facebook-fall-engagement

The average number of engagements with Facebook posts created by brands and publishers has fallen by over 20% since January 2017.

We analyzed over 880 million Facebook posts published by brands and publishers over the last year. In this sample the average number of engagements fell from 340 to 264 over the first six months of the year, as shown in the chart below.FB-engagements

The biggest fall in engagement was with image posts and link posts. According to the data video posts had the smallest fall in engagement and videos now gain twice the level of engagement of other post formats on average. The chart below shows average engagements by post type in June 2017.

average-engagements-post-type

For more on video engagement read our recent research post analysing 100 million Facebook videos.

The detailed data on all 880 million posts is set out at the end of this post.

Why Is Facebook Engagement Declining?

Our survey data includes engagements for all posts, including those supported by paid promotion. There are a number of possible explanations for this declining level of engagement.

  1. One possible interpretation is that brands and publishers spent less on promotion over the year resulting in less exposure and engagement. However, surveys show the reverse is actually the case with brands and publishers spending more on Facebook promotion.
  2. A more likely explanation is that Facebook organic reach has declined significantly and increases in paid promotion have not enabled brands and publishers to maintain their levels of Facebook engagement.

The second explanation is also more likely as Facebook themselves acknowledge that organic reach is declining. They say this is for two main reasons:

  1. More content. Facebook say there are now on average 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s feed. So competition is increasing and not everything can be shown.
  2. Facebook have also been making changes in the algorithm which decides what content to show users. Facebook say they look at thousands of factors to decide which stories to display in an attempt to show users the content that is most relevant. Facebook have also made a number of changes to the feed algorithm, for example to demote lower quality content and clickbait headlines that withhold information from the reader.

A decline in organic reach has also been documented in numerous other articles. For example:

  • The Financial Times reported a Socialflow survey in June 2016 showing a 42% decline in organic Facebook reach
  • Marketing Land followed up this story in August 2016 reporting a 52% fall in publisher organic reach on Facebook
  • In January 2017 Kurt Gessler of the Chicago Tribune reported further decreasing reach, claiming one third of their posts were not being surfaced by the latest Facebook algorithm.

Other potential reasons for declining reach include:

  1. Competition in the news feed. As  brands and publishers increase their spending on Facebook advertising and promotion, the more there is competition for space. AdWeek reported that Facebook’s ad revenues in the second quarter to 2017 increased 47% over the same quarter in 2016. This growth in Facebook paid ads will invariably reduce the space for other posts in the news feed.
  2. Further changes to the Facebook algorithm which have reduced average reach since January 2017.
  3. 2016 was an election year in the US. One possible reason for lower levels of engagement is that the last year’s election drove very high engagement with political posts for publishers. It may be that since the election in 2016, engagement with political posts has declined on Facebook, which has reduced the overall averages.

Our BuzzSumo Data

Facebook Posts Published by Brands and Publishers

We looked at over 880 million Facebook Posts published by brand and publishers over the last year. We looked specifically at image posts, link posts and video posts. The number of posts in each month and category were as follows.

brand-posts-engagement

Over the year we can see a decline in the number of image and link posts published and a ten percent increase in video posts. This is to be expected given Facebook’s focus on video and the higher engagement which this format generates. However, video posts still only represented just over 10% of all posts during the year. We can see the breakdown below.

FB-posts-type

Facebook Engagement by Post Type

In January we started to see a marked decline in engagement levels which may have been due to changes in the Facebook algorithm. We are conscious Facebook algorithm changes will affect different pages and different content types in different ways. The biggest fall has been in engagements with image posts.

average-engagement-facebook-typeWe can see that the most marked decline in average engagement was with image posts. This fell from over 480 in July and August 2016 to below 340 in April, May and June 2017. The chart below shows the trends by type.

average-facebook-engagements-chartDo Your Own Facebook Analysis

BuzzSumo’s Facebook Analyzer allows you to analyze public posts on any topic or published by any page. You can filter by date, by content type such as videos or images and sort by the most likes, shares or comments. You can search for top posts on a topic or enter a Facebook page to get a detailed analysis of their content including most engaging post types, average engagements over time, days and times of day when they get most engagement and much more. You can also export data to undertake further analysis. Sign up for a 14 day free free trial and give it a test run.

 

  • Thanks for sharing this detailed analysis. Being a publisher, we at Bizztor.com also had seen decrease in engagements.

    • Steve Rayson

      Thanks, good to get experience of other publishers.

  • What you’re missing is how Facebook has changed the relationship between groups and pages. When a picture is shared to a group, from a page, once shared from the group to a personal wall, the picture is lost and you can only see a scrunched up version. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d11c6b82a35b4499202214ed8bf4b068adda64993115dfbc96880427b741e6d4.png

    • Steve Rayson

      Thanks, that is a good point about the relationship between groups and pages.

  • Matt Jenkins

    Out of curiosity, what counts as an “engagement” in your analysis? Does it include passive engagements like 3-sec+ autoplay video views? Link clicks? Or just reactions, comments and shares? Thanks!

    • Lauren Pope

      I’m wondering this too.

    • Hugo Monteiro

      Hey Matt,

      Engagements are reactions, comments and shares, because that data can be fetched through an API. Buzzsumo doesn’t have access to private data such as link clicks.

      • Steve Rayson

        Hi Hugo, thanks, yep, that is correct.

    • Steve Rayson

      Hi Matt, we looked at likes/reactions, shares and comments.

      • Jorit

        At our agency (in The Netherlands) we have higher engagement on link ads and image posts than on video. You’re saying in the US the engagement on video is much higher? So only reactions, comments and shares? Not watching a video for >10 seconds?

        That’s striking.

  • jake steed

    We noticed a huge drop in engagement starting in june 2017….but fully felt it in mid july 2017. Actually our organic has been up and down…one month its great..the next its way down. The biggest problem that we have noticed is for paid engagement. We used to get image only stories at .005 .004 down to .002 per engagement when we boosted. Now it seems they have created a floor on how low bidding can go…which is .01. So now when we boost…no matter how much you spend. That’s as low as it will go. We are now experimenting with videos…and we have gotten down .0001 engagement….but the problem with video is that the click through rate doesnt correspond with ad engagement/reach/views success. Darn near impossible to monetize videos as a publisher. Great for branding…but not revenue.

  • Aspire Hong Kong

    We have been experiencing the same problem. Engagement has dropped drastically although nothing else has changed, i.e., posting at prime time, dynamic graphics, snappy and informative copies. I feel that most B2B businesses may get a better ROI from LinkedIn, where attention span is not as short, than more widely-used social media like Facebook.

    • CA

      When did you start noticing your engagement decline?

      • Aspire Hong Kong

        We started witnessing that at the beginning of June. But it feels like it’s picking up just very slightly again this month. We have started pushing a bit more original content rather than curated ones, so that might help. And what helps on LinkedIn I realised, is if you add an image manually instead of using that previewed image, it’s “original” enough to help peek the engagement and reach as well!
        looking forward to hearing other advice!

        • Steve Rayson

          thanks, interesting point about LinkedIn images. I tend to upload an original one as well.

          • Steve Rayson

            We are a B2B business but we have found better returns interestingly from FB than LinkedIn. That said I often get more engagement on my personal posts on Linkedin in the form of comments.

          • Aspire Hong Kong

            Oh that’s really interesting. But you’re right, a personal touch already resonates much more on Facebook. Would you mind sharing your facebook page so we can have a look and learn? 😉

  • Sarah F Davila

    Yep, I’m in real estate marketing, and I started noticing the drop in engagement last year. I’m advising my clients on ways to use video to increase engagement and groups to reach people locally.

  • magjov

    Hm…. Excellent information. I really think that video engagement will keep its flow.

  • Greg Chalyan

    I am sure Facebook is also playing with the algorithms to push brands to spend ad dollars. It was only a matter of time for them to do this. As an agency we only post once a day just to make sure Facebook shares it – even then our engagement has dropped. Pretty soon if you want engagement you have to pay for it.

  • Mitchell Douglas Meyers

    Im pretty sure all this analysis is just worthless. If you just look at the drop in engagement vs the calendar date they launched FB stories the causation just hits you in the face!

  • Clearly, video content is not optional anymore. Thanks for this report!

  • Sally

    is this data for Facebook globally or just the U.S. Is there any way to break it down further by location?