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Is Facebook Suppressing Un-Promoted Posts?

The Facebook "like" icon is displayed outside of Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Jan. 12, 2012. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

The Facebook “like” icon is displayed outside of Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Jan. 12, 2012. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

Have you noticed that your friends’ Facebook posts aren’t showing up in your news feed? Or that your posts aren’t getting as many “likes” or shares?

New York Times columnist Nick Bilton says it started happening to his Facebook page when Facebook began offering users the chance to pay to promote their posts.

A screenshot of the pay-to-promote options offered to Here & Now's Facebook page for a post on Friday morning, Mar. 8, 2013.

A screenshot of the pay-to-promote options offered to Here & Now’s Facebook page for a post on Friday morning, Mar. 8, 2013. (Click to enlarge)

Bilton has about 2,800 Facebook friends and about 400,000 people “subscribe” to his page, meaning that his public posts can show up in their news feeds.

It used to be common for one of Bilton’s posts to garner hundreds of interactions, including “likes,” comments and shares. But in recent months, he noticed the interaction drop to an average of only a couple dozen “likes” per post.

As an experiment,  he paid Facebook $7 to promote a post, and saw a 1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link he posted.

It made Bilton wonder if Facebook is suppressing un-promoted posts – essentially limiting the number of subscribers who see his posts in their news feeds.

Bilton wrote about his theory and his experience in a post called “Disruptions: As User Interaction on Facebook Drops, Sharing Comes at a Cost.”

Facebook has adamantly denied that it’s suppressing un-promoted posts.

A statement posted on its website in response to Bilton’s story says, in part: “First, in aggregate, engagement – likes, comments, shares – has gone up for most people who have turned the Follow feature on. In fact, overall engagement on posts from people with followers has gone up 34% year over year.”

A screenshot of the "Interests" section on Facebook, where you can add Here & Now. (Click to enlarge)

A screenshot of the “Interests” section on Facebook, where you can add Here & Now. (Click to enlarge)

At Here & Now, we’ve been noticing on our own Facebook page that our posts aren’t getting as much traction as they used to.

So help us do a little experiment:

First, if you haven’t already done so, “like” Here & Now on Facebook. Second (this is Nick Bilton’s idea), add Here & Now to your “Interests” by  editing your profile (see screenshot at right).

We’ll let you know how the experiment goes!


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  • dialyn

    I don’t use Facebook so I can’t help you increase your likes, but I have to say, if this true, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  • Margaret Lockwood

    Is online content less valuable than printed content? Is an ad buy in print different than promoting a post? This is a particular issue for a business trying to use social media to build a brand or increase sales. Although we’ve all been trained that anything on the internet should be free, eventually we’ll have to face the hard reality that what we produce online might be worth paying for. The ROI in this case is Likes/Shares. Just like with any other advertising, one has to decide if paying for this promotion via Facebook newsfeed is worth the money.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.heitzenrater.9 John Heitzenrater

      It’s interesting to note that the opposite effect is happening is the music industry, where providers like Spotify, Zune, iTunes Match and others pay fractions of a cent for content, no royalties, no licensing fees, and sell you advertising through a service you get for free, riding the backs of the folks who made that music and who will get about $1.30 if you stream it 200 times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JustinCambria Justin Cambria

    I don’t think Facebook denies this at all, and it is old news at this point. Here’s a quote from Gokul Rajaram, FB’s Product Director for Ads: ‘For brands, one of the most interesting product offerings we have is Reach Generator, which ensures that every single one of your page posts reaches all of your fans. Organically, you get anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent of your fans, that you reach organically. In order to reach the remaining 80 to 85 percent, sponsoring posts is important.’


    FB blatantly hoodwinked people who have pages by allowing them to build large followings for free, letting them reach all of that following for free, then changing its mind and decided it wanted to make you for pay to reach all of those fans. It’s hardly surprising, they have to monetize their network somehow.

    There was a lengthy analysis and comment thread on this on Dangerous Minds, too: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/facebook_i_want_my_friends_back

    • Justine Cincotti

      Thank you, Justin, I just read the piece on dangerousminds.net & signed up for their newsletter.

  • Samuel Green

    I Sasha I just wanted to say that you were awesome!! Come back and visit us soon sometime!

  • Head Phone

    See you on Google+?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000368899475 Joseph Francis Patrick Harty

    Find all attempts by these groups to be of a hostile nature sneaky, devious, less then transparent, this corporate arrogance is  born of having us mere citizens by the short hairs due to monopolization. We invented this evil Frankenstein monster,and now it wants to be in charge, this corporate inanimate object is getting greedier and less tolerant of us mere humans everyday! Soon they will be in charge, unless we pull the plug! Who will sign-up with Joe to start chat sessions at 3 am on creative ways globally to begin pulling all the plugs??  Joe6pK

  • Canemetz

    Could not figure out second step of adding to interests.  

  • Ewa

    This was a great report, as a small business owner I am facing all of these issues daily and asking myself why I still even bother using FB. Thank you for taking the time to research this issue and proving that we were all not “just seeing” changes in our update status.
    Ewa Powell


    First use of promoted post. Apparently over 5K people ‘saw’ the post, yet no more likes that usual.  Is that normal?

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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