With 2.23 billion monthly active users, Facebook is still the world’s biggest social media platform by a country mile. But according to a recent report by Buffer and Buzzsumo — which analyzed 43 million Facebook Business Page posts from “the top 20,000 brands” — Facebook engagement has never been in a more dire state.

Facebook Engagement Is Down (Really Down)

Here are the most interesting findings from the report which compared statistics from 2017 to those from 2018.

  • Top Pages are posting a lot more: Facebook’s biggest pages haven’t given up on the platform. In fact, the report highlights that the number of posts per quarter has risen by 24 percent among “top pages." “There has been a 24 percent increase in the number of posts per quarter from 6.5m posts to 8.1m posts over the past year. That’s an increase from 72,000 posts per day in Q1 2017 to 90,032 posts per day in Q2 2018. In other words, nearly 20,000 additional pieces of content are being posted by the world’s top brands every day.”
  • Engagement is down for pages, videos, images and links: Despite more content being pushed through, overall Facebook page engagement has declined by 50 percent. In fact, top Page categories experienced 49-70 percent overall drop in engagement. “The average engagement per post has dropped by over 65 percent from 4,490 engagements per post to 1,582 engagements per post. [Plus], average engagement per image dropped from 9,370 per post in Q1 2017 to just 3,454 per post in Q2 2018.”
  • Posting five times per day resulted in highest overall engagement: The report also may have discovered why large pages are posting more frequently; it’s because Facebook is rewarding regular publishers with better exposure — to a certain extent. “As you increase frequency of posting overall levels of engagement rise, but only to a point. Pages posting 5 times per day received an average of 2,466 engagements per post (a total of 12,330). Pages posting 10 or more times per day received an average of 1,202 engagements per post (a total of 12,020 engagements). In other words, posting five times per day appears to be the optimal Facebook posting frequency.”

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Why is Facebook Engagement Decreasing?

It’s no secret that Facebook has throttled the reach of Facebook Pages over the years. But the statistics above indicate that it’s not the pages that aren’t posting — it’s the individuals using Facebook who aren’t engaging as much. We asked the experts for their opinions as to why this may be. Charney Weiss, director of social media at Los Angeles-based Dailey, believes that recent events have contributed to the decrease in Facebook engagement. “The mistrust surrounding the 2016 US Presidential election and Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of data has made users rethink their involvement with the platform,” she said. She continued by mentioning that everyday Facebook users are less willing to engage with posts that “aren’t from trusted personal sources like friends and family.”

In recognizing this, Facebook tweaked their algorithm to focus less on content from Pages, and more on content from a Facebook users’ friends and family members. “Facebook is restricting the organic reach of brands on their platform. This is thanks to the whole idea that Facebook Feeds should be about connecting people, not [in] consuming media in isolation. [Therefore], user-generated content is now prioritized over marketing communications.” explained Pierre de Braux, Content Strategist at Spiralytics.

Furthermore, David Everett Strickler, marketing director at Pacific Office Interiors, noted that the rising popularity of rival social media platforms has also contributed to the decrease in Facebook engagement. “Engagement on Facebook has been down in recent years as photo-centric social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram rose higher in both popularity and user engagement.”

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Maximizing Facebook Engagement in 2019 and Beyond

An algorithm tweak from Facebook can (and most likely will) change the game once again for content publishers. But based on the current algorithm and climate within Facebook, here’s what our experts recommended. Steve Page, VP of Digital Strategy at Giant Partners, advised taking advantage of Facebook Messenger. “One less-spoken-about way to [improve Facebook engagement is to] convert your page followers into Facebook Messenger subscribers,” he said.

Learning Opportunities

Page observed that Facebook Messenger gets “90 percent open rates and 50 percent click-through rates,” hence improving your chances of your customers seeing your next Facebook post. He added that messaging apps are “surpassing social networks” and are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Moreover, Everett advised brands not to let the new Facebook algorithm to stop you from producing top quality content. “You'd be surprised at how many brands crank out content for the sake of creating content with little to no thought behind its value for the end user,” Strickler said.

“You've heard that phrase, 'content is king' right? It's true and always will be. Engagement is driven by [both] meaning and [incentive]. Before you create content, think about the value [you want to share with] your audience. Do they need it? Do they want it? What's their takeaway or call-to-action? If you want to engage your audience, you first need to understand your audience,” said Strickler. 

Weiss also chimed in by urging brands to “concentrate on quality over quantity, as it’s a stronger social strategy [that comes] with actual ROI.”

How are you planning to increase Facebook page engagement in 2019? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.