Facebook Text-Only Status Updates Have a Higher Reach

There’s been a shift in the recommended best practices for Facebook with regard to optimizing EdgeRank, the algorithm that controls what updates are shown to users. In the past, well-crafted text, a question or call-to-action and a photo comprised the perfect trifecta needed for status update greatness.

But in the past few months, there has been a shift.

Text-only updates, while not seeing the same engagement levels (Number of Likes, Comments, Shares) as updates that include images, are seeing a much higher Reach.

Take a look at the 2 updates below. Both were posted to the Eli | Rose Social Media fan page. You’ll see that both updates had virtually the same Reach, even though the photo update received 3 times as many Likes as the text-only update, plus 4 Comments and 20 Shares.

facebook-update-with-photo

Update containing an image.

text-only-facebook-update

Text-only update

Why Is Text-Only Doing Better?

We don’t know for sure. One theory I’ve heard tossed around suggests the smaller visual space a text-only update takes up in the feed (in comparison to a photo) is preferable to Facebook, who wants to have plenty of space for its paid advertising products.

Where Did the Virality Go?

Another change that I’ve noticed is that viral photo shares (think: someecards) do not “pay off” in terms of Reach and your People Talking About number like they used to. Previously, if I shared a popular image to a fan page, and it was then shared by my fans to their profiles or pages, I used to get “credit” from Facebook in the form of a skyrocketing Reach number.

Here’s an example from a page we admin. This page has over 2,000 fans. With 18 Likes, 3 comments and 43 Shares, you’d expect much higher Reach than 279, wouldn’t you? popular-facebook-post

In fact, a similar type of update posted to this same page last summer (August 2012) garnered 38 Likes, 3 comments and 39 Shares, and had a Reach of 1,219.

Screen shot 2013-01-03 at 8.40.40 PM

So, What am I Supposed to Do Now?

The only constant in social media is that it’s always changing. The best approach to take with the ever-evolving rules of Facebook engagement and Reach is to be sure you continually vary your update style. Still use photos, still ask questions, still share links and also craft some text-only updates. Keep an eye on what’s working best for you, and if you notice new trends developing.

Be sure you have a diversified social media presence as well. It’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one platform’s basket.

6 Comments

  1. Alison

    I’ve been testing a few ways (as you suggested), and it’s still hard to discern a working formula. My conclusions are:
    – The kind of content you share still counts a lot e.g. you can share a funny someecard, but not all someecards are equal 🙂
    – The time of the week. I know people supposedly spend more time on Facebook on weekends than they do weekdays, but my lowest engagement is on weekends. Just me?

    Reply
    • admin

      Typically those “best times” are for Facebook overall. I think retail does better on the weekends, whereas a mom blog’s fan page won’t necessarily have that same weekend traffic.

      Reply
  2. Jill

    Thanks again for sharing your insight. I try to do a variety of posts. I’ll go back look closer at the # of reaches they are getting. Like Alison, weekends don’t do much for me either. M-F 7-8a & 3p seem to be the best times for me…. maybe it’s because I have mainly moms following & that is before/after kids go/get home from school.

    Reply
    • admin

      I have a mom-related page I manage, and I find that 8:30 (after morning school drop-off) and 4 pm (once they get home), are good times.

      Reply
  3. Amanda Austin

    Any comparison on text only vs text with a link, though? I personally don’t like the “link in the comments” thing. It seems really unnatural to me in the flow of the content, and when you’re on a mobile device, it’s an extra tap to get to the comments and find it. On a status update that has a lot of comments, you have to click AGAIN to get to the link. I’d also be interested in seeing the click through rate on those posts…let’s say a post with links in the post had a reach of 50, but 10 of those people clicked through, but one with “links in the comments” had a reach of 100 and only 5 people clicked through…well I’d rather have the 10 click throughs, myself. But then again, maybe I’m the only one who feels that way 🙂

    Reply
    • admin

      I don’t think you are the only one. I don’t think it’s wise to make people work for your content. Just like full vs partial feed.

      The thing with Facebook is that nothing lasts for long. By the time the spring comes, I’d guess we’ll all be singing a different Facebook engagement tune.

      Reply

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