Publishers large and small are discovering that beyond Facebook’s walled garden, the social landscape is becoming increasingly barren. When Facebook rolled out Instant Articles for all iPhone users last month, the media raised concerns that the network’s almighty News Feed algorithm would prioritize Instant Articles over external links, resulting in a drop in traffic to websites. external publisher’s website. Those concerns now seem warranted. Like Digiday reported Last week, engagement on Facebook plummeted 32 percent from January to October.
During that time period, Facebook (desktop, not mobile) referral traffic to BuzzFeed dropped 41 percent. For Fox News, the drop was 48 percent. For the Huffington Post, that’s a staggering 60 percent.
However, these drops, shockingly, coincide with Facebook’s claims that it is sending more traffic overall to publishers.
“Over the past two years, we have seen a significant increase in referral traffic to publishers from Facebook, almost across the board,” Facebook said in a statement to Digiday. “As the number of posts to Facebook has increased dramatically over the past few months, the number of potential posts shown to any person has increased proportionally, which affects reach. … In general, refer to today’s top 1,000 publishers on the same level as them in January. ”
Whether that’s true or not, “corresponding gain” doesn’t necessarily help. Total engagement across brands and publishers’ pages has dropped rapidly, contrary to Digiday’s report and Facebook’s apparent desire to keep people in its ecosystem. Using SumoRank, an analytics tool created by BuzzSumo that allows you to get instant data on any Facebook page, you can track your estimated total monthly interactions (i.e. comments, likes, , shares) for both brands and publishers. Almost without exception — seriously, connect any publisher to SumoRank – total engagement on Facebook has been down since May.
You could argue that this is an obvious result of Facebook prioritizing Instant Articles over sending users to external sites. But two of the most notable early adopters of Instant Articles, Times and Refinery 29, have seen their engagement go very smoothly. Therefore, relying on Facebook as a source of readers, seems to be a Catch – 22: Publishers can lose engagement and referral traffic from Facebook, or they can embrace Instant Articles and archive their content directly on Facebook, thus giving up control over it.
We’re still not using Instant Articles — anyway — and sure enough, we’ve seen a drop on our own Facebook page. To be fair, however, we are a different case: a content marketing technology company with a well-read digital publication.
It’s not all doom and gloom for us on Facebook. In October, a social media strategy that worked incredibly well: distribute paid content On Facebook. Every month, we run small paid Facebook campaigns to promote our best content and by the most meaningful metrics — click-through rate, cost-per-click, overall referral traffic — last month was our best month ever on Facebook:
Here we come to the truth about Facebook. With so much uncertainty surrounding the constantly changing News Feed algorithm, it seems like buying a paid distribution is the only way to ensure that you’ll hit your engagement goals. It’s not all bad news because Facebook is The most effective content distribution platform today . But if you want people to see your content, one thing is clear, you’re going to have to pay to play.