Quite a few of us has noticed considerable changes in post penetration for Facebook Pages. Something has happened to Facebook’s EdgeRank and quite a few people has been very vocal about it.

But what really went down, and why?

Statistics from SocialBakers and We Are Social

TechCrunch did a comparison of the findings from recent studies from SocialBakers and We Are Social. Here’s how they present the data:

So this is pretty apparent, right? Why is Facebook saying that their data is wrong? Well, Facebook says that the study isn’t based on a large enough number of Facebook Pages. And granted, Facebook can extract data from ALL the Pages, in this case via PageLever. And here’s what they find:

So, what can we make of all of this? For the average company, what does these conflicting stats mean? Well, according to We Are Social, Facebook Page reach has indeed gone down, but not engagement levels. To put it bluntly, whatever Facebook did, they preserved or increased News Feed engagement by compensating for a growing number of Facebook Pages.

One could only cautiously guess that corporate content on Facebook isn’t good enough to be shown in users’ feeds and sure, this does make sense. Most companies are new to the online engagement industry.

Interpreting The New Data Sets

“Facebook has changed EdgeRank!”
Yes, this seems to be the case. The inner workings of the EdgeRank seems to be the same when it comes to behavioural tracking, learning from previous interactions, affinity and timing. But this doesn’t mean that a few tweaks to certain indexes won’t have huge effects on what gets through and what doesn’t.

“Why should we trust Facebook presenting their own data in their own defence?”
Sure, this is a valid point and hopefully investigative journalism stays critical. But personally I trust the Facebook numbers; it makes very little sense for them to doctor their numbers. The risk of exposure is simply too high versus the potential gain in public opinion.

“Facebook did this to force companies to use Promoted Posts!”
Well, this isn’t exactly black and white. Let’s remember that Facebook has quite a few fully functional brains on staff. We can be sure that they understand exactly what they’re doing—and what they’re not doing. If they force companies with great content into paying for exposure, their skills will be levelled with any company with less skills but with equal budgets. The result of this would be poorer quality content for the users of Facebook. And we can be pretty sure that Facebook has got this scenario down.

And the PageLever stats shows this in quite clear terms; great content is getting greater spread, poorer content gets less. Those brands who publish less engaging content gets affected negatively with less exposure and therefore they get vocal. Those who present great social content, they see no reason to speak up. Hence the debate, hence the clearly increased standard deviation.

“Stop attacking Facebook, they’re all-right!”
Well, as I said—it’s not black and white. Because they do want to make money from the weaker companies. It’s not a stretch to conclude that Facebook is counting on these companies to create better content now that they have to pay for it. Better content all around, more competition for user attention, better user experience and of course, one additional revenue stream for Facebook. They’re using their structural influence to increase their revenues, but then again, we can’t really expect them to be communists.

What The New EdgeRank Means For Companies On Facebook

So, how should companies tackle Facebook’s new EdgeRank? My recommendation is a given:

Adapt and overcome. Or, don’t be boring.

If your customers appreciate your presence on Facebook, focus and become even better through A/B testing and data analysis. Just take comfort in the fact that there are social engagement winners on Facebook and get determined to be one of these. Don’t regard Promoted Posts as a quick fix for your social content, because it isn’t. See Promoted Posts as a tactical extra boost for content that would work better in the form of paid media.

As for the debate on whether or not Facebook is more or less evil after their IPO, well… let me re-iterate by reminding us all of a saying we used quite often in the PR industry, “never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel”. Maybe it’s time for new saying, “never argue with a social network that measures traffic hits in terabytes”.