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Facebook: If They Could Only See You Now
Posted by Amy Linert on Tue, Dec 18, 2012

If they could only see you nowWe’re taught to make things visuals. Want to spread your message? Make an infographic. Tell the story in a connecting image. Make itvisual. And we know time and again that’s true. Magazines needs images to catch the eye of the potential reader. TV news needs to show it audience what’s happening. Pinterest pinners need to know what their finished DIY project should look like.

But what if in an instant that all came to a grinding halt? Hello, Facebook.

No, I’m not talking about no longer capturing those family photos, that double rainbow or the guys’ night out (though give that last one some thought), I’m talking about brands and their use of image-based posts on Facebook. Read on!

We have several large social media clients at McMurry and we specifically built their content plans around driving leads/sales as well being resource for their customers. As we began to dig into our client campaigns, we learned that simple engagement posts, such as “like this if it’s your birthday month,” often hit the hundred thousand mark and sometimes low millions in reach – calculated as a percentage gain these were often 30-40% level of reach. See, at that time, Facebook rewarded you based on immediate and reoccurring engagement (action) on your posts and, as you might expect, one of the simplest and easiest ways to do this was through sharing product images each week. Again, hundreds of thousands in reach was collected via customers’ likes and shares on these images.

Then September came. Reminds me of the Green Day song “Wake Me Up When September Ends” but, as you’ll find at the end of this post, September still hasn’t ended.

Half way through that month we saw our client’s reach plummeted. Down as low as 8% on average across our various client accounts. Whoa! What? Why?!

We scoured our data; we were posting at optimal times, our strategic plan hadn’t veered off, maybe we were too promotional (Facebook hates that, you know), but nothing was different from the previous 60-days.But, at the end of that month, we revisited the data and found one consistent connection between the lowest ranking posts: images.

While reach was down overall, posts with images showed significant loss of traction. By a lot, and not just promotional images – any kind of post with an image. There had been talk in the community that Facebook changed their algorithm (nothing we’re not already used to, Google is a lot scarier). But this was the first time Facebook changes directly affected social posts for brands, something of big concern for all of our clients.

So, what to do? We tested. Based on our optimal schedule we posted a non-image promotion with promo codes and one with an image. The non-image tests far exceeded the one with the image and our theory was confirmed.

We duplicated the test across our various clients and same result. Images aren’t always better for reach in Facebook. Internally we have a theory; Facebook has changed its model to “encourage” brands to spend money through promoted posts, sponsored stories and Facebook ads. And there is rumor and a few screenshots floating about that Facebook has been testing a new newsfeed stream that pulls back into one column, which means real estate is shrinking. In order to fit as much content into a fan’s feed and to incorporate promoted posts by brands, less is more. Images take up a minimum 403×403 pixel space while a text post is a quarter of that.

Again, this is just our theory but, we welcome your observations on these trends and will keep you up-to-date as we uncover more evidence.

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