Virality Suffers After Facebook Fix, As Expected

When Facebook announced that they had found a bug that may have underreported Reach for Facebook Page Admins, we immediately assumed that Virality would be experiencing a decrease across the board. We decided to dig deeper after finding that Reach had, in fact, improved for most Pages. Since Reach had increased, it was extremely likely that Facebook’s Virality metric had to decrease.

Virality Drops After Facebook Bug Fix

ViralityChange

We measured the past 3 Mondays to see how content has been trending as it relates to Facebook’s Virality metric. Before the fix, Virality was hanging around 2.25%. The past 2 Mondays (post-fix) have remained lower than our original sample.

What is “Virality”?

Facebook defines Virality as: “The percentage of people who have created a story from your Page post out of the total number of unique people who have seen it”. Creating stories can be from Likes, Comments, and Shares of content. Essentially, the more people who engage with your content in relation to how many unique people have seen it, determines a particular post’s Virality.

Why Did Virality Decrease?

Mathematically, Virality had to decrease if Reach increased. Engagement has held relatively steady over the same time periods, and Reach increased. Virality is basically Engagement / Reach, therefore, when the Reach increases and Engagement holds steady the percentage has to decrease. This has less to do with Facebook making any inherent changes to the actual Virality metric, and much more to do with the effects of mathematics.

What We Measured

We analyzed three individual Mondays. One Monday before the fix was implemented, and the two following Mondays. The sample size was roughly 1,000 Pages and all Pages posted on all three days. We are looking at the median of the sample size for each page’s average post Virality.

What Is The New “Average” Virality?

BeforeAndAfterFix

Before the fix, Pages were experiencing around 3% Virality. This number had climbed since we lasted reported on it last March. We suspect the reason the Virality had risen to 3% is due to the steady decrease in Reach over the same time period. The same mechanism that attributed to this steady increase, is now the reason that Virality has significantly decreased.

After the fix, the median is 1.86%. This number has returned to it’s value that we reported in March of 2012 (1.92%). Facebook’s Jason Li recently stated that Facebook suggests to strive for “1-2% Virality” for your content. This lines up with what we’re seeing with the fix being implemented.  

Conclusion

We expected Virality to decrease due to the inverse relationship between Virality and Reach. As Reach goes up, assuming engagement stays steady, Virality goes down. With our report last week that revealed Reach increased it was only a matter of checking the numbers to see how far Virality had dipped. For most Admins this change merely affects your reporting, and we hope this new data gives you a benchmark to better explain to your clients.

8 Comments on “Virality Suffers After Facebook Fix, As Expected

  1. Some commentators seem to obsess about their ‘posts’ reach and, of course, the more likes/followers/fans/friends/subscribers you have the higher your potential reach is going to be but the more important metric is virality.

    Rather than spending more time/effort/money on continually obsessing about the size of fan base, generating interesting and re-sharable content will increase virality with benefits all round.

  2. While I may not be the smartest person in the world, I’m grateful for the work you guys do, and grateful to have found a collective intelligence I can tap into. Nice work Chad and team! Will share your summary with the clients and say “relax, there are many disturbances in the force, to get hissy about them will not change them” ;) – Mike

    • Chad Wittman

      Thank you Mike

  3. There is an issue with “Reach” that I haven’t seen addressed: The more “Shares” you have, the worse your virality. Here’s why …. We create posts specifically for our fans’ interests … our fans are of a particular demo, marital status, etc. So, if our fan shares our post, we are likely to not get a Like, Comment, etc. if some of those she shares with are not our target audience . YET those friends she shares with are included in the post’s Reach. Here are two scenarios using actual numbers from a recent post: Reach is 70,678 [37,923 organic and 33,107 viral). Talking About This is 2,969 (Likes, Comments, Shares). (OK some of the 2,969 may be from the shared post but likely it wasn’t many). So, 2,969/70,678 is a virality of 4.2% but when just the organic reach is used, the virality is 2,969/37,923 … 7.8%. I’m not sure what to make of this … I’d love to hear your take on this. Thanks!

    • Chad Wittman

      This is a great point Cynthia! This is exactly why I don’t like Facebook’s definition of Virality. As a post is more successful, it picks up more exposure which then decreases the “Virality” of the object. I think this might be a nice feature to be added to EdgeRank Checker Pro.

  4. That’s why I do not like defining my Facebook Virality. As a message is more successful, because it captures more review, but decreases the “Virality” of what is published. EdgeRank Checker Pro is great

  5. JB

    Has Facebook had another glitch or change in EdgeRank involving viral reach? Ours seems to be much lower than usual and what would be expected for the number of shares our posts are receiving. I’ve noticed this just in the last week or so.

    • Chad Wittman

      We’ll have to take a look, we haven’t seen anything widespread.

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