Facebook page reach is currently a breakout search term in Google Trends. If you have a page on Facebook for your business or your band you have probably noticed a decline in the number of people who actually see your posts. According to many published stories Facebook has been slowly throttling the organic exposure of pages. Estimates for the current level of throttling range between 6% and 2% of your total fans/followers/customers are all that ever get to see any of your posts.
For the more jaded among us Facebook’s reasons for doing it might seem purely financial. Free pages that can reach any number of people who subscribe to them for free are not making any money. Sites like Facebook are expensive to host and there has to be a source of revenue from somewhere. For Facebook (and most social networks) that revenue comes from paid advertisements. First Facebook introduced banner ads and people were generally ok with that. Then came timeline ads and promoted posts and finally auto-play video ads.
If it had stopped there page owners wouldn’t have been affected. At the same time though, as early as 2010 there was speculation that Facebook was limiting the organic reach of pages. That trend has continued as a slow squeeze until now it has pretty much reached it’s limit.
Defenders of the practice (including Facebook) claim that it is good for user experience. This story from an examiner.com writer pretty much sums up the positive side of the argument. The main points are that a: Facebook needs to turn a profit and they are doing that (source CNN Money), b: throttling page exposure improves user experience by limiting “spammy” posts in their timelines which they do not want to see anyway.
The solution offered for page owners by the above cited examiner.com writer is to simply become more engaged with your fans/followers so that they come to your page every day and read your posts there. Engagement is indeed good advice because it is something that you should be doing anyway. It is part of the basis of the whole current philosophy of successful social networking.
The sticking point though is how to get people to come to your page every day. It isn’t like you can put up a post asking them to do it because, well…they are not going to see your post.
Maybe I am just cynical but my response to points a and b above is to wonder why Facebook has to protect my followers from my “spammy” posts? Why do they assume that every page owner posts that kind of content? Why can’t people just un-follow pages which they no longer want to see posts from?
For that matter, if Facebook just wants to deliver a better experience for it’s users and protect them from my spammy content, then why are they so willing to allow me to post all of the content I want to as long as I pay them for the privilege? Plus,by paying them I can post all the spammy content I want to, not just to the people who choose to follow me but to every single person who uses Facebook whether they like it or not (as long as I have the cash to do it). How does that protect users or improve their experience on the site?
An Alternative To Facebook Page Reach Limits
I thought it would be interesting to find an alternative way for page owners to distribute their posts and for users to be able to make sure that they do see all of the posts from pages that they really want to keep up with. Following is what I have come up with to date. True, it is far from perfect, but it does do the job. If nothing else it illustrates that something else is possible.
I think the future of social networking is going to be something like this. I mean we are currently inundated with information every day on the Internet. So much that nobody can keep up with it all. Plus, because social media is spread across so many channels, you have to log into 3 or 5 or 7 of them every day just to catch up on things in each area.
What if someone came up with a platform that would allow you to build your own little social network from multiple sources? You could have the most important pages from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google+ all in one place. It would remove all the clutter of the individual platforms from the rest of your friends (who you don’t want to offend by un-following them), and still allow you to see all of the content from your favorites without having to worry that throttling would prevent you from seeing most of their content.
The easiest way to do it is via RSS Feeds. They have fallen out of popularity somewhat of late but they have been around for a while. Back in the day they were how you subscribed to specific blogs so that you didn’t miss anything from your favorite writers. Even then there was a glut of information and RSS Feeds and Readers cut through the clutter for you.
Then Google retired Google Reader and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube removed the RSS feeds from their pages. Why did they do that? It just makes economic sense for them. In order to keep users engaged with their platform (and their advertising) they have to keep them ON their platform. RSS Feeds allowed people to view content away from their platform and that just wouldn’t do.
The truth is that RSS feeds and various types of readers are still out there. It is also possible to create RSS feeds for Facebook pages and YouTube channels pretty easily. Twitter and Google+ are possible but a little harder so I will limit myself to showing you how to create RSS feeds for Facebook and YouTube and the many ways that you can utilize them as a follower or a page/channel owner. For the other two here are links to resources for feed creation.
How to create a Twitter Feed. Below is the Street Punk Productions Twitter feed.
There is a web app to create Google+ feeds here. Below is ours.
Facebook Feeds: First you need your user number. If you have a vanity URL on your page you may have forgotten that user numbers exist. To find yours go to your facebook page and, in your browser navigation bar add the word “graph” into your page URL before “facebook”.
Add “graph” in place of “www”.
Then hit enter. This will show you a page of info about your page. Find your user number. It should be right at the top of your page. The one you are looking for probably has “id”: in front of it. Copy that number.
Next take this URL:
Insert your user number instead of the words “user number” in blue in the above example. The result is the RSS feed for your Facebook page:
The above feed is the one to the Street Punk Productions Facebook page. You are welcome to follow us via RSS if you want.
YouTube Feed: Creating an RSS feed for a YouTube channel is much simpler than for a Facebook page. All you have to do is go to a YouTube channel page and copy the URL:
Then you just insert “rss” in between youtube.com/ and /user/ as shown below and put /feed.rss on the end of the URL. Below is ours.
Uses For RSS Feeds
Now that I have created RSS feeds for my social networks what can I do with them? They can be a great way to keep tabs on the social networks of others or even your own or to present your social network posts to readers in a new way. They can even be used to gain a broader reach via RSS directories, aggregators and through search engines. In addition you can in effect create your own little social network made up of feeds from across multiple networks and see just the people you want to see.
In this photo you see the RSS feeds that I created for the Street Punk Productions website and social networks in Feeder, a browser extension for Google Chrome. It even alerts me when a new item is published on any of the feeds that I follow. Pretty handy for ease of accessibility. No need to log into any of the networks directly in order to keep tabs on the pages I want to follow.
In my example I used just my own pages but for several of the social networks you can create a feed for any channel just as easily as you can for your own. Maybe you want to follow your favorite bands or restaurants or maybe you are a huge fanboy and want to follow every tweet from Paris Hilton. This makes it easy. You can also arrange groups of feeds into folders and keep all your music feeds in one, your business feeds in another, etc.
You could offer your social RSS feeds on your website along with your social follow buttons if you want to enable fans or customers to make sure they get all of your posts. You could follow your competitors RSS feeds just to keep an eye on what they are doing. So many potential uses I will leave much of it up to the imagination of the reader.
If you want to give your followers a larger source of related information than just your own posts you could create an RSS based online newspaper at paper.li or a similar site. Below is a screen shot of the paper we created as an example for this story. It features our own social network posts plus we incorporated feeds from other sites that are contextually relevant. Here is the public link to our paper if you want to become a regular reader: https://paper.li/streetpunkprod/1396467753
Another place that I found which can serve as a web based RSS reader for your collection of feeds is Digg Reader. One nice feature about Digg Reader is that it has a mobile version so you or your followers can stay connected wherever they are.
Digg Reader also displays images and videos along with the text of your posts. It also has “like”, bookmark and share functions. I believe that feeds that you put into your Digg Reader are also publicly discover-able as is the URL of your Reader feed. Here is ours:
RSS Feed Distribution
RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and as the name implies they are all about sending your content out into the world so it can be discovered and used by others. Those others can be blogs or website owners or news sources or just individual users of the internet. But if you don’t put them out there no one will find them.
There are still many ways to distribute RSS feeds. These used to be more but as RSS fell out of fashion, along with blogging in general, the number has decreased. There are still enough of them though that it is worth pursuing.
This may come in handy now that the search engines are more focused on fresh, high quality material on the web. The more channels that you have at your disposal to distribute you content, the better. So RSS feeds could be part of your overall content strategy. An added bonus is that, once you have the feeds and feed distribution set up, the process is automatic.
I don’t want to bother listing a bunch of them out as there are many such lists on the Web already. Here is the link to a blog post in which the Author has compiled a nice list that was valid as of September 2013. Some are free, some are not so you just have to pick and choose as you see fit.
If you would like to create and use RSS feeds for your own site and social networks but would like some help we are available through Google Helpouts. We can guide you through the process of setting up any or all of the above mentioned feeds, readers or distribution channels.