The Simple Reason Facebook Pages Are Losing Reach: Negative Feedback

by Chad Wittman on Nov 20, 2012
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Over the past month or so, everyone has been complaining about getting less reach on Facebook. That the algorithm has changed. And that Facebook is now a pay to play system.

Changes have definitely taken place. And as the dust settles we learn more and more about what has really happened, both from Facebook and from the data.

One of the more impactful changes all page admins need to be aware of is that the latest major change in edgerank is now valuing Facebook post negative feedback at a much heavier weight.

This means, as a Facebook page, negative feedback on your content can effectively destroy your post’s reach.

Facebook has said that they are doing this to try and combat spammy pages. But as more and more businesses get on Facebook and post more often, this effectively raises the Facebook content quality bar for all pages.

So you might be thinking, what is negative feedback and how can it be avoided?

Facebook defines negative feedback as any time a Fan performs one of these actions:

  • Hide (Hide this story)
  • Hide All (Hide all stories from a Page)
  • Report Spam
  • Unlike Page

How Are Facebook Fans Reporting Negative Feedback?

The most common thing a Facebook fan will do when they do not want to see your page’s post in their news feed is simply hide it.

Here is the full breakdown of negative feedback actions and how often Facebook users take each action:

  • Hide Post: 76%
  • Hide All Posts From Page: 16%
  • Report as Spam: 8%
  • Unlike Page: <1%

We are actually pretty lucky that the typical Facebook Fan simply “hides” a post that they do not want to see. While 16% take it to the next level by “hiding all” posts from the page. 8% report the content as spam, which could potentially hurt the Page’s “quality”.

Facebook recently stated “If a specific post has received complaints by other users who have seen it, or the page who posted it has received lots of complaints in the past, you’ll be less likely to see that post. This factor became a lot more prevalent with the edgerank update in September 2012.”

How Do I Monitor My Negative Feedback?

There are two main options:

1. Head to Facebook insights and export your data to take a look at each post’s negative feedback.

2. Go to EdgeRank Checker’s Real-Time Monitor (or a similar analytics vendor) to monitor negative feedback as it happens to your posts. If you’re post is receiving substantial negative feedback right away, take down the post to prevent any further damage.

3 Keys to Avoiding Negative Feedback:

We took a look at 25+ very large and successful page’s posts to see what types of posts were reported as negative feedback the most often. Here’s what we found:

1. Images are negative feedback magnets

Images drive the most engagement, but they also drive the most Negative Feedback

One of the most frequently suggested EdgeRank optimization tips is to post images regularly. While this is often true, it can be abused. Use images when applicable and don’t post too many of those viral cat photos just to pick up some cheap engagement. Use your judgement and creativity to bring true value to your images posts.

Images simply catch the attention of Facebook users more than any other content. Good or bad. So if your images are not good, they will attract negative feedback quickly.

2. Keep content in line with your fans’ expectations

If you’re a startup, and you’ve placed a like button on your newsletter suggesting people to become fans to stay up to date with your latest research: Be warned.

Your fans expect that type of content in the news feed and will not hesitate to hide your content when it strays off topic.

Certainly, your fans won’t revolt every time you do this, but over the long term it is most likely not worth it.

3. Expect a correlation between engagement and negative feedback

The more people that are seeing and interacting with your content, the greater reach it ultimately will have.

However, this might start to impact your negative feedback. As a post starts to gain popularity, it will also start to get into people’s news feeds that are not use to seeing your page content. And some of these fans simply will not be interested in your content.

We found that some of the most engaging posts, also had some of the most negative feedback. Be sure to benchmark your content to insure that you’re looking at negative feedback per person reached to help provide context to an increase in negative feedback.

Making sure your fan acquisition efforts are sound may help avoid some of this as well. If you target your page’s fans well, focusing on finding existing customer for instance, fans will be less likely to hide your page’s content.


Facebook says this new focus on Negative Feedback should increase engagement and keep reach relatively steady. As they are rewarding posts with low negative feedback just as they punish those with negative feedback.

Either way, as a brand manager you’ll need to keep this new strong variable in mind when creating content. Just remember, everything in moderation and understand your fans’ expectations.

Post Author

Co-Founder & VP of Product at Dolly, an iPhone and Android app that is like Uber meets U-Haul or Lyft for Moving. Former Founder of EdgeRank Checker (acquired by Socialbakers)...

  • The Social Fresh Facebook Page has over 16,000 likes; but only 135 are talking about you. I’ve always understood this smaller number to reflect those who are liking/commenting/sharing — those interacting with the page. True?

    The goal of any page admin is to increase the number of engaged fans, right?

  • Yes, that is true @ariherzog:disqus . The PTAT represents fan actions as well as new fans/likes for the page. So for instance a big fan acquisition effort can skyrocket the PTAT score without many more post comments/likes/shares.

    The goal of a page admin depends on that page’s goal, but in general most page admins should be working to both grow their page’s likes and engagement (which PTAT can help measure).

    The Social Fresh page has low engagement when we are not actively posting content. We continue to collect new fans despite how active our content is, if for nothing else, it allows us to target Facebook ads to those fans who already know about Social Fresh.

  • So Facebook says we need to focus on engaging content to reach more fans (while not paying for promotion), but then – essentially – penalizes very engaging content. Love that logic. :-)

  • I have a related question:
    I’m sure facebook tracks when users click on images to view them, but do they use this as an engagement metric to show more of that pages/profile’s content in the viewers timeline?

    What do you think?

  • Thank you for this great article, Chad!

    I am getting more and more confused about Facebook, to be honest. Nothing makes sense anymore.

    In French, we have a saying: “why make it simple when we can make it complicated?”

  • Yes, they’re tracking and using image clicks as a form of engagement.

  • It is fans that penalize the page. They are the ones clicking on negative feedback. And on Facebook a certain level of negative feedback along with high engagement is acceptable and will not hurt the page. That number goes up when fans are not as relevant to the page (maybe they were there for a free iPad for instance?) and never actually wanted to see content from the page.

  • Thanks for the response Chad.

  • Jeremusic

    I’ve been recently testing the effectiveness (or not) of a certain small number of Facebook PPC. It seems from my small amount of data collected that there is a large percentage of ‘clickaholics’ that will ‘like’ a page for practically no reason at all, but the engaged users are about 1000:1 or worse. I’ve also seen ridiculous metrics for stupid digusting photos that have no social value but are just ‘shocking’ and they have ten or hundereds of thousand of ‘likes’ but do not represent a product or idea of social value. These seem to also reflect humanities basic metrics of ‘have you seen this latest disgusting photo?’ which gets more transfer between friends than a poignant statement of lasting value from a philosophy of life.

  • AmethystMahoney

    This article is a smoke screen for what is really going on, what has been going on, and what I said would happen over a year ago: Facebook wants you to pay to advertise – even if it’s just your regular engagement posts that aren’t really “ads.” They are using as many devices as possible to make it more necessary to give them money so that your posts actually get seen.

  • Ok, so in order to reach fans who have liked our page we need to promote posts however now that FB eliminated the “post to fans” to now include their “friends” we will get more spam, haters and negative feedback from people who do not want “ads” in their newsfeed. ARGH!

  • Argh indeed.

  • What if your fan page has already reached the bad side for all the negative report, how to go back to normal in order to reach more fans again?

  • Bhaumik

    Yes It Is

  • Brad

    Chad, thank you for opening our eyes on negative feedback. That’s very useful. Please allow two comments:

    1. Over the two months or so, I noticed that any page post shared from another page/person and any page post that tags another page.

    I doubt it’s because of the negative feedback, as I usually check the reach 2-3 minutes after posting. And here’s what I noticed:

    For a non-shared, non-tagged post, I get a reach of about 1000 users after 2-3 minutes. For a shared or tagged post I get around 30!

    The funniest thing is that, even with this very low reach, the posts get viral. Out of the 30 reached persons, 10 like the post and 3 or 4 re-share it. So I doubt that the low reach results from the low quality of the post.

    How would you explain that? Is Facebook trying to discourage sharing and tagging? Or is it that they want money for any mentioning of a name, page or brand?

    Things are much worse if the page I share from or tag belongs to a known commercial brand (airlines and online travel booking websites in my case). This should ring a bell to everyone.

    2. If things happen the way you explain, this would give room to sabotage. Simply put, hire 50 guys to like a competitor’s page then to report its posts as spam and whatnot. This will definitely put that page on FB’s black list for at least a while.

    Thank you for your kind attention.

  • adele

    What does it mean when u have made a like page and u write a status and it says for instants” 134 reaches?” Please comment and let me know thanks :)

  • Chad, thanks for the effort and information. And that can and does happen from time to time. I am in the restaurant business, highly visible and a business people just love to trash, usually for no reason. I can take down a post if it gets out of hand, but what I am more concerned about is the “Reviews” I have three negative reviews from over 3 years and they constantly show up at the top, on every device to add to that.

    I have emailed Facebook several times with no response. I have spent over $2000 dollars in the last year with Facebook, and I am not happy about is. I understand if a user would like to trash something on there personal page, fine. But as a paying customer who spends said money to build our “follow me” opted in users to our page, I should be able to moderate everything on that page.

    I am really thinking about turning off the page. I no Facebook helps, but from a business standpoint, this is unacceptable.

    If anyone has any suggestions on how to hide negative reviews, please let me know. Heck if I can just get them pushed to the bottom of the list I would be happy. Any and all suggestions/feedback is greatly appreciated.