We have had quite a few questions lately from people who have noticed that the organic reach for their business Facebook posts is down significantly from the beginning of the year. The most common emotions associated with these questions are confusion and anger, both of which are understandable but not very helpful. Let’s take a minute and talk about what is happening and then we will turn our attention to how to best react to the new set of circumstances.
Facebook is a business and, like most businesses, they exist to make money. They also have done extensive research on what Facebook users want and are willing to see in their news feed. Their research data is incredibly complete and has been broken out over many different demographics and user groups with data about how many posts from friends should be in the feed, how many posts from family, businesses, etc. They even have data that tells them how many videos you like to watch in your news feed vs pictures that you click on or how much time you have spent looking at specific posts that have appeared in your news feed in the past.
To understand the trend of your business posts not showing up we will use an example. For this example we are going to generalize a little bit to simplify the situation. Facebook has concluded, through research, that people like me are willing to have up to 25% of our news feed be populated by business posts before we start to feel sold out by the system. They go ahead and pick the most engaging posts from the companies that I follow and show those to me in my news feed. Facebook then gives businesses the option of paying for a guaranteed spot in my news feed though advertising or boosting their posts. As more companies take advantage of this opportunity for guaranteed spots in the news feed, the percentage of the 25% of posts that are reserved for businesses that is filled with paid posts increases. This also decreases the amount of spots that are left over for free views.
In some markets these free spots are still available, in others where there are more advertisers the free organic reach numbers took a hit several months ago.
The example above illustrates the balancing act that Facebook is trying to walk with keeping users interested in their news feeds and, at the same time, making money from their advertising business model. Typically, this is where small businesses feel like they have been forced out, or that they have spent the last several years building up an audience of fans on Facebook only to learn that they have to pay to reach those fans. They are right.
There is good news though, Facebook is still one of the most affordable advertising platforms available. Especially if you are trying to get your message viewed by your fan base. You may have noticed that on Facebook it is significantly cheaper to boost a post to your page fans than it is to boost a post to users in general that have not liked your page (this is the reward for building your fan count). Facebook also is rolling out better and better tools to advertise to your target demographic (the people who actually buy your products and services). You can now create custom groups to advertise to based on who has visited your website in the last 30 days and target them, You can even upload a list of email addresses from your customers and Facebook will look at their user profiles and find other users who are just like them that you can advertise to. The possibilities are great if you take the time to get ahead of the curve and are willing to pay to play.
I know that there are people who do not want to pay to be on Facebook and that is perfectly understandable. There are still some things that you can do in order to increase your reach to your audience of fans without advertising. With most new posts, Facebook will show your post to a handful of people from your audience and measure how engaging the content is. Say you have a text status update listing a sale, Facebook will show it to 5-10 people and measure their reaction. If you run a similar status update every day with a similar message, Facebook will start to use aggregate data from past posts. The key is posting content that your fans want to see and will interact with. If they just quickly read it and move on, Facebook will assume that the message was not engaging to them. The trick here is to create content that is more engaging than any of the content being produced by the other businesses that your users follow.
Another trick is to vary the types of posts that your are using on Facebook. If every post is text only or a picture and some text, Facebook learns what the average response is and skips the focus group section of promoting your posts. If you can use more variety by posting links, text, videos, pictures seamlessly transitioning back and forth from one medium to the next, you are going to get higher reach (and more engagement from your fans).
Facebook would like to show useful and engaging content to its users. Your job as a business owner is to prove that your content gives Facebook users a reason to come and check out Facebook each day, if it does that, you will be ok. If that sounds like too much work and you still want people to see what you post to Facebook, they have created the option for you to pay to have people see your less interesting content.