June 6, 2014, 2:14 PM

Why shoppers aren’t seeing your Facebook posts

The social network says that with more consumers and pages sharing more content, it’s gotten harder for any single post to gain exposure in news feeds, particularly since the number of pages Liked by the typical Facebook user grew 50% last year.

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More consumers and brands are sharing more content on Facebook, creating more competition to get an individual post seen by consumers in the news feed, the social network says. Adding to the problem marketers face, the total number of pages Liked by the typical Facebook user grew more than 50% last year, which further increases competition. 

That’s why it has gotten increasingly difficult for online retailers to get their posts seen by their Facebook followers, writes Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president of ads product marketing, in a blog post. 

On average, only 6.51% of a brand’s followers saw a typical post  in March, down from 10.15% last November and 16.00% in February 2012, according to news feed optimization service EdgeRank Checker.

“There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it,” Boland writes. Facebook curates the news feed to its users’ interests. For example, a typical Facebook user has 1,500 posts that could appear in her news feed each time she logs onto the social network, and the news feed typically displays about 30 of those posts based on “thousands of factors relative to each person,” he writes.

The social network regularly tweaks the algorithm it uses to select which posts appear in a user’s news feed. For example, in April it announced it was adjusting the algorithm to penalize what it calls “Like-baiting,” marketers who ask users to Like, comment or share posts, and those who post non-original content and feature “spammy” links.

“People only have so much time to consume stories, and people often miss content that isn’t toward the top when they log on,” he writes. “This means they often do not see the content that’s most valuable to them.”

That approach stands in contrast to Twitter, which displays tweets in the order that they were shared. That real-time approach, Boland says, leads to a less engaging experience and, if used by Facebook, would require marketers to post more often to ensure that their posts wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.

While many experts have suggested Facebook’s news feed changes have created a “pay-to-play” situation in which marketers have to use the social network’s Promoted Posts and other ad units to garner consumers’ attention, the social network says that’s not the case.

“We believe that delivering the best experiences for people also benefits the businesses that use Facebook,” he writes. “If people are more active and engaged with stories that appear in News Feed, they are also more likely to be active and engaged with content from businesses.”

However, while Facebook say its platform isn’t “pay-to-play,” it does suggest retailers and other businesses should use advertising to drive sales.

“Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals,” he writes. “Your business won’t always appear on the first page of a search result unless you’re paying to be part of that space. Similarly, paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content.”

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