December 18, 2014 | Holly Yalove

Facebook Changes in 2015: The "Overly Promotional" Penalty

Facebook Changes 2015

Planned for January 2015, Facebook's latest round of News Feed changes will make organic Facebook marketing even harder. According to Facebook's recent announcement, the 2015 News Feed algorithm changes will reduce the number of promotional posts users see.

Paid ads won't be affected (of course!) but organic reach for business Pages will be significantly reduced if they're posting content deemed overly promotional. The announcement stated, "Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time."

Facebook says this change is a result of user feedback and their goal is to show users what they want to see. My bet is that the users polled weren't marketers.

Many of us have been hoping that the 2014 algorithm update would provide new opportunities for organic reach on Facebook (and it can!), but then Facebook tossed a wrench into our plans.

What Makes a Post "Too Promotional"?

Well, that's for Facebook to decide, but they do provide the following examples of "consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional":

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

In the announcement, the following examples were provided as those meeting the "overly promotional" criteria:


Facebook's example of an overly promotional post A post requesting you install an app


Facebook's example of an overly promotional post A post requesting you buy a product


What about Promos and Special Offers?

In the announcement about Facebook changes in 2015, Facebook suggests paid ads. They explain that their paid ads offer "...ways to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or app downloads." Yep, that sure sounds like Page posts driving specific business objectives like increasing sales are a no-no in 2015.

From the way the announcement is phrased, it doesn't sound like you should post less promotional content in your mix - it sounds like you shouldn't post any promotional content at all (other than in paid ads). The statement "Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time" reads as a warning to me.

If your Page continues to post promotional content in 2015, it will reduce your Page's overall reach for all content over time - not just the reach of the offending posts.

What if your customers consider it bad service to not alert them about specials or promotions? What about daily specials for restaurants? Many customers rely on social media to find out the "latest and greatest" of what's going on with their favorite brands in real time.

Is it not a disservice to leave out key communications customers find beneficial? Until the data tells us the story, I can only wonder how strict Facebook will be and what will fall into the category of posts that have the intent of "driving sales." It's up to you to decide whether you should you risk posting the wrong kind of content and impacting your Page reach for the foreseeable future.

What if Your Product or Service Is Prohibited for Facebook Advertising?

While I love many things about Facebook ads and encourage them for businesses with an existing audience on Facebook, there are products and services prohibited or greatly restricted in their advertising (weapons, ammunition, and tobacco-related products to name a few).

Pages that can't pay for ads and can't post organically without penalty will indeed find challenges in January. If this happens to your business, you need to find a new approach to Facebook. All it takes is a little creative thinking and most certainly an active blog.

Why Should You Still Want a Facebook Business Page in 2015?

Customer Service: Facebook kindly points out in their announcement that Pages are a great customer service channel. I wholeheartedly agree (unless of course your customers want to be told about promos and specials).

Content Marketing: What gets shared on Facebook? Great content. Posts that are trying to sell things don't get shared as much, so although the 2015 changes are a pain, they may actually improve your focus. If your Page is sharing content your audience finds interesting and relevant—they'll share it with others!

Here's a quick tip. Look for opportunities to get users back to your website or blog by creating and sharing content that helps them solve a problem or fulfill a need. The advantage on Facebook generally swings toward companies that market to consumers (as opposed to businesses). Ultimately, if your Page is more human, helpful, and creative—your reach will expand. After all, who works for businesses? People, of course!

Customer and Prospect Engagement: The ROI on "engagement" can be difficult to measure, especially since Facebook put the kibosh on sales lingo. We've found that pictures of our employees doing cool stuff (like having fun with a GoPro) get the best reach. And yes, we're trying to sell things, but on Facebook we're doing that by showing the people behind the work.

People do business with people. To connect engagement to revenue, we love closed-loop marketing tools like HubSpot that tie everything back to the source. HubSpot tracks social media engagement with contacts and leads, as well as which social posts drive traffic to your website and how people interact with you across all your channels. It also has some amazing new social media reports that make analysis even easier,

Want another tip? Posts that have a link with a preview get more engagement than any other post, but photos get more engagement than plain text posts.

SEO: Social media plays a huge part in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) these days, so think carefully before giving up a platform where others are sharing your content.

Brand Ambassadors: If your buyer persona is on Facebook, they can't tag or mention your Page if you don't have one. This means a loss of exposure to their friends. Word-of-mouth referrals online are powerful, and trust me—you want as many of those as possible.

If your business has any of these challenges, it may be time to rethink your Facebook strategy. Moving forward, your business Page may not be where you make sales, but it's definitely a place you can build a community around your brand!

Ultimate Facebook Business Page Checklist: FREE Download


Holly Yalove

Holly Yalove

As VIEO’s chief strategist and one of our principals, Holly Yalove serves as the head digital and inbound marketing strategy for our clients. She has used her extensive management, sales, and marketing experience to dramatically increase our digital marketing business, helping us become the well-rounded agency we are today.

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