Facebook Posts - Unpublished, Scheduled, Promoted? (1/2)
Facebook Page posts are used by marketers for everything from reminding people that the brand exists, wishing followers a Happy New Year and urging people to purchase tickets for an upcoming show. They always appear as content in the News feed, sometimes welcome and sometimes not. With this post I’d like to shed some light on the complexity behind the different states a Page post can be in.
First of all, a Page post can be in a few different states: published, unpublished and scheduled. On top of this it can be either organic or sponsored (the terms sponsored and promoted are used interchangingly).
Published: means it will be visible on the Page’s timeline as well as get organic (free) distribution in the News feeds of the Page’s fans.
Unpublished: means it will only be visible if sponsored, and only in News feed of its target audience. Posts in this state were formerly known as dark posts.
Scheduled: means it is unpublished but will become published on a given date.
The difference between an organic and sponsored post lies in how it is distributed. An organic post doesn’t cost anything to distribute and will get some News feed distribution, depending on its EdgeRank.
A sponsored post always gets distribution in the News feeds of its target audience (provided its placement is set to News feed).
A Page post’s different states can thus be arranged in a two-dimensional matrix, like so:
A note on this classification:
If a post is in a published state, that implies that it will get organic distribution. A post can thus not be only published and sponsored, without it being published and organic at the same time.
Does this mean it can’t be sponsored? No.
It means that a sponsored published post will get both organic and paid distribution at the same time.
The same person will never see the organic and sponsored instance of the post at the same time however, so no need to worry about spamming the audience with duplicate content.
Little visual difference between a Page post’s different states
If the previous section on different states was confusing, this one is much easier to comprehend. Regardless of what state the post is in, as long as it is visible in people’s News feed it will appear the same - with one very small exception.
Take the below example of a post by online publisher Mashable. The top image is an organic instance of one of their Page posts, while the bottom is how that Page post would have looked, should it have been sponsored (which it was not, I edited it).
Notice the difference? Most people don’t. The only difference between these two instances (of the same Page post mind you) is the timestamp at the bottom of the post.
The organic instance has a date and time for when the post was published, the sponsored instance instead indicates that it is sponsored.
The real difference lies in the distribution
The organic instance of a post reaches fans of the Page in their News feeds (organic reach), and should they like, comment or share the post, it will travel further and reach their friends' News feeds (viral reach).
Some posts go truly viral and travel across the social graph of Facebook due to people going crazy in liking, commenting and sharing. However, most organic posts reach only a subset of the Page’s fan base.
Sponsoring a post means paying for reach, and you can take it as far as you want.
100% of your fan base? Sure, no problems.
None of your fans but some other audience? Sure, no problems.
All of Facebook’s 1.15 billion users? Sure, but with a few financial implications.
Bottom line is that it’s up to you and your budget.
Possibilities for a post to change state
Lastly, I’d like to quickly run through how a post’s state can change.
A post can be created in any of its possible states (technically it must exist before it can be sponsored, but that’s details). Depending on its starting state it can then change states as the Page owner sees fit.
The arrows in the chart below shows the possible state changes a post can make.
A post can change from organic to sponsored and vice versa, regardless of it being published, unpublished or scheduled.
Furthermore a post can change from being unpublished to scheduled, and vice versa. In practice that means that you can schedule an unpublished post, and you can remove the publish date from a scheduled post.
Both unpublished and scheduled posts can become published. This should be no surprise as the definition of a scheduled post is that it has set date for when this will happen.
However, a published post can not be unpublished. Published is the only state a post cannot leave - unless it is deleted.
Next up: Practical implications
I hope this overview have given you some form of understanding of how Facebook Page posts work. In our next blog post I’ll pick up this topic again and talk about the implications for all this.
Namely, discuss how knowing the different states and how they work can help you reach different marketing objectives.
Connect with Sven on Twitter: @svenhamberg