It always happens in the wake of an announcement from Facebook. Usually, it starts slowly and it only takes one or two people to misread or misinterpret, but it snowballs until almost all the pages I follow start posting messages encouraging me to 'like' or 'comment' more to make sure that I can still see them. So I really shouldn't have been surprised to see the new raft of posts this week suggesting that if I wasn't active enough then Facebook would remove my 'like' from those pages and actively stop me seeing what they post.
Let's get one thing straight from the start, forget everything you've already read on this subject from the pages you follow. The majority of page owners (myself included to a point) have felt a little forgotten or perhaps undermined by Facebook's move to a more pay-to-play platform and felt that organic-reach was now their enemy. It's not, by the way, but that's a blog post for another day. With this already negative sentiment towards how Facebook conducts itself, many page owners choose only to see the negative in every subsequent announcement designed to help fan and business pages.
The recent announcement is in fact incredibly helpful towards pages. Those out there like me, who have concentrated heavily on the community-building potential of social media, will already know that you should never allow yourself to be seduced by numbers. The actual number of 'likes' your page has, is largely irrelevant and should not be used as a benchmark for how successful your page is. We always talk about content being King and marketing being Queen, but I'll tell you now that engagement is the Ace. The true success of your pages hinges entirely on how many people comment on or share your posts and actually engage with your business, brand, charity, story or whatever your message is.
So, with that in mind, what would you rather have - half a million page 'likes' from accounts that never interact with your underlying message? Or would you prefer a couple of hundred page 'likes' from a dedicated group of followers who identify with your story, actively get involved and discuss it with you on your page and act as brand ambassadors, spreading your vision and message to their friends on an almost daily basis? It's a no-brainer, right? Well, you would have thought so, but you'd be surprised at how many people I meet that are still solely pre-occupied with numbers of followers.
You may also have been unaware that Facebook already filter out likes and comments generated by deactivated or memorialised accounts from your individual page posts. Removing those same accounts from your page like count gives page owners up-to-date insights on the people that matter, the followers that want you to engage with them. It also allows more accurate data to be presented which page owners can use to find more users with similar interests to those who already follow you. In practice, it's removing a non-responsive, dis-engaged audience from your page and actually giving you the data and opportunity to go out and find a new, more receptive audience to add to the lovely people that like and comment on your posts everyday. Which cannot be a bad thing.
Whilst some pages will see a small dip in their likes on their pages, it's important to remember that these likes were of no value to you at all. The pages which are being hit the heaviest are primarily those that at one time or another chose to purchase a block of likes from a third party outside of Facebook. I would suggest that these pages should expect to see pretty much every single like they've ever paid for, disappear from their follower counts. And with good reason, as all they've done in the past is pay someone to find a whole load of people to click the 'like' button on their pages. None of the likes they've bought have any interest in interacting with them ever again. They have absolutely no value to your page, and add no credibility to your messages. I'd even go so far as to suggest that they actually serve to undermine any credibility you've ever had. Remind me to tell you at some point the anecdote about the local UKIP candidate with over 2,000 likes on his page in 3 days, all of which were from Istanbul.
So please, don't get sucked in to frantically attempting to comment on posts for every page you follow. If you're already checking your Facebook profile regularly then you're not an 'inactive account' by very definition. We should welcome the steps Facebook is taking to try and ensure that everyone benefits from meaningful content and engagement on their platform. It's something that I think Twitter is also going to need to consider in the near future, to cut out the noise that people aren't interested in.
Although, clearly not everyone will be as pleased about a 'slight dip' in page followers as some.
You can read Facebook's full announcement here.