Facebook Promoted Posts (Sorta) Explained [Updated]

    May 31, 2012
    Drew Bowling
    Comments are off for this post.

Facebook started rolling out its Promoted Posts feature for Page administrators last week but, unfortunately, didn’t explain a whole lot in how this new tool actually works. It sounds like it could be a useful tool, but its quiet introduction produced more questions than it provided answers. How will the promoted post appear on a follower’s page? How is the pricing scale determined? These are probably things every Page administrator should know before they start throwing money down the big, blue wishing well of Facebook.

Anybody given the promoted posts a test drive yet? Do you feel that Facebook is trying to double-charge businesses to reach their followers, or is this a new marketing tool with some legitimate value? Share your experience with us and other readers in the comments below.

Perhaps finally getting wind of the fact that this tool, while potentially useful, isn’t exactly as intuitive as Facebook may have expected, the company released a video today explaining a little bit more about how promoted posts work.

Most revealing about this explanation is that whenever someone who follows your Page likes, comments, or shares your promoted post, all of that person’s friends will see that promoted post as well. This was mentioned all the way back in February at Facebook’s marketing conference but, really, with all the changes that the company continues to introduce, it’s hard to keep up sometimes.

First, a post can only be promoted for 3 days. You can start promoting it the moment it’s posted to your Timeline or you can promote it shortly afterward. However, if you choose not to promote it upon posting it, know that the amount of time that any post can be promoted is 3 days from the time that post is created. In other words, if you make a post on Monday at 12PM but don’t promoted it until Tuesday at 12PM, your post will only stay promoted for two days since the shelf-life of that post’s promotability will expire on Thursday at 12PM, the third day since that post was created. Make sense?

If you’ve got a post that you only want promoted during certain times, you can pause and resume a promoted post anytime. I’ve included the video below, but given some of the questions that readers have had regarding last week’s unrolling of promoted posts, I’m afraid some of you will find this video scant of answers you’re looking for.

Nothing on in the video or the FAQ, which is now available, suggests that the posts you choose to promote will float near the top of the news feed the way a Twitter promoted tweet appears. Instead, by all estimations, it appears that the post will simply be inserted into your followers’ news feeds in the chronological order that it was posted. So yes, infer that if your follower has 1,000 friends or so, it’s possible that the post you paid money to promote could get drowned out in the news feed somewhat quickly. We sent an email to Facebook to clarify where and how exactly the promoted post will appear in a follower’s newsfeed, but as of writing this we haven’t heard back.

When the Promote feature first started appearing last week, the payment scale was paired with the estimate of users you could reach with each monetary value. I won’t explain that all over again here, but if you missed it, check out the previous article about Facebook’s promoted posts.

One new tool that I’ve noticed since the promotion tool appeared on WebProNews’ Page is the statistical information at the bottom of each post. In the lower left-hand corner, you’ll see the number of people reached and what percentage of your fans that number represents.

Facebook Promoted Posts

By either hovering over or clicking the number of people reached, you’ll see a breakdown of how people saw the post. In the example provided, you’ll see how many people were reached organically, virally, and paid.

Facebook Promoted Posts

Facebook Promoted Posts

I’m throwing in this example from Facebook to illustrate what the graph looks like with all three types of reach.

Facebook Promoted Posts

After clicking on the percentage of people reached, you’ll see a small balloon appear with a breakdown of how people were reached. The first example below is from Facebook, and I’m going to go ahead and say it: 440 people of 608 isn’t 40% of the total, it’s more like 72%. I’m not sure what confidence you should have in Facebook’s example if the example itself can’t compute percentages, but then again, it’d be nice if Facebook actually explained this with a little more clarity.

Facebook Promoted Posts

More mathematically accurate, here’s the example I took from WPN’S Facebook Page.

Facebook Promoted Posts

In the top example, you’ll notice two colors, blue and green. The color scale is the same as in the bar graph you saw when looking at the actual number of people reached: blue for organic/without promotion, red for viral, and green for paid. Essentially, these two options show you most of the same data, it’s just a matter of how you prefer to think of your reach: raw numbers or percentages.

I suggest perusing the FAQ about promoted posts for more information about how this feature works. For example, you can apparently target an audience in a specific location but in order to even have the capability to promote a post, your Page needs to have a minimum of 400 likes. Things like that are important to know, especially if you’re going to fork over your money to Facebook.

Note that when you see the number of followers your promoted posts will reach in the “Promote” drop-down menu, the operative word here is “estimate.” You may pay $50 to reach an estimate of 12,000 followers, but that number could likely be lower. Then again, that could also be higher – it’s just the way the dice tumbles, I suppose, although it’s puzzling that there isn’t a more accurate algorithm that could simply select 12,000 followers to deploy your promoted post to.

If this all seems like you’re paying for the same promotion twice…. you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that. In order to even have the option to promote a post, you must first advertise and promote your page by other means in order to get the requisite 400 followers. That can cost you in either time or money, or both, depending on how aggressively and quickly you want to amass that 400. But then, once your Page has leveled up enough so that you can promote posts, you must then pay yet again so that you can continue to reach all of the people you’ve worked so diligently to pull under your Page’s umbrella.

Unless there’s still some pieces missing to the puzzle of promoted posts or I’m simply failing to grasp Facebook’s purpose here, the promoted posts don’t exactly seem like a progressive way for a brand to promote themselves on Facebook.

UPDATE: A Facebook spokesperson replied to a few questions I had about the promoted post features. Below is the Q&A from our correspondence:

1. When a post is promoted, will it just fit into the chronology of the regular newsfeed or will it float near the top of the newsfeed so it always remains prominent? A promoted post will act like any other ad or Sponsored Story in your News Feed.

2. Do you have any examples of what the promoted post would look like in a followers feed? See the Help Center here – an example of what a post might look like is under the fifth question if you expand it. Saw you linked to the Help Center in your post, but wanted to make sure you saw the example.

3. Is the pricing scale of the promoted post’s reach ($5, $10, $15, etc.) based on the number of followers a Page has? Or is the pricing scale the same for all pages? These ads and Sponsored Stories are priced the same way as ads and Sponsored Stories purchased elsewhere.

So what do you make of all of this pay-to-promote business? Is Facebook shooting itself in the foot and ruffling the feathers of businesses, or do you see this being a beneficial tool Facebook has given businesses? Again, let us know what you think below.

  • RJ Pooch

    My issue is not as an admin, but as a user. Am I part of the huge percentage of people not being reached by the posts from pages I’ve liked?

    I liked the pages to see their posts, why wouldn’t I see them?

    Seems odd.

    • http://www.scream-machine.net Sin

      Because Facebook has deliberately throttled pages’ reach in order to get the page admins to pay for it. They are in effect telling page owners that if they want people to see their posts – even though fans already ‘like’ the page – the admin has to pay for it. It is a scam, plain and simple. They are trying to get you to pay for people to see something they should already be able to see and that is going to be the death knell for Facebook. People will stand for a lot of things, but not when it comes to money.

    • http://www.verticalmeasures.com Sarah Schager

      @RJ Pooch: The reason you don’t see those posts is because of their EdgeRank score, as well as your relationship with the page. I recently wrote a post on Facebook’s algorithm, EdgeRank, in case you are not familiar and would like to learn more:


      I see other people commenting that Facebook is also manipulating the algorithm so that posts are not shown to as many users as they were before promoted posts were rolled out. That could also be an issue, but it’s just a theory.

  • https://www.facebook.com/PoliticalPlot1 Political Plot

    Our Facebook Page has 13,600+ Likes. We paid for most of those Likes by advertising with FB. Since this new “Promote” program has started we have noticed a cataclysmic DROP in the number of Likes given to our Posts. In other words, we have gone from a normal 100-350 Likes per Post to 4-40 Lies. Incredible! It looks suspiciously like FB has curtailed our access to our Fan Base and wants us to pay for (what amounts to) a ‘Pay-for-Likes’ on our Posts. Don’t pay and no one sees your Posts anymore. Great. Thousands invested in our FB page. Now we’re cut off unless we pay +/- $30 per Post.

    • Michelle

      Have you investigate any of those fans you accumulated via FB ads…and can you answer me one question… Have you met any of them to prove they are REAL ppl. I did FB ads, and found manipulating it over and over again without any thought, acquired 40k in three months…for a super boring, nobody page…and after 4 years in Social Media, all I can say is that something smells SUPER fishy.

  • http://followmesticker.com FollowMeSticker.com

    That wasn’t really a solid answer to question 1. — Has anyone got an answer to this? Does the post stay at the top of their feed for 3 days? What kind of percentage of “friends of a fan” does the post reach?
    Anyone who has experience we would like to hear from you if you have had success from the Promoted Posts.

  • matt

    personally I like the feature, it works best when promoting a post once a week for an entire month, it was confusing at first but has definitely increased followers to all of my pages also

    • Kris

      obviously you don’t know what your talking about because you can only promote a post for three days

  • http://www.beethedesigner.com Billie Bryan

    I personally find it atrocious.

    I work with small businesses, start-ups and nonprofits and Facebook has been a great marketing tool for them for a long time, giving well-intentioned professionals a significant competitive advantage against bigger businesses.

    But with so many people vying for attention on the social network these days (900 million or so), taking on this pay-to-post ideology severely tilts that level playing field.

    Essentially, the more money you have or are able to invest, the more attention you get, effectively limiting the exposure of others. I much prefer when it was all about actually engaging with your audience to gain exposure and “EdgeRank”.

  • todd

    Is there anyone at Facebook who is actually in charge of their business services? If so, can they be fired? Their approach and implementation seems disjointed and faulty at best.

  • http://www.whitesandsnaples.com/ Mark Weber

    People who have Liked your page should always receive posts in their newsfeed, period. They should have to opt out or hide them from their feed. Until FB makes this crystal clear, I won’t be paying them anything.

    By the way, I pay Google over $600 per month, for which I get results. All the money paid to FB in te past hasn’t got me one client, just a few more “Likes.” Businesses are learning that “likes” do Not equal revenue. Or is it just me?

  • http://www.gnomegames.com Pat Fuge

    Facebook obviously has to place a filter in the stream to limit the posts that those that like pages will see, and we are now paying for the gate on said filter to open.

    Once people realize they are being filtered from pages they liked, the viability of the whole Facebook program will be in peril, as it no longer allows the connections to be created that the entire system was designed to do.

    This may be a major mistake by FB – one they fail to understand the magnitude of, as once individuals learn that likes of pages are somewhat meaningless the value of them drops dramtically for the page owner as well; devaluing the entire system.

    • Kris

      Facebook obviously has to place a filters, PLEASE they allow apps to post on your behalf such as the social reader, horoscopes, game achievements not to mention trending stories and videos all of which are content I have never “liked” your asked to see in my feed.

      I don’t mind if a friend shares something but does it really have to post every time they read something. I don’t care what your horoscope is today or what level you just reached in your game of farmvile game.

      How about just showing the content we have liked or shared manually.

  • http://www.virginiastateparks.gov Nancy Heltman

    We have experienced the exact same problem described in the comment called Political Plot. We were “enjoying” a 15-20% reach to our fans until about a week ago. In the last week the reach has dropped to just about 10%. Looks like we will have to pay $75 per post to get a similar reach. We have 35K followers and have worked hard for those including advertising. We actually advertise on a regular basis to reach beyond our fans.

    And to answer the comment by the fan RJPooch, my biggest concern is that our most solid fans that regularly like, comment and share our posts are not getting to see all our posts and I think they want to. The reason I know this is because I do those things as my profile on our page and with the low reach posts I don’t have them in my feed and that is true for 2 of our other admins.

    I actually wrote Facebook on the drop in reach and they insist there is nothing wrong and I need to do better to post content my followers wants to read. Posts that traditionally do well are doing poorly. And to defy the response I got back, I have calculated the percentage likes to reach on the posts with the poor reach and they are a higher percentage than the higher one. So the whole idea that their algorithm works so that more popular posts reach more people does not seem to be the case either.

    We spend a lot of staff time working our Page. We have staff throughout our organization developing articles and we are all feeling demoralized right now. I am thinking on spending less on advertising not more.

    It is interesting that if you read all of the info Facebook posts about pages no where does it say, by the way all your fans are never seeing your posts. It pretty much says that the fan can decide whether they see them or not. I wish they would make sure the fans know about how the process works so my followers would know they need to actually visit our page if they want to avoid missing our posts.

    • Kris

      we have suspended our 3k per month ad budget with facebook as we don’t see the point in building more fans if we can’t even reach the 560k+ fans we already have.

  • danny dorko

    About the last thing Facebook should do right now…it would seem. I mean, the last thing I want to see on my page are the featured posts of the pages my idiot friends and family ‘like’…I will leave their social network if I’m going to be advertised to by _______ I despise. The trending articles in my feed is insulting enough…

  • http://www.facebook.com/immortalsoul419 immortalsoul

    wot am thinkin is that facebook director should do thing enjoyable for us

  • http://www.nigeriansreport.com/ Orikinla Osinachi

    Why gamble on Facebook promotion when you can promote your post on a niche website that has guaranteed traffic of unique subscribers and visitors who will definitely see and read your article that links to the website of your product and service?

    It is better to advertise an article on your product and service on the most popular pages or topics on a niche website where you are sure of getting the attention of guaranteed subscribers and visitors than gamble on the probabilities of Facebook.

    When it comes to online promotions, Google is far better than Facebook. You will get more profitable results on Google AdWords than Facebook.

    If Facebook and users need to know how best to do this, I am available for consultation on how best to maximize Facebook for advertising and marketing promotions with guaranteed success.

  • http://www.jenniferregan.com.au wedding dress designer

    well it does seem like FB have shot themselves in the foot if the fans can no longer guarantee seeing the feeds that they liked. The general population of FB may revolt with their mouses. Thanks for the article and links

  • http://apennyandchange.pennyleisch.com Penny J. Leisch

    Personally, I’m about to the point of not “liking” anyone anymore. If liking a promoted post means that all of my friends get it too, that’s going to cost me friends who aren’t interested in what I like or don’t like. As it is, I have to run out to the timeline and hide things that I’ve liked just to keep the dratted thing from looking like a giant commercial billboard. The only way to connect person to person is to ignore everything commercial, like that’s going to happen when kids and others on your list aren’t savvy to the havoc the apps and ads will cause for their friends.

  • http://www.amortech.ca Calgary web designer

    I agree with almost everyone’s comments here. Facebook i hope you wise up as you already make a fortune! The more you continu to.force people to pay for petty.things like that the more people u are going lose to other social networks.

    Posts need not be promoted. Like everyone else i have worked super hard to build up fans for my few pages. A good example is my dj page. People look forward to my announcements of events or new music and now they don’t see them. I don’t make money off that as its a hobby. Why should i have to pay to promote my hobbies.

    You are forgetting what brought this whole network together.

    • http://www.LAokay.com Steve G

      But you’re forgetting that all that changed the day they went public. Same thing happened to Google.

  • Michelle

    All those pages that bloated their pages with fake fans and paid Facebook Advertising (Which after investing money, time and investigating, it appeared to me to be nothing but an underground Facebook scam)are screwed now. But interesting racket at the least…pay facebook for ads(gain funded FB profiles) then pay to have them “view” and pay more…just saying.

  • http://ktechie.com Amit

    Facebook is going fully commercial, between this feature is awesome for promoting any of offers through Facebook page.

  • http://www.tortoise.com susan

    All my fans came organically – I just want that promo thing off the darn page because it interferes with every post I try to do. I have to retype every single one because it keeps popping up and interfering with typing. Is there a box to check to get rid of it yet?

  • http://www.seeksocialmedia.com Carole

    I wrote a blog post about this last week – I believe it to be a double dip. If one doesn’t pay for ads, promoting posts would, I suppose, be a valuable resource. However, if you’ve already paid for those fans by way of advertising…now you’re practically being forced to pay a second time so that (some of) the fans you already paid for will see your posts. I’m boycotting Promoted Posts on my Page and those of my clients.

    If you’d like, you can read my post here: http://www.seeksocialmedia.com/promoted-posts-does-facebook-expect-page-owners-to-pay-twice-for-fans-to-not-see-their-posts/

  • http://www.millermosaicllc.com Phyllis Zimber Miller

    Drew —

    Thanks so much for your instructions, which I just used for a “promoted post” on my Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/powermarketing that has a little over 1,000 “likes.”

    FYI: I was only allowed the option of spending $5 and Facebook noted that the reach was 600.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller

  • http://www.unclehenrys.com Kevin

    We have two businesses that each have a fan page on FB. One has just over a hundred fans, the other well over 5,000. I read somewhere that unless you have 400 fans you can’t promote a post period (which seems true as one of our pages doesn’t give that option when posting).

    That said, I am still unclear. Does everything we post still go to news feeds, some of the things we post or none unless it is paid for. This answer is not on the FB help and I wasn’t sure I got a clear picture here either. Does anyone have a definitive answer?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Buzzaria Mamta

    I tried promoting 2-3 posts to see why should I promote and what is the benefit….the same thoughts ran through my head if I have nearly 12000 fans and they do not get to see my posts in the newsfeed then what is the purpose and if I have to promote something to my existing fans and pay for it then its awful,since I used it I have felt truly upset….it feels as if I am being cheated and taken for granted.A huge fan of FB have been using it for work since 2006…..never felt sad about any development or change….but this one is simply awful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Buzzaria Mamta

    Additionally most of my 12 odd pages have over 500 fans the option to promote only came up where I have nearly 12000 fans

  • Dana

    Clearly, double-dipping on Facebook’s part. Why should I have to pay for my posts to show when people have already LIKED my business page and want to see my posts? And, many of those followers were gained by paying for Facebook Ads in the first place!

    Not happy with this at all. So sorry that Facebook’s public offering of stock is not working out well…but this is NOT the way to bail water.

  • Larry

    Whoever thought the whole thing up is a moron and the practice is totally ludicrous.

    Facebook makes money off ads, ads which are effective due to the amount of people using the service. The amount of people is directly related to the access they have to the information available. Next thing they will be charging per post, think about it, why not.

    Furthermore to clarify how poorly thought out this whole endeavor is, consider the following. I manage one page that has 11k+ users and one that has 2k+ users.

    In the first case I can pay 5 usd to reach an extra 5k of my users but in the second case I again can pay 5 usd for a reach of 500 extra users. It just makes no sense whatsoever, as in essence you don’t pay per user reached but by the percentage of your users reached.

    Terrible decision for Facebook and one that could allow room for another player to get a foothold in perhaps (doubtful but possible).

  • David Willis

    I think this is a huge ripoff! We paid ad money for each of those “likes” but FB has now decided that all of our fans won’t see our posts unless they / we are constantly active with them. We nor any business has enough time to constantly stroke each and every fan of our page. Those are OUR fans. FB made $3,000 off my business last year. THAT’S ENOUGH! It shouldn’t be up to the greedy bast_ _ _ _ _ at Facebook to change things in the middle of the game. This is my livelihood and I’m sick of that arrogant _ _ _ _ head Zuckerberg changing things. And the prices are insane at any level. I run 20 – 30 pictures on our nightly sales. In order to reach even most of our 14,000+ fans we would have to pay an additional $100 or more PER PICTURE! That would be $2,000 per sale night. This idiocy is why lots of shops like us are now working harder to steer our clients toward Etsy and our Website and eventually cancel Facebook as they self destruct.