What is Organic Reach on Facebook?
First off, what IS organic reach on Facebook? Understanding organic reach if very important if you’re trying to grow your Facebook page. Facebook defines it as “how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page.” If you’ve been managing Facebook page(s) for 9 or more years, you might know that. You also might remember when Facebook first launched fan pages in 2007. Those were the days anyone could create a Page for their company or organization, collect fans and post unlimited messages to their fan bases with the knowledge their fans would see all of those messages.
Then came 2012 when page managers discovered only a fraction of their Facebook fans — 16% on average– were seeing their page posts, and the decline has gotten more and more pronounced since.
When did you first notice it? Chances are it was sometime in 2014 because that’s when, in response to a lot of complaining from page managers everywhere, Facebook’s VP of Advertising Technology, Brian Boland said:
“Over the past few months, I’ve read articles and answered questions from many people who are concerned about declines in organic reach for their Facebook Pages …my colleagues and I at Facebook understand that this has been a pain point for many businesses, and we’re committed to helping you understand what’s driving this change … “
The two reasons (according to Boland) were that there was too much content being published on Facebook (causing big increases in competition in News Feeds) and the desire of Facebook to show people the content that is most relevant to them, rather than ALL the available content. It shouldn’t surprise you that not everyone accepted this explanation.
Frustrated page managers insisted this was a Facebook ploy to increase advertising income by forcing them to pay for page views. But Boland emphatically denied this. He said:
“No. Our goal is always to provide the best experience for the people that use Facebook. We believe that delivering the best experiences for people also benefits the businesses that use Facebook. If people are more active and engaged with stories that appear in News Feed, they are also more likely to be active and engaged with content from businesses.”
Whether you’re a Pollyanna and believe Facebook is trying to present the best, most relevant content in user’s newsfeed, or whether you’re a pragmatist and believe Facebook is simply trying to make more money, one thing seems certain. At some point, organic reach is likely to arrive at zero. That being said, in the future, successful marketers must get used to subsidizing organic reach with paid posts. More importantly, marketers must stay educated on how the (new) Facebook algorithm works, so they can continue to benefit from the social media platform.
Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm
Way back in 2006 when Facebook first launched News Feed, the algorithm was simple. Posts with just text might be assigned one point, a post with a link might be get two points, a picture, three points, etc. From there, Facebook could multiply the post’s value by the number of people interacting with it (commenting, liking and/or sharing) and arrive at a ranking system for the order in which posts appear.
Over the years, the News Feed algorithm changed even further. Things like recency of posts and the relationship between the person doing the posting and the person interacting with the post factored as well. This version is known as EdgeRank, but it didn’t last. In 2011, Facebook abandoned it for an even more complicated algorithm that is machine learning-based.
This “machine learning-based” algorithm can learn from individual user preferences. What does this mean? In simple terms, if a user never interacts with photos in their News Feed, the algorithm learns to show them fewer photos over time. Obviously Facebook’s goal is to sort through everything published by your friends, family, media and only show you content that matches your tastes, needs and interests. This is an effort to be sure you keep coming back to Facebook.
Now We Know the WHY, So Let’s Deal With WHAT
Okay. Now we understand WHY Facebook’s organic reach has declined so precipitously. We also can almost see a day when organic reach could be reduced to zero. So WHAT can smart marketers do to maximize your digital marketing efforts in the Facebook arena?
Here are some tips:
- Be pickier about what you post. Post more creative topics, text, and photos. Quantity is no longer more important than quality.
- Educate your fans. Let them know they should go to Pages Feed on the left sidebar of their News Feed to see content from Pages they’ve Liked.
- Inform your SUPER fans that they can update their notification settings from your page! This helps to ensure that won’t miss anything you post. (Choose the Liked Tab and then they can select ALL On under notifications.)
- Encourage engagement in your posts. Ask questions. Request comments, likes and shares.
- Renew your focus on your website and blogs. The importance of the website has waxed and waned, but as Facebook changes algorithms, the one thing you can control is your own digital presence. Spend more time creating fresh content (blogs, ebooks, videos) to garner attention and leads. Then send your fans to that content through your social media as often as you can for additional reach.
- Treat Facebook as a paid platform. Don’t think of it as free anymore. Create a monthly budget to boost all of your posts. Spend some time learing about Facbook ads too. They can help you reach new fans.
- Use Facebook’s tools and features to maximize the return on ad dollars. You can now pay to reach your ideal customer based on demographics, interests, web visits and more. Explore things like conversion tracking, custom audiences, lookalike audiences, website custom audiences and lots of additional custom reporting based on metrics that matter most for your business.
Gone are the days of simple Facebook posting. Facebook has evolved into a marketing monster that is loaded with cool features to help businesses grow. But, like everthing, you have to educate yourself so you can get the most bang for your buck.