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

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