Nobody shares our posts on Facebook any more

Short navel-gazing note that will be of interest to approximately minus-seven of you: almost nobody shares our posts on Facebook any more.

WordPress provides data on pageviews coming from various sources. Back in 2013, the first full year of Dynamic Ecology, ~7,300 of our ~336,000 pageviews came from Facebook. So, about 2%. The percentage of our pageviews coming from Facebook increased for a couple of years, peaking in 2015 (~21,000 of ~617,000 pageviews, 3.4%). But in 2016 our total pageviews grew while our views from Facebook remained flat. They were both flat in 2017. And then in 2018 our total pageviews were flat again while the views from Facebook cratered. Only ~6,000 of our ~729,000 pageviews last year came from Facebook (0.8%). We got fewer views from Facebook than we did five years ago, when our total traffic was half its current level.

Some of this could just be a blip. It’s always been the case that Facebook shares of our posts are highly skewed, with most posts getting no shares and a few getting many. So some of this could just be random year-to-year fluctuations in how many of our posts get widely shared on Facebook. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. One way to tell would be if other ecology blogs have seen drops in Facebook-driven traffic recently.

I’m not on Facebook and never have been, so I’m not well-positioned to speculate on what’s going on here. Is this a sign that people have stopped using Facebook? Or that they’re still using it, just not to share blog posts? Or what? You tell me!

p.s. The percentages of our pageviews coming from Twitter, and from search engines, are flat or slowly increasing. I’m not sure if this is relevant context or not.

32 thoughts on “Nobody shares our posts on Facebook any more

  1. Jeremy, Facebook shares are minuscule for Scientist Sees Squirrel too. I do have a Facebook page, on which I almost exclusively link to my blog posts, and Facebook followers *like* my posts but rarely share them. Like you, I suspect I just don’t understand how people use Facebook.

    • Interesting. This jives with conversations I’ve had with Meghan years ago; she’s the only DE blogger who uses Facebook. At the time, she reported that discussion of our posts on Facebook seemed to be extremely rare, as best she could tell.

  2. The same is happening with my blog. Maybe Facebook is really dying out. Or maybe WordPress and Facebook are not sharing data correctly with one another. Who knows? The number of direct comments on my posts has also been decreasing, although page views have been increasing, as well as engagement on Twitter. Strange fluctuations in the small world of social media…

    • Yeah, blog comments are dying. Probably for a combination of reasons. One is that people increasingly access the intertubes via their phones rather than computers with keyboards, and it’s a pain to type on a phone.

      • I received an email from WordPress last year that sharing blog posts with Facebook is no longer supported. However, I use the free version of WP, so do not know if this applies to other paid WP formats. Posts from my blog must be posted to FB indirectly with a link outside of the WP format. I do not participate in Twitter (my self-imposed rule is only one social media format).

        I have shared posts from DynamicEcology, Science Sees Squirrels and a few other science blogs. I have seen them also linked on other FB accounts, but not commonly. I rely on email notifications for new blog posts from the former two blogs. On the other hand, posts from three other science blogs appear on my FB page because I follow their FB pages and have requested notifications for new posts.

        A journalist friend and I once discussed what entices FB participants to click on and read linked posts from all media. The popular trend is catchy titles, which are many times misleading, and becoming less successful due to the flood of posts. His approach includes either a quote excerpted from the linked article/blog post, a comment critiquing the content, a comment about the author, or a combination of the three.

        After experimenting with his technique, I found it motivated more people to not only follow the link and read the linked content but also to motivate discussion. I have observed similarly on a FB group (conservation, biodiversity, biogeography) in which academics, professionals, and the general public participate. An academic ecologist friend discontinued his blog (occasionally writing guest blog posts) and now posts only on FB and Twitter. Most academic colleagues I remain in touch with do not have time to read blogs and rely on shorter content via FaceBook or Twitter. Few participate in both formats.

        The journalist friend and I recently discussed the trend mentioned here: popularity of and participation on blogs decreasing and shifting to the two most popular media formats, FaceBook and Twitter. His blog is popular with a specific niche of readers, but most of the feedback (comments and discussions) appears on his FaceBook page. We also observed a similar trend with other blogs and news outlets: those that are combined with their FaceBook pages have more activity on the latter media formats. Twitter may have the same trend.

        The summary here is that blogs are fading in readership and participation, and shifting to shorter content on FB and Twitter. From our observations, those blogs linked with these two social media formats are more popular, albeit with related feedback often on the linked FB and Twitter media.

        I hope this may offer additional insight.

      • @ macrobe:

        Thanks for taking the time to share such detailed thoughts!

        We do pay a bit to WordPress to keep our site ad free. But I’m not sure if that entitles us to sharing posts via Facebook in the manner you refer to. All I know is that the “Facebook” sharing button still shows up at the bottom of each of our posts, and it still get used occasionally (the button shows a count of the number of times it’s been used). But based on our traffic stats, our Facebook sharing button gets used even more rarely than it used to.

        “A journalist friend and I once discussed what entices FB participants to click on and read linked posts from all media.”

        If you ever find a magic recipe for getting people to read the whole post when they wouldn’t otherwise do so, let me know! Anecdotally, people who criticize our posts on Twitter without having read them seem to be becoming more common (though I wouldn’t say they’re common in an absolute sense, at least not yet). They annoy me enough that I’ve stopped looking at ecology Twitter. YMMV, obviously. But just speaking for me personally, the annoyance of seeing people tweeting about our posts without having read anything but the title (and then often acting like it’s *our* fault for not somehow fully summarizing the entire post in the title) far outweighs the benefits of being on Twitter. This may well just illustrate that I’m easily annoyed by certain things, but I can’t change who I am. All I can do is stop exposing myself to environments that annoy me.

        “Most academic colleagues I remain in touch with do not have time to read blogs”

        Fortunately, our traffic (both total, and per-post) is holding steady, rather than dropping. From which I infer either that we’re not losing readers, or (more likely) we’re gaining new readers as fast as we’re losing old ones. It might be interesting to poll readers again (as we’ve done in the past) and ask how long they’ve been reading Dynamic Ecology. Of course, it’s possible that we could start losing readers faster than we gain them. And maybe we already are experiencing a bit of a net decline of *regular* readers. The proportion of our traffic that comes from searches is slowly increasing. Presumably, most of those people either weren’t looking for whatever they found on our blog, or they read the one post they were looking for and then don’t come back (unless another search brings them back). If total traffic is steady but the proportion coming from one-off searches is slowly increasing, that suggests the proportion of traffic coming from regular or semi-regular readers is slowly decreasing.

        “popularity of and participation on blogs decreasing and shifting to the two most popular media formats, FaceBook and Twitter.”

        There’s never been much substantive discussion of the vast majority of our posts on social media (as distinct from non-substantive discussion and sharing, such as people liking or retweeting our posts on Twitter, sometimes with a brief comment like “Agree!”). So the decline of our comment threads isn’t because substantive commentary on our posts is moving to social media. And honestly, even if we were on Facebook I don’t think there’d be much substantive discussion of our posts there (as Stephen Heard’s comment above suggests). Certainly not any more than we get here in our comment threads. Rather, what seems to be happening for us is that substantive online discussion of our posts is just dying off. And there’s nothing we can do about it, whether by moving to Facebook, or giving our posts catchier titles, or whatever.

        The bottom line is that “commenting communities” are dying; that’s not how most people interact online any more. People who are online mostly want to (i) chat with their personal friends, (ii) discover and share content, and (iii) a minority of them want to argue about politics or about other hot-button topics. None of which involves commenting substantively about ecology blog posts. I think I’m basically agreeing with you on this?

      • FYI: blog sharing and like buttons are disabled (actually, they do not appear) when some blocking apps are used on devices. In some apps, blocking media sharing/liking, etc is an option, others (such as the one I use) that option is absent and they are blocked or absent.

  3. Facebook also changes its algorithms enough to be a moving target. For a while now, they have privileged posts that are native, not auto-posts from other platforms synced with them. And, they were privileging video posts. More recently, they changed the algorithms again, now to prioritize content from friends over content from entities. So, if the DE account doesn’t register to Facebook as a person with personal connections to other FB users (my hunch would be it doesn’t), it’s likely that your posts are not getting in front of as many people as they used to for this reason, too. In all three cases, they maintain that the changes are to meet user preferences, but some pushback includes charges that all these changes lead users (with any kind of budget) to pay to boost their posts to ensure people still see them (of course, this generates revenue for Facebook).

    • Interesting! But I don’t know how well it applies in our case. We don’t have a Facebook page. The only way our posts get shared on Facebook is if some reader with a Facebok account shares them. But maybe Facebook’s algorithms affect who gets to see content that Facebook users share?

      • Oh! Roger. For some reason, I assumed (without even double-checking) that you did have the posts auto-posting to FB. It is possible, though, that your hunch is accurate re FB’s algorithms even constraining what others see when their friends share it. That’s outside the scope of what I’ve paid attention to re FB controlling what you do/don’t see.

  4. My read is that facebook has scaled back on the number of views it allows for links to external sites, as a part of generating profit. If people share our stuff and everybody sees it for free, then they can’t get anybody to pay for placements. I know so many non-profits and other orgs that pay money to promote posts so their links/posts will pop up. They hope that we’re addicted enough to their traffic that we’ll give them money. (This is one reason why I like twitter, is that you can readily see your feed without algorithmic filtering. If someone I follow shares a link, I get to see it. ) It’s not just the number of shares that have gone down on facebook, but the number of views. So I think this is partly a function of people seeing posts less often there. But, yeah, folks are not using facebook as much, either.

  5. I wonder if part of it is also increasing segmentation in how people use social media? Increasingly, I’ve been using Facebook exclusively for personal conversations and Twitter exclusively for science-related ones (to the extent that those can be separated). So if I’m going to share a Dynamic Ecology post it’s going to be on Twitter. I know others who use Facebook and Twitter similarly.

    • Hmm, interesting. Could be part of what’s going on, sure. The proportion of our visits that come via Twitter is slowly increasing, which is consistent with your hypothesis.

      • I use social media in this sort of segmented fashion, for an n of at least 2. šŸ™‚ I’m on FB only for work – no personal account. Twitter I use for work and work-personal. Instagram was a bit more personal, but I ditched that in December. If I could completely eliminate FB from my life, I would.

      • That’s an interesting hypothesis. I quit Facebook 3 years ago. Now I use Twitter for academic purposes and cat videos, and Instagram for nature photography and personal stuff.

    • I’ll second this hypothesis! I’ve increasingly not put anything work related on my facebook page. And I’ve increasingly used Twitter for academic stuff. This seems like a systematic trend among my academic colleagues for whom I am also FB friends with. Once they get a twitter account, the academic posts on their FB account tend to disappear/lessen.

  6. Interesting. My top three traffic referrers have remained the same for the last 4 years: search engines, Twitter, Facebook. But, while search engines & Twitter are increasing by ~1000s per year, my annual Facebook traffic has stayed about the same (within ~100 referrals per year). I’m not on FB myself, so not sure of share dynamics

    • So, not too different from us really–traffic from Twitter and search engines increasing in both absolute and proportional terms, traffic from Facebook not increasing in absolute terms and declining in proportional terms. Another datapoint in favor of the hypothesis that it’s either changes in Facebook’s algorithm and/or people moving away from Facebook (at least for purposes of sharing ecology blog posts).

      • Yes, I would go with the algorithm change. As far as I know, FB is still pretty big here in Australia and I know a lot of people still use it for work & personal.

  7. Links from twitter & facebook are flat over the years and both pretty inconsequential for me. By far the #1 referrer to my blog is search engines (70+ %). Twitter, Dynamic Ecology :), and Facebook make up the rest of the top 4. Although it might be a bit skewed for me. The vast majority of my traffic about ~2k / yr comes from a single post on a better way to think about shark attack fatality risk. This is basically all search engine traffic

  8. Facebook algorithms make it useless. I post papers there and on Twitter. I like posting on Facebook mainly because it’s easier to get the pieces I want to use assembled in one place. ASN/AmNat has almost 6,000 followers. When I post, I reach about 2% of them. If I want to reach all the people who follow the page, I have to pay Facebook. A little more money and I can reach my own followers plus their friends with an ad. And my timeline is a cluttered mess. I realize I haven’t seen someone for awhile, go to their page and it turns out there are all kinds of things I missed. So, I think some of it is people moving away from Facebook and some of it is Facebook’s messed up algorithms.

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