My Facebook Friends Are 72% Less Interested In Me. Here’s Why.
Something is different about Facebook recently. My friends have been communicating with less frequency. Specifically, when I post: fewer and fewer people have been responding.
I decided to put this feeling to the test by looking at the activity related to all of my posts since the beginning of 2012. I counted the number of likes and comments each post received and then rolled the numbers up to look at them by month. The following chart shows my findings: monthly “likes per post” and “comments per post.”
The trend line is obviously pointed down. On a very steep slope. Likes/post are down 72% since the beginning of the year. Comments/post are down 88%.
This isn’t a fluke. I average roughly 20 post each month. While that might not make me the most frequent poster amongst my friends (or anyone’s group of friends), it’s certainly enough frequency to remove statistical inconsistency.
This isn’t about ego. I have often pledged my appreciation that social networks are a place for healthy back-and-forth. A good conversation is one where there is true dialogue. Dialogue is affirming. Monologue, less so. If we are to invest time and energy into our communities, we would prefer for there to be true and active participation.
There are a few possible reasons why likes and comments to my posts are down.
#1. I’VE BECOME LESS INTERESTING. I’ll admit it’s totally possible. But, as I looked at the content of the posts, it was hard to make the argument that much has changed month-to-month.
#2. FACEBOOK FATIGUE. Maybe fewer of my friends are spending time on Facebook? Or at least commenting actively? According to Compete, Facebook.com usership has remained flat since the beginning of the year (168.6 million users in January to 169.9 million users in March). While this doesn’t account for mobile usership or indicate time spent commenting, it might render this reason somewhat benign. Many of my friends have said that they are using Facebook less, but the sheer volume of usage suggests that this isn’t necessarily true.
#3. FACEBOOK’S ALGORITHM. (SPOILER ALERT: I’m placing my chips on this one.) Last September, Facebook changed the way we see content in our news feed. It was around that time that we stopped seeing our friends’ posts strictly in chronological order and we began seeing them based on calculations made by EdgeRank, Facebook’s proprietary content management tool. EdgeRank surfaces posts based on our connection to the posters. The more we are connected to a friend through likes and comments, the more we see their posts. Our other friends? We barely connect anymore.
By Facebook’s own admission, we now see only 12-16% of the posts made by our friends. If we take this at face-value, it means that each one of my posts aren’t being seen by roughly 84% of my intended audience. With my likes down 72% and my comments down 88%, this certainly seems to be the case.
Why has Facebook made these changes? Revenue. Facebook will likely be valued at around $100 billion at the end of trading on day one of their upcoming IPO. The company needs to generate massive amounts of revenue in order to substantiate that valuation.
The EdgeRank algorithm makes it easier for Facebook to drive revenue. They can now artificially determine the percentage of posts that we see - whether that content is from a person or a brand. So, how can you ensure that your posts are seen by more of your friends? Facebook has a solve for that. They introduced a new ad product called Reach Generator at their fMC event on February 29th. This product is geared to help companies reach the 84% of people following their brands that used to be reached at no cost before EdgeRank entered the picture.
Brands now have to pay to reach their own audiences on Facebook. This is a matter of influence: earned influence before these announcements and paid influence now.
All of this brings me back to my group of Facebook friends. I am not an advertiser and will not be paying money to reach the 84% that no longer see my posts on a regular basis. Far from being a business, I see my Facebook experience as one where I participate in conversation with my social network. But, due to the changes at Facebook, my network has become far less social. As the trend line continues downward, I will consider using other social channels more frequently to connect with my friends and colleagues.
While Facebook has made these changes in the interest of generating revenue from the 1 million companies that advertise on the platform, they may quickly need to reconsider the effect that those changes are having on the 850 million people that those companies are trying to reach. Because if the people use the platform less, the advertiser dollars will follow them elsewhere.