and fewer status updates from their friends and organizations.

Inside the Numbers

Facebook does not show individuals how many people have seen their status updates, but it does provide that info to organizations that have a Facebook page. I’m an admin for 3 Facebook pages: OurChurch.Com, Cypress Meadows Community Church (my church), and Live Intentionally (my blog/ministry). Here what the numbers reveal…

  • 2,079 people “like” the OurChurch.Com Facebook page. The updates posted this month have each been seen between 460 and 1264. That means between 22% and 61% of “likers” are seeing our updates.
  • 290 people “like” the Cypress Meadows Facebook page. Between 30 and 105 people have seen the updates posted this month. That’s only 10% to 36%.
  • 1700 people “like” the Live Intentionally Facebook page. Between 112 and 304 have seen the updates posted there this month. That’s a mere 7% to 18%.

facebook promote screenshotPromote Feature

Oh, but do not despair, my friends. While only a small percentage of people who like your Facebook page may see your updates naturally, Facebook has introduced the “Promote” feature to address that problem. Using the Promote feature, you can ensure an update will be displayed in the newsfeed of everyone who likes your page or even everyone who likes your page and their friends.

Of course, there is a small fee for each update you want to promote. For OurChurch.Com and LiveIntentionally, the cost is $5 to promote an update to “likers” and $15-$20 to promote an update to “likers” and their friends.

If you’re the Dallas Mavericks, though, it’s $3,000 to get an update to about 1.000,000 “likers.”

Obvious Revenue Grab

Facebook claims this filtering is being done in an effort to provide a better user experience. They claim they can determine which updates from your friends and organizations are really important to you and will only show you those. But does anyone think it’s a coincidence that Facebook dramatically reduce the number of people who see each update at the same time they introduced the Promote feature?

Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that all of this has happened at the same time Facebook’s stock price has fallen to have its IPO price due to concerns about revenue?

How Effective Is Facebook Anyway?

In recent years many businesses, nonprofits and churches have made big efforts to get people to like their Facebook page, because a “like” was essentially the same things as getting a new subscriber. But now that in many cases only 20%-30% of “likers” see an update, that greatly reduces the value of a “like.” It also makes Facebook a completely unreliable way to communicate since you can’t be sure even your most loyal Facebook users will see anything you post there.

Killing the Goose

Facebook hasn’t limited it’s filtering to updates posted to Facebook Pages, either. Even your friends’ personal updates may not make it into your newsfeed.

If you’re like me, you originally signed up for Facebook so you could better keep in touch with family and friends. So then what good is it, if you can’t count on Facebook to necessarily show you their updates? It’s causing some people to consider abandoning the platform all together.

It would be the height of irony if in an ill-conceived effort to increase revenue, Facebook ended up alienating their user base to the point that they began losing revenue.

In our next post, we’ll talk about the Facebook’s “Edge Rank” algorithm which determines which updates get displayed in people’s newsfeeds, and how you can increase the likelihood that people will see your updates. In the mean time, let’s discuss…

Discussion

  1. On average, what percentage of people who like your Facebook page are seeing your updates?
  2. Have you changed (or are you considering changing) your Facebook strategy as a result?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

11 Responses to “Is Facebook Losing Its Effectiveness for Businesses, Nonprofits & Churches?”

  1. 3dimensionallife Nov 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Already move my time and activity to Google+ and plan on keeping it that way. I can post (and notify) to any of my circles and there is NO CHARGE!

    Sorry FB… you have NOT been un-friended (I still will keep a presents their.. mostly in groups) but you will not get any of my money. Lets just say they aren't in my "interest" list … LOL

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      Wow, how is it going so far, Ken? I think the biggest concern most people have is that far fewer of their church members, nonprofit volunteers & doners, or business target market are on G+ compared with Facebook.

      • 3dimensionallife Nov 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

        For me, it's always been about being a early adapter. (Google+ is what I'm using today) The one thing that we can know for sure, is that in business, that NOTHING stays the same, change is inevitable!

        Change is GOOD and it's creative in nature. I don't plan on stopping my activity, but just not using it for business. I'll share fun stuff and stay connected to family and friends, put that's it.

        On Facebook you are a "user" (you don't own your content nor anything you post and "how" it used). You are a player/ user on the platform, so Facebook can use YOU and your content at their wishes. It will always be that way and I understand that, and so I will "USE" it for my purposes.

  2. I'm the Facebook admin for my church, and our numbers are comparable to the Cypress Meadows page. Before the FB algorithm changes, I made time to post on our page at least once a day. Now, for all the reasons you cited, it's no longer a reliable or important tool, so I put far less effort into it. I try and post a couple of times a week, but sometimes it's not even that much. Instead, I'm putting more time into our website and email marketing. Facebook was fun while it lasted…

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      Hi Gail, that's disappointing but I certainly appreciate you sharing your first hand experience and observations.

  3. Paul, talking about this very phenomena on the #chsocm chat tonight. Hope you'll jump in!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      Thanks David! I will be there though I may be a little late depending on how long small group goes. I'll spread the word too.

  4. I believe Facebook potentially alienates its users not by what doesn't get published on our newsfeed, but by what does. If our newsfeed is cluttered with promoted posts (I am finding mine is), and not with the messages of those we want to hear from in the way we want to hear from them, we will lose interest completely. That's unsocial media! Edgerank I can deal with, promoted posts I cannot.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Nov 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      Loreli, that's a great point I hadn't thought of, probably because I'm not seeing very many promoted posts. What organizations are you seeing promoted posts from?

  5. When good post demographics are 17% at best, that is effort after foolishness. Pick your best new piece, promote it for $10, 5k people see it, 800 people "interact" (like click on the photo to look at it quickly and see who has commented, then go back to searching) and the actual interaction is 5-10 comments. Spin your wheels on this one for a couple weeks and you will have a list of people who either like you, already support you or believe in what you market, not necessarily want to engage in your community or service…

    FB is going to lose out in the long run. I work with lots of people on their social media strategy, and it is no longer the most effective means, unless your end is putting more content into the web-o-sphere or raising your Klout score. Cuban is right to begin to disregard it for marketing/sales/etc. The returns of using it are almost nil on a business scale as it is. I have worked on a number of online funding campaigns which, because of the new algorithm have replaced a 3% return on post activity leading to action to one that's less than 1/2 a percent. Forget the idiocy that FB now reposts old status updates in a queue to connections and promotes 2nd/3rd connection paid ads at the top of the newsfeed.

    It was great when it started because of the security over myspace. Now instead of regulating actual offenders, any unwanted post can be "reported" and the user gets blacklisted for a 2day minimum. This is all beside the deal that when FB started toppling the hill of popularity the tweens/hipsters were a driving force. Now those kids are 17/18-27 and are bored with it. 1000 friends, you get to see 20-30 of their updates and a slew of likes and promotions. Congrats, you survived my friend purge is just a new way to say, "I actually know you, tell me what's new?(unless it's political, religious, leftist, conservative…etc.)" Like myspace became, FB is more for digital stalking these days, especially if you're a company trying to do ads on the cheap.

    They had a good run, but they should have focused on being a good public company before being a big public company. They've made a ton of changes the social networks didn't ask for, they bought a huuuuge building in Redwood City they couldn't fill, and they actually made it more difficult to stay in touch with people you are already in touch with. But hey, they did achieve the miraculous: being the only recent Silicon Valley tech IPO to use their first 6 months to alienate their user-base, their shareholders and their (oops, almost, would be millionaire) employees…

  6. Paul,

    Came across the blog. Great stuff for Church tech think.

    I think the problem with FB is the promulgation of purposelessness, hence why people are on FB more than they are on Google+. So using ads or promotions to cut thru the gunk and purposeless chatter to bring gospel-related info or advertising can be a good thing. I guess the issue is, are the analytics realistic and good on the ROI? Are the people who are seeing your promotions the people you're specifically targeting?

    Marty