Facebook has been making changes to how content will be shared on people’s newsfeeds. These are designed to help users connect more with friends and family, and limit the number of ‘public’ posts they see from businesses and other media. However, some people are concerned that an inadvertent side-effect of this could be a change in the reach of charity, fundraising, and awareness pages.
What the Changes Involve
Recently, Facebook has been receiving feedback that public content is taking up a lot of the space in people’s newsfeeds, meaning that posts from friends and family are shown less. So in January this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was planning to make some fundamental changes to the way the newsfeed works, saying in a post, “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
For a long time, Facebook has used signals like reactions, comments, and shares of posts to help their algorithm decide which posts to promote. Now more factors will also be measured, such as whether a post creates discussions in the comments.
This update is designed to limit the amount of promotional material people see, and in their post, Facebook wrote, “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media” and “pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.”
One type of post that will be particularly demoted, according to Facebook, is ‘engagement bait’, which goads people to like, share, or comment through posts such as ‘Like this if you’re an Aries’. However, the company says, “Posts that ask people for help, […] such as circulating a missing child report, raising money for a cause […] will not be adversely impacted by this update.”
Some people have linked this update to the spread of Fake News through Facebook, and, according to an analysis by The Outline, if reducing Fake News is a goal then these changes seem to be working. They say, “publishers of clickbait, purposefully polarizing content, and/or blatantly fake news have experienced a significant sustained drop in interaction” after the updates, while more mainstream news sources haven’t felt a large difference.
However, this shift in what posts are shown may have an unintended effect on smaller pages that aren’t straightforwardly social or business – and some small non-profit, awareness, and community groups are concerned that the changes will negatively affect them. According to Non-Profit Quarterly, “this change will particularly hurt non-profits, which often lack the funds to hire dedicated social media experts who can create high-quality content.”
Medics, My Line, and Me
One person who says they have seen changes to the number of people engaging with their Facebook page is Hannah Amelia Evans, who blogs about her life and experiences with EDS, POTS, and mast cell activation disorder. Hannah and her family use a Facebook page called Medics, My Line, and Me to keep people updated about her life and new blog posts, but say that since the newsfeed update her posts have only been reaching around 25 people out of the 1,500 who follow her.
While Facebook offers the option to pay for more exposure through boosting and ads, this is not accessible for people who are already facing the high costs of rare disease treatment. Hannah has spent the past three years building her page to help get her story out in the world and offer support to other people living with chronic illnesses, but she is worried that she will no longer be able to reach people because of Facebook’s changes. Because she isn’t paying for exposure, her page relies on follower interaction to continue reaching her audience.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Hannah explained when we spoke with her. She said that she can’t understand why it seems like Facebook is treating her page as if it were a company advertising a product.
How You Can Reach More People
It’s normal for posts from any page to only reach a fraction of their followers. However, there are things that you can do to help promote the content you care about.
Since the new newsfeed filtering system prioritises posts that are engaged with, many people say that the best way to help posts reach more people continues to be by encouraging people to interact with the post through likes, shares, comments, and discussions. Making deliberate choices about which formats to post in could also help; for example, live videos tend to average around six times as many interactions as regular videos. Facebook says that “pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution,” so by engaging with posts you can help to make sure that those pages are promoted.
Another useful Facebook feature is the ‘See First in News Feed’ preference, which lets people pick which pages are most important to them, and makes sure posts from those pages are always at the top of their newsfeed.