More brands are competing for less space. That’s the reality we’re faced with following Facebook’s recent changes to Edgerank.

Facebook reach halved

Research from Socialbakers suggests that a post’s average reach has halved. No doubt this is partly because users are ‘liking’ an increasing number of brands who are posting more often, but it also reflects Facebook’s efforts to drive advertising and increase revenue.

Facebook say the goal is to improve the quality of content in the newsfeed and their advice to brands is that “all content should be as engaging as the posts you see from friends and family”. A quick look at my own newsfeed suggests this should not be too challenging, but the message is clear; only your most engaging posts will reach your audience.

In order to drive this engagement, many Pages are shamelessly pushing out cynical calls to action with very tenuous links to the brand. Examples such as “click Like if you think kittens are cute”, “click Like if you love Friday’s”, or even better “click Like if you think this is such sad news” are far too common. John Morter, the man behind the Rage Against the X-Factor campaign, has even created his own Facebook Page to highlight some of the worst culprits and share a few ‘engaging’ posts of his own (see below).

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Lowered reach should force brands to think long and hard about their content and its quality.

Research by Facebook tells us that posts related to the brand generate the most engagement and after all, that is why your community has chosen to connect with you in the first place. This does not mean that you should avoid ‘light touch’ posts altogether. On the contrary, even the most mundane of requests can trigger an avalanche of word-of-mouth referrals. Instead, it is possible to draw a line between light-touch but brand-related posts and completely unrelated and cynical ruses.
 
On October 25th I will be hosting a panel discussion at Social Media Marketing 2012 London which will look these kinds of engagement strategies. Are these simply examples of companies talking to customers in friendly, every-day terms, or will consumers gradually get wise to "engagement tactics" and switch off altogether, just as they have with advertising? Time will tell.