Facebook Fans: Do They Matter Anymore?

Have changes to it’s algorithm made the concept of Facebook fans obsolete?

The history of Facebook has been one of continual change and evolution.  If you were to go back in time and see how the site looked at its launch in 2004 it would seem very different than how it appears today.  In that sense, evolution is a good thing. After all, it gave us the “Like” button in 2009 and “Messenger” in 2011.

But not all change is good and as Facebook’s algorithm has evolved one concept is being left behind.

The Rise of Facebook Fans

Facebook launched Business Pages on November 6, 2007.  Before this, companies created a profile and freely interacted with “friends” on the platform the same way people did.

But with a Page, a business became limited in what it could do. Companies were no longer able to seek out “friends” and initiate contact.  Posting to the page was possible, but only those who “Liked” that page, its fans, would see the posts.

So building an audience of Facebook fans became an important aim for online marketers. Without “Likes” on your page, nobody could see your posts.  Strategies for building these communities became valuable and companies engaged in any number of contests and practices, all designed to get people to “Like” their page.

The logic of all of this seemed reasonable at the time: The more Facebook fans you had, the more people that would see your posts.  It was the same idea as picking a busy street over a quiet one for a billboard.

But there was more happening behind the scenes. Launched on the same day with Pages was Facebook’s new advertising system.  It was not a coincidence.

Pages and Facebook Ads

The advertising system was created to help monetize the platform.  Of course, the goal was to get businesses to pay to reach Facebook users.  But as long as they could make posts to all of their fans, many businesses would be content to simply make free posts on Facebook.  Why would they pay when they could do it for free.

Facebook needed to move businesses into the advertising system.  The company chose to do it through its algorithm.

The Algorithm

Facebook’s final step toward monetizing its platform was its algorithm.  Since 2012, it slowly reduced post reach, which is the ability of a page to reach all of its fans, to less than one percent.   That means that if a page has 100 Facebook fans, a post would reach less than one person today. 

With organic reach being all but dead to businesses, they have no choice today but to use boosted posts and Facebook ads to get their messages in front of their target audience.

The Important Part

This is the most important part of this article: Everything written before this means that the number of fans that a page has today is meaningless.  If you can only reach a fraction of one percent, then you are really reaching no one.  Thus, you must use boosted posts or Facebook ads to market your business on Facebook today.

Sadly, the algorithm has made the concept of Facebook fans obsolete.

The Wrap

What prompted me to write this article was a question I had from a new client about getting more fans to his page.  He was eager to grow the number of fans so more people would view his posts.  Of course, I had to burst his bubble and tell him that Facebook didn’t work like that anymore.

In the beginning, Facebook fans were a democratic measure of how popular a page was. Today they are a meaningless remnant and marketers should not waste their time trying to increase their number.

Do you have questions about marketing your business on Facebook? Contact me at 513-237-5530.

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Bob Turner is a Digital Marketing Consultant with RevLocal in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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