Seeing a Drop in Facebook Page Likes? We May Have Found The Reason Why

The End of the Follow Button

If you’re anything like us here at Thruline, you probably keep an eye on the number of people who like your Facebook page and look at how that changes month over month. This probably isn’t, and probably shouldn’t be, the primary metric you’re looking at with social, but it is something you track to understand your potential reach. As your page likes grow, the number of people who will potentially see your posts or who you can boost your post out to grows.


A Decline in Page Likes

A few months ago, we saw a steep decline in the number of page likes one of our clients was receiving in a given month. We’re used to seeing some ebbs and flows in page likes since there are some normal patterns to this based on a variety of different factors from the types of content posted to the number of paid ads being done. This was different, though. This time it was pretty steep and didn’t come back as we would expect. We observed this for a bit to try and identify the possible cause. Then we began to compare the trend to other clients and noticed the same pattern. Starting in about mid-September, page likes decreased and remained at this decreased level. We knew something was going on at this point and began digging in.


Why Facebook Page Likes Decreased

Having noticed the pattern, we began digging into the details. We pulled all of the data we could from Facebook in order to identify the cause of the decrease. When we split the sources of the page likes out, we quickly identified the issue. The decrease came almost entirely from paid ads across the board for all clients we examined. This was cross checked against paid social spend and there was no connection. Regardless of the spend over the time period we noticed the drop happened, page likes decreased to almost zero for paid ads. Something had occurred with Facebook itself to cause the decrease.


What Happened to Paid Ads

Now that we had identified the cause for the drop, we needed to figure out what had changed with paid ads where page likes where no longer coming from them. This didn’t take too much investigative work to figure out. We looked at the paid ads themselves and realized that the ads had changed. All of our paid ads no longer included a “follow” button. This button allowed people to follow a page, at the same time liking it, via the ad and without having to visit the page. With this button removed, the potential to get page likes from paid ads basically dropped to zero. Using some of our resources we were able to confirm that this change in ads exactly corresponded to drop in page likes that we had identified.


The End of the Follow Button

Once we figured out that this change had happened, we began looking to see if any announcement had been made about it. No official announcement from Facebook could be found. It seems that this was a change that was rolled out with no fanfare. Without an official announcement from Facebook we can only speculate on why the change was made but we do know that the last major change that was made that impacted businesses, which was to cut the organic reach of posts, was done because Facebook said they wanted to emphasize personal connections over business. We believe that the rationale was the same here with the idea being that people who actually visit the business page are more interested in engaging with a brand then those who may just click a button on an ad.


The Ramifications

The biggest impact from this is to understand that page likes each month will now be lower than they used to be. This means that reach growth will not be as large as it used to be. That doesn’t mean that all is lost, though. Understanding how Facebook operates and what will resonate with your audience just has increased importance. One of the biggest things to consider is how much video is being produced and posted to Facebook. Over the past year, Facebook has been placing greater importance on video, giving them more weight in the algorithm. Adjusting strategies to take this into account is a way to make up for some of the change. Closely monitoring audience growth and looking at what posts resonate with that audience are another way to help ensure you are able to have the growth that you want.


Allen Harkleroad, Manager of Inbound Marketing & Brian Hansen, Senior Inbound Marketing Strategist