Experiencing a Decline in Organic Reach on Facebook? Take Action Now

- July 21, 2014

There has been a lot of discussion across the Internet recently regarding the reach, or lack thereof, that brands experience when posting updates to Facebook. As a result, many marketers have expressed their frustration of the declining ability to reach their audience on the world’s largest social network. In response, Facebook’s Brian Boland, head of the Ads Product Marketing Team, addressed these concerns in a lengthy but informative post to the company’s Product News page. You can find it here. Since this post, many people appear to have misinterpreted what Mr. Boland was explaining.

Specifically, the concern for many marketers is that organic reach (the ability of your brand’s updates to be seen by your audience on Facebook for free) is purposefully being diminished by the social network in hopes that more brands will succumb to seemingly overt pressure to pay to promote their posts to a wider audience.

That, however, does not appear to be the case. Organic reach is in fact declining for many brands, but it requires an analysis of the current environment on Facebook to understand why this is happening – and what you can do about it.

Competition for Attention

Because Facebook is widely appealing to many brands to market their products and services, more content is being shared than ever before. As a result, every time a brand posts an update, the content competes with other updates for the attention of Facebook users. It is becoming increasingly competitive in the News Feed landscape and much more difficult to cut through the “noise.”

The News Feed Algorithm

Formerly referred to as “EdgeRank,” this algorithm is constantly updated to enhance the user experience on Facebook. The most recent update had a big impact on organic reach, hence the feedback (read: outrage) Facebook received from some marketers. But a closer look at the purpose of the News Feed Algorithm garners an understanding of what Facebook is trying to accomplish.

Over time, as people engage with others (and brands), Facebook develops an understanding of the relationships that are formed. The algorithm then sifts through all the updates made by friends and brands a user has connected with and shows the ones most prevalent for the user. Stated differently, what we see in our News Feed heavily depends on our history of interaction with people and brands. The goal is for Facebook to show us what we want to see.

What Does This Mean for Organic Reach?

As Facebook observes the interaction a brand has with its followers, its algorithm then determines which followers are most likely going to be interested in the brand’s updates. As Mr. Boland explained, in a 20 minute session, the average Facebook user has the potential to be exposed to roughly 1,500 pieces of content. If a user was to be exposed to every update, the New Feed would never stop scrolling. So instead of the home page looking like a stock ticker with updates constantly flowing through the screen, Facebook determines which 300 out of 1,500 updates the user is most likely to care about.

As a result, users don’t see every post from every friend or page they like. The mistake many marketers make is thinking that their audience on Facebook is similar to an email distribution list; it is not. Instead, content is the distribution. The more engaging the content is, the greater chance it has at reaching more people. So rather than letting the News Feed Algorithm be a source of frustration, brands need to use it to their advantage.

What Can You Do to Boost Your Organic Reach?

In order to use the News Feed Algorithm to your advantage, and grow your organic reach in the process, you need to stick to the fundamentals: produce and curate quality content. Here are some questions you should take into consideration when sharing content:

  • Is my text too long?
  • Is the copy thought provoking, entertaining, or share-worthy?
  • Is the photo I shared eye-catching? Does it tell a story?
  • Does this post add value to my audience?

The quality of the content plays a big factor in your posts’ organic reach. Outside of organic reach is what is referred to as viral reach: the amount of impressions your posts have outside of the followers of your page. Every time a Facebook user clicks “share” on one of your posts, they expose the post to an audience much wider than how many users “like” your page.

Though many brands have experienced a decline in organic reach, it is very possible that posts now reach the most valuable members of a brand’s audience. That is a good thing. Therefore, a better understanding of the purpose for the News Feed Algorithm may ease some of the concerns for marketers.

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