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The cost of a Facebook impression

The mysterious Facebook EdgeRank algorithm is out from the shadows.

For the uninitiated, EdgeRank is the secret formula Facebook uses on every friend/page post to determine if it should go in a user’s news feed.

When you log into Facebook, you see your long list of pictures, status updates, and FarmVille notices from your friends and pages you like in the news feed.  This is where the majority of people interact with content on Facebook.  EdgeRank is the traffic cop that directs posts into this feed.

A number of studies have been published that say a typical post of Facebook is only seen by about 12% to 17% of the possible audience.  So if you run a small business page, less than 20% of your fans see a post.  This was a little known fact for most people until Facebook started recently putting the percentages at the bottom of posts.

Facebook now shows the percentage of people being reached with each post

It is now crystal clear a post isn’t being seen as often as most might think.

Now, the stage is set for Facebook to monetize the limiting nature of EdgeRank.  The social network is now offering the ability to bypass or overpower EdgeRank and get passed these low percentages so few people.

The promote feature allows Facebook users to bypass EdgeRankA “promote” button has appeared next to the “people reached” number on Facebook pages.  For a set amount of money, you can choose to increase the visibility of the post.

The cost for the “promote” feature offers a new valuation on the Facebook platform that hasn’t been seen before – the value of a standard Facebook post.

I handle about 20 pages. I went through most of them and noted the estimated people reached and cost for reaching those people with the promote feature.  From there, I ran the cost per thousand (CPM.)

The cost varied by page.  I came back with a low CPM of $4.55 and a high CPM of $7.69. The average CPM was $5.23.

First, that’s a pretty big spread.  I’m surprised the CPM isn’t locked in.  I didn’t notice any trends as far as type of post (picture vs video vs link vs text) but I also didn’t have a very big sample to draw from.

At that price, I wouldn’t use this feature outside of promoting an extremely urgent or important update.  Intelligent, multiple (and don’t forget free) posts should be able to get the reach needed to make the posts visible enough… that is unless Facebook starts tightening down EdgeRank and makes “Promote” the only way to get critical mass for posts.

Doing that would be very risky for Facebook since it would be the start of a change towards a pay-site.  This would be a dangerous path for Facebook that might push people to another, free social network.