Are Facebook Promoted Updates Negatively Impacting Organic Updates?

Facebook’s Promoted Updates product clearly works, and can both increase exposure for an update and also increase followers, but it may be the social networks finest example as acting as “Big Brother.”

This post compares organic Facebook Page updates versus Facebook Page Promoted Updates, and you’re probably not going to like what you see. The examples seen in this post are from my fashion blog’s Facebook Page (it’s not been used a lot, which is why the likes are just over 1,000).

Let’s start with a photo update that was made on October 19. It’s of a coat that was shared on Tumblr more than 2,500 times, so I know it’s a popular image. The Facebook update was seen by 118 people and liked twice.

In comparison, I did a Promoted Update on October 23rd and used a cool photo I snapped in SoHo. The total budget for the promotion was $5, and it was seen by 3,918 people and liked 63 times. I’d say that’s a huge difference, wouldn’t you?

I then opted to do a second test with Facebook’s Promoted Updates on October 29th using another fun photo I took. The budget for this promotion was $10, and it was seen by 13,242 people, liked 231 times and received 11 comments, most of which were in a foreign language.

In addition to the Promoted Update on Monday I did an organic update that included text and a link. It was seen by a whopping 90 people. 90.

The examples in this post make it clear that Facebook’s Promoted Updates will help get your post in front of a larger group of people, but if you’re like me, you are probably now wondering if Facebook is somehow limiting the number of people that see your organic posts.

As I’ve gone back and looked at numbers for other organic posts, I’m hard pressed to find an update that was seen by more than 185 people, even after a post has been liked and shared a number of times.

Either I have a disengaged audience, am not sharing interesting content (don’t think it’s this option; Tumblr proved that) or Facebook is acting as “Big Brother” and lowering organic views in an effort to prompt wider adoption of Promoted Updates. I hate to say it, but the latter is the way I’m leaning.

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  • http://twitter.com/EricBurgess Eric Burgess

    Your wording is a bit funny with the use of organic; I would just say “promoted posts vs. un-promoted posts.” That said, yes, it’s unfortunate but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. While they’re not trying to specifically act like “Big Brother,” they do want our money and they’re going to design their platform to be optimized for those who buy into promoted posts.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jeffsangeorge Jeff SanGeorge

    This is a good question. Every time Facebook plays with their edgerank algorithm it seems like some segment somewhere is getting screwed. I’ve been thinking of promoted posts as a way to increase you reach to non-active fans, and to make them active, thereby finding your way back into their newsfeed. But if your theory is true I’ve got to reconsider this approach!

  • http://www.ryanshell.com/blog Ryan Shell

    I use “organic” because they are natural, un-promoted updates. But I get what you are saying.

  • http://www.ryanshell.com/blog Ryan Shell

    I like your thinking, but just don’t know that the research would be conclusive without knowing who and when is viewing the updates.
    Although, it would be interesting to see a more targeted approach to the Promoted Updates.

  • http://twitter.com/EricBurgess Eric Burgess

    To add, I think you’re discounting how good “un-promoted” posts are still working for you. Your Fashables FB page only has 1,000 likes. For a standard post to be seen by 90 people is good! That’s nearly 10% of your audience! Good conversion! :D

  • http://www.ryanshell.com/blog Ryan Shell

    I know 10% may appear to be good, but the percentages used to be higher. And I’ve seen other pages impacted in a very negative way.

  • http://thatsaprettyhat.blogspot.com/ Kathleen Lisson

    I think another piece of the puzzle is whether your users have specifically added you to their newsfeed. Even after specifically telling Facebook I do want pages to be shown on my newsfeed, I still hit the most recent button to find that none of the pages I follow has updated in the last 12 – 24 hours. Really? How can that be true.

  • http://www.ryanshell.com/blog Ryan Shell

    Yeah, that’s hard to believe.