Way back in 2008, just after Facebook had first launched its pages product, I was helping a friend promote their small business using Twitter. At the time, Facebook was still a place only for friends to hang out and little had been done in relation to including business in this space.
The implementation of hash-tag technology into social media had revolutionised communication and Twitter provided the perfect platform where engagement amongst strangers with similar niche interests was commonplace. Thanks to hash tagging, I was easily able to locate and interact with users who were interested in the types of niche products the company was selling.
Although small, I was having considerable success building a community of Twitter users who enjoyed engaging with the company.
Back in 2008, just as it is now, Facebook was the dominant social platform. It had the users, the press attention and the investors lining up to keep it growing.
Whilst Twitter offered amazing opportunities for engagement with strangers through hash tagging, it’s easy to learn and manipulate API (Application Programming Interface) allowed spammers to run wild on the platform, making it an unreliable area to maintain an audience. This resulted in many users abandoning their accounts and heading to the spam-free waters of Facebook.
It was an anonymous member of the Twitter-sphere who reached out to me one day from the ether and informed me that in the USA, Facebook pages were quickly becoming the best destination for brands to interact with their fan base.
Without much thought or preparation, I jumped right into Facebook, set up a page and started converting our Twitter followers into Facebook fans.
As Twitter continued to fight its battles with spammers (eventually ending in a dramatic change to their API in 2010), I found comfort knowing that I had moved the audience from (what I then believed to be) a sinking ship, onto one with a strong, stable future.
To this day, I still don’t really know why, but I didn’t post on the Facebook page for just over a year. Rather, I kept using Twitter to interact with our community and also invite these followers to become fans of our Facebook page. I guess that after all the years of work I had been putting into managing and building this following, I wanted to make the first Facebook post a euphoric moment, something I could really enjoy.
Slowly but surely, as I continued to promote the company’s Facebook page to Twitter followers, the page reached 5,000 fans. After a year since I created the page, it was finally time for the first post.
“We are finally on Facebook! Thanks to everyone who’s joined us for the ride, who’s out there?'” I posted.
This first post was going to be the culmination of a year’s hard work realised in a sea of comments, likes, shares and overall good times.
I posted and I waited. I decided to give myself 12 hours to let the post run its course and then begin engaging.
I watched and waited until finally, it was time.
3 likes and 1 comment! But I have 5,000 fans? What’s going on here?
I had expected maybe 2,000 interactions, hopefully more.
To add insult to injury, the only comment was from my friend who also happened to be the owner of the company!
‘I am!’ he replied. Smart-ass.
‘What?’ I thought to myself.
After a year of hard work building this audience, Facebook had sold me a lemon.
I was furious.
This story will be familiar to anyone who has dealt with managing a Facebook page. Spending lots of money or putting in months of hard work to build an audience only to find you aren’t reaching them with your messages.
My first thought was that the post I wrote may have just been crappy and that no one cared, but then I remembered the 200+ fans who had a personal connection to the company and how their indifference to the post was extremely unusual.
I contacted many of these fans who were online at the time and asked them why they hadn’t responded.
‘Responded to what?’ One replied.
The post hadn’t been delivered to their news feeds.
Our page had a bug that needed fixing. But what was it?
A Google search revealed that there were a lot of other page managers experiencing the same problem, lots of fans with only a tiny percentage responding to posts.
Much unlike today, there was only one article found during my search for answers that mentioned the two words that have continued to haunt me ever since. “Edge Rank”.
I decided I needed to clear my head. My claustrophobic one bedroom apartment was not a healthy place to experience these levels of both fury and disappointment.
I walked down to the beach across the road from my apartment block, sat down on the sand, pulled out my iPhone, and began what has now become 5 years of continued research into the Facebook news feed algorithm.
Much like my earlier self, businesses today are angry with Facebook. How could Facebook fool them into spending so much time and money building a fan base on their platform only then to be blackmailed into having to continue paying for advertising and promoted posts to reach them?
During my years of research into Facebook , especially into it’s algorithm system, I have come to champion it, and believe it to be a vital tool in helping maintain a healthy social ecosystem and to ensure that businesses police themselves against poor social media choices.
Unsuprisingly, the online world is filled with many anti EdgeRank/algorithm articles and blogs, primarily written by people who have not taken the time to understand Facebook’s mission or accept that perhaps their brand isn’t the most important thing on Facebook.
I believe that Facebook’s algorithm gives your business, either big or small an opportunity like no other and if you seek to understand the ‘why’ then you will no doubt soon discover the ‘how’.
Dane Kloos is a ‘Successful Doctor’ and Community & Content Manager at REBORN.