Will Evergreen Content on Facebook Hurt Reach?

February 6, 2018 • By

Mike Allton

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Testing Evergreen Content on Facebook

Surely you’ve heard of evergreen content by now, right?

When rail travel was more common, trains rushing toward a lightly used station would use their steam whistle to signal the train depot attendant who, in return, would raise one of two flags telling the engineer if they needed to stop, or if they could steam through.

These stations became known as “whistle stops” and when presidential candidates in the U.S. started to campaign across the country, they’d schedule a series of “whistle stop” tours. The idea was that a candidate could board a train traveling through rural states, stop at every station, and give a speech right from the platform car.

Without ever having to even leave the train, candidates like Harry S. Truman were able to deliver their powerful messages over and over again, reaching hundreds of thousands of potential voters.

Deweytruman12

Imagine if you could do the same with your blog content over social media?

That’s what evergreen content is!

And that’s what we will be exploring in this experiment.

Background About Evergreen Content

Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner was quite vocal in 2017 that evergreen content was “dead” in his opinion.

stelzner evergree content

“As a matter of fact, I would say it’s so dead that we no longer re-share any of our content on Twitter. We do nothing Evergreen. Everything we post is once and done on social media. On Facebook, we do post a couple of recurring posts, but we have decided that we are no longer doing anything more than just once with social media.”

However Scott Ayres found recently here in the Social Media Lab that Jeff Bullas is repeating his link tweets multiple times per month and continues to receive clicks:

Jeff Bullas callout tweets

Granted this is on Twitter for Jeff, so may not correlate to Facebook Reach and engagement levels.

It’s been difficult to find research about the impact of using evergreen content on Facebook. So we decided to test it!

Hypothesis

Based on these sources and my own social media experience, this is my hypothesis:

Evergreen content will see a decrease in Reach and Engagement the more it is posted to each social media platform.

evergreen facebook

The Test

I ran this experiment on my business page:  The Social Media Hat with 7,357 fans.

I started the test on Monday, December 4 and concluded on Sunday, December 31 for a full 4-week experiment. While that included two major holiday periods (Christmas and New Year), my experience has been that those days see only a marginal drop-off in social engagement. While many are spending time offline, even more are off work and free to be online, so it’s somewhat of a wash. Therefore, I continued the posting even on Christmas Day.

The following time slots were used based on past performance:

Facebook: 7am, 11am, 3pm

All automated and recurring queues were paused during the test period to ensure there would be no other shares of these same posts. However, I did continue to share new content and other spontaneous shares as I normally would.

I scheduled all posts in advance using Agorapulse so that everything would run according to plan without me having to remember to do anything. This was particularly important due to the holidays and traveling season!

All posts were all link shares, meaning they were scheduled as a link with text so that each network would also display a link preview.

Custom text was used for each, rather than the default article title, but the custom text was repeated.

Also, no hashtags or mentions were used which might have had an impact on an individual share’s metrics.

Facebook-Post-Example

The Articles

Posting three times a day for 28 days, with a desire to be able to post the same content multiple times, resulted in a need for 12 pieces of content. With that schedule, I was able to repeat the same posts 7 times over that 28 day period.

That frequency also gave me the added benefit of being able to share each article once on every day of the week to mitigate any “better day of the week” advantage that might be present.

These articles I linked to were evergreen posts chosen from my archive based on their tremendous past success, as well as the variety of topics and interests. They ranged from 30 days old to several years, and none had been shared recently to the networks in question.

 

  1. How To Start A Blog: The Ultimate Free Guide
  2. How Long Before You Start Making Good Money Blogging?
  3. The Ultimate Guide To The Perfect LinkedIn Profile
  4. The Ultimate Guide To Writing Epic Content
  5. How To Get Your Social Media Inbox To Zero
  6. Give Your Social Networks The Spring Cleaning They So Desperately Need
  7. The Content Pyramid, How To Structure A Successful Blog
  8. 5 Outstanding Landing Page Benefits To Make Your Business Happy
  9. 75 Facebook Tips, Tricks, Tools, Resources and Hacks for Businesses
  10. 3 Steps To Gain Hundreds Of New Subscribers With A Lead Gen Machine
  11. How To Promote A Blog Post
  12. How To Set Up Recurring Invoices For Your Blogging Business

The normal expectation would be that I would see tremendous backlash from both the networks and my audience for posting that much.

But that was exactly one of the concepts I wished to test, so we needed to push conventional wisdom and traditional marketing “rules” a bit.

HOW I MEASURED THE RESULTS

Between Agorapulse and the native platforms, I was able to retrieve each post’s engagement and reach metrics.

The Facebook reporting within Agorapulse was even easier, as all of the Engagement, Reach and Click data is available within the standard report.

facebook reach agorapulse

After the experiment period was over, I tabulated all of the results within a Google spreadsheet so that I could easily set up calculations for things like Average Reach or Total Engagement.

What Does the Data Say about Evergreen Content and Facebook Reach?

Even during the campaign, I could tell that my organic reach on Facebook was declining, so that was a measured result I expected.

Posting link shares 3 times a day without trying to get your audience active and engaged is not going to be viewed favorably by the Facebook algorithm.

Plus with recent news feed changes just announced by Mark Zuckerberg, I expected to see a drop in Facebook Reach

To break down the stats, we’ll look at the Facebook Reach of the 1st and last post for each article during the test:

  • Link 1:
    • Initial Post: 123
    • Last Post: 46
    • Decrease of 62.6% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 2:
    • Initial Post: 105
    • Last Post: 75
    • Decrease of 28.5% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 3:
    • Initial Post: 99
    • Last Post: 62
    • Decrease of 37.4% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 4:
    • Initial Post: 204
    • Last Post: 67
    • Decrease of 67.2% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 5:
    • Initial Post: 180
    • Last Post: 41
    • Decrease of 77.2% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 6:
    • Initial Post: 53
    • Last Post: 64
    • Increase of 20.8% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 7:
    • Initial Post: 135
    • Last Post: 88
    • Decrease of 34.8% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 8:
    • Initial Post: 135
    • Last Post: 77
    • Decrease of 43% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 9:
    • Initial Post: 197
    • Last Post: 92
    • Decrease of 53.3% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 10:
    • Initial Post: 183
    • Last Post: 95
    • Decrease of 48.1% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 11:
    • Initial Post: 232
    • Last Post: 78
    • Decrease of 66.4% in Facebook Reach
  • Link 12:
    • Initial Post: 133
    • Last Post: 116
    • Decrease of 12.8% in Facebook Reach

Comparing all 12 links’ starting Reach and ending Reach, we see a decrease of 49.35% in Facebook Reach during this experiment.

I mentioned earlier that the reach of Facebook posts tended to decline as the month wore on.

This is true for all posts which means that even though 76.49% of my Facebook reach that month was on repeated posts, it’s clearly not a winning strategy on its own.

Yet, interestingly, it’s unlikely that it was the same fans who saw those same posts during the experiment since 66.28% of the engagement and 69.23% of the link clicks came after the initial share.

Let’s look at a specific example to illustrate what I’m referring to.

The article, “Give Your Social Networks The Spring Cleaning They So Desperately Need” was a fairly average performer on Facebook during this experiment. It was shared at 3:00pm (GMT -6) on Tuesday, December 5, and then again at the same time on the 9, 13, 17, 21, 25 and 29.

facebook evergreen content mike a

As you can see, reach for this post actually rose the 2nd and 3rd times it was shared, then varied a bit the last few times. The third share was the most successful overall with 5 engagements and 2 link clicks from over 100 reached.

Would folks who literally were seeing that post for the third time have reacted so positively? I don’t think so.

But if we just focused on the Reach of the initial post and last post, we’d assume evergreen content was a failure based on the decrease in Facebook Reach.

Every link post in this experiment saw similar results as the one above — Reach would go up, down, up, down throughout the test. The same with engagement on the posts.

evergreen content results

Which makes this really difficult to draw a solid conclusion.

Conclusion about Evergreen Content on Facebook

So what did we learn from all of this?

First, not only is there nothing wrong with sharing your content a few more times to Facebook, it actually might help!

Each successive share can generate more views and engagement, clicks and potential leads for your business.

Which means that, over time, you can keep sharing your evergreen content over and over, increasing each piece of content’s ability to drive business results.

But, we also saw evidence that just sharing your content over and over isn’t enough. That it pays to introduce your posts in a way that will encourage discussion and engagement.

Remember, at the end of the day, these social networks are just that… social. Brands that just want to broadcast their messages will be easily dismissed by both the network and the fans.

Instead, effort must be put toward creating a sense of community among your fans and followers. Let them know that you genuinely care about their concerns and interests. Give them a platform to be heard, and they’ll reward you by listening to you in return!

Recall our original hypothesis:

Evergreen content will see a decrease in Reach and Engagement the more it is posted to each social media platform.

I’m going to say this is inconclusive based on the facts we have — primarily after seeing Reach and Engagement fluctuate throughout the test.

Oh, and there’s one final lesson… KEEP TESTING!

In the midst of this test I saw other interesting aspects, and came up with even more questions, which will need to be tested. And even though these are the results I saw, you might see completely different results!

Parting Thoughts on Evergreen Content

Evergreen content can and should be queued up and shared to Facebook repeatedly. But there are some “rules” that this experiment helped reinforce:

  1. Do not share content as links with link previews. The link preview post is an obvious signal to Facebook that you’re hoping to take users off the Facebook platform and therefore will be scored poorly in the algorithm, as we’ve seen in other tests. Instead, always create shares that are images or video and include your link in the text description.
  2. Do not post multiple times per day unless you’ve grown and nurtured an audience accustomed to that frequency and who appreciate it.
  3. The data suggests that putting more time in between shares of the same content would perform better, so multiple times per week is probably not a good idea. For most of us, no more than once per month would likely suffice for the same evergreen content. The good news though is that this test demonstrates it might be a good idea to share new content multiple times the first month.
  4. Ask questions! There were virtually no comments on any of these shares, which means my text wasn’t doing a good enough job encouraging engagement (though that was by design). For real posts, you need to do everything you can to invite discussion and commentary.

We know that Facebook is continuing to favor engaging content and brands over those that push out information. Frankly, you just can’t afford to share link after link today. Your organic reach will eventually fall to practically zero.

Sharing evergreen content in and of itself is great, and I strongly encourage you to get the help of a tool like Agorapulse to make sure it’s done on schedule, but it has to be done right.

When you’re setting up those shares, take the time to craft interesting, engaging introductions that invite your fans to participate. With Facebook more than any other network, driving traffic can no longer be the goal.

It’s all about engagement. That’s the only way to remain visible and, therefore, viable, on the network.

Focus on engagement to build up interest and organic reach in your posts and the clicks will follow.

tips on evergreen content

Set yourself up with Agorapulse if you haven’t already, and start scheduling and monitoring your post performance. Test different sharing rates and frequencies, as well as different sharing times and styles!

Meanwhile, we’ll keep asking questions and running tests of our own.

social-media-lab-raw-data

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