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Why Organic Facebook Reach Doesn't Matter

Why Organic Facebook Reach Doesn’t Matter

When it comes to Facebook brand pages, every discussion tends to center on organic reach.  You stress over how low the numbers are, how the latest algorithm will affect that figure, what you can do to improve it….but have you stopped to consider that how good or bad your organic reach is may not really be worth the worry?

To be clear, we’re not implying reach doesn’t matter at all.  It does and we’ve posted and will continue to post techniques for increasing it (The Facebook Organic Reach Solution), but you shouldn’t be running for the lifeboats to abandon ship or pull your hair out worrying about it.  Why?

 

Why Organic Facebook Reach Doesn't Matter

Reach Is A Poor Measure Of Overall Visibility

“Your post counts as reaching someone when it’s shown in News Feed.”   Simply put, reach fails to measure views when people see your content by going directly to your page or views when navigating directly to your post.  Facebook is only reporting a portion of the actual visibility your content is receiving!  Since your page and posts are public and there are multiple ways for your content to be seen, it’s a poor measure of overall visibility.

  • The Takeaway:  Low reach does not mean your post wasn’t seen.  It simply wasn’t seen in the news feed.
  • Food For Thought:  What are you doing to drive additional views to your page and content to compensate for low reach?  If it’s nothing, you’re wasting an opportunity to leverage Facebook’s audience.

Reach Is A Poor Measure Of Post Effectiveness

Low reach doesn’t tell us your post (content) was ineffective – just ineffective at making it into the news feeds of or being seen by your fans.  Likewise, high reach doesn’t mean your post was any more effective than one with minimal reach.

One of the best ways to leverage Facebook is for branding.  Normally, this is one area where you’d think more is better: more reach means greater visibility and therefore better branding.  BUT there’s a flaw in the thought process.  You need to take into account HOW reach was achieved.

Reach is a measure of views within the news feed but isn’t restricted to views of your original content.  It includes views from shares.  While shares do indicate the source of the content (Robert Nissenbaum via Tactical Social Media or Robert Nissenbaum shared Tactical Social Media‘s photo) which does provide some branding, do people pay attention to the original source?  More important – do they actually take the time to check out the source?  

As for any engagement resulting from the share, it isn’t necessarily with your brand.  It’s with the individual or brand who shared it!  (There is a technique for properly leveraging other people’s audiences to drive engagement and interaction with your brand.)  Shares may get great reach, but if you’re not getting engagement, page views or page likes, someone else is getting the benefit from your content, not you.  You have high reach but are you really reaching anyone?  

Sadly, outside of likes, it’s extremely difficult to measure the benefit of reach derived from content shares within Facebook.   Even tracking the referring source of a page like is difficult. There’s no way to know for sure if it was the result of a specific content piece.

To illustrate just how poor reach is as a measure of post effectiveness:

  • Our Facebook post on May 11th discussing on one of our tactical social media tips reached a pitiful 30 people ( with 7 likes, 6 comments, and 1 share).  That same post, however, generated 6 referrals to our blog resulting in 2 conversions (accessing our contact page) and a new subscriber to our e-newsletter.

From a reach perspective, the post performed poorly, yet it was clearly effective.

  • The week prior we ran a post on our Facebook page late on a Sunday evening (well outside the timeframe we’d expect to see any reach).  As of Monday morning, reach was at 5.  We then had it shared by one of our admins to their personal timeline.  The net result – a phenomenal reach of 256!  The downside – not 1 like or comment on our post.  All of the activity was on our admin’s post.  We saw no engagement, no new page likes, no traffic driven to our website.

From a reach perspective, the post performed amazingly well, yet it was clearly ineffective.  To be fair, the content wasn’t from a blog post designed to drive traffic as the goal was to illustrate a point (and past experience has shown sharing ‘quality content’ doesn’t raise reach as drastically and still results in only limited effectiveness).

Just to make sure we covered all bases, we did have the May 11th post referenced above shared by the same admin and, true to form, total reach only jumped by 35 and resulted in only 1 additional blog view.  Again, while reach more than doubled to a reasonable level, the post wasn’t any more effective.

  • The Takeaway:  High reach doesn’t mean your content was effective, just that it was seen by more eyes within the news feed.
  • Food For Thought:  Are you paying attention to where the reach is originating?  Are you getting engagement from the increased exposure?  Are you doing anything to try to drive more reach or engagement on your page?

 

A Better Measurement

Reach is a good benchmark, but our preferred (Facebook) measurement is engagement per reach. The old adage ‘work smarter, not harder’ is our prevailing thought here.  Given more reach doesn’t always translate to more engagement, we’d rather reach fewer people and interact with them than spend more time tweaking content and timing posts to get more eyes on it.  At some point, there’s a diminishing point of return in your efforts to increase reach.

If your intent is to leverage Facebook to generate prospects and leads, the foundation is your content, but the critical piece is building trust and relationships.  That comes from engagement and interaction. Rather than continuously focusing on getting more reach, focus on generating engagement from the reach you do get.  To maximize this, leverage outside tactics to drive eyes to your content (cross-platform promotion, driving traffic via a newsletter), something you CAN control.

While engagement per reach is a better measurement for post effectiveness, it still falls short.

Measuring Post Effectiveness

Facebook is a valuable branding tool and using it solely as such is perfectly OK, but most small businesses can’t afford to spend their time (or money) on branding alone.  At a minimum, they need to see a conversion to prospects from those who see their content.  Sales and contacts via social posting does occur, but for most of us, it’s not the norm.  The best source for turning social media viewers to prospects though is still your website.  The most effective posts – or posting strategy – is one which drives traffic to your website  The best way to measure the effectiveness of your content is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow To Measure Social Media Post Effectiveness; Tactical Social Media - A Tacoma social media marketing agency, #BeTactical

Unlike reach, Google Analytics provides a more complete picture.  We can see the amount of traffic driven from Facebook (or any social platform), determine landing pages, exit pages, time on page and even determine what content was accessed.  We can get a good picture of how effective the post was, not only at driving traffic but also at converting that traffic.

The Bottom Line

So should you focus on reach?  Yes.  While more doesn’t necessarily mean better, more provides a better opportunity.  If you can get more feed views, you are ahead of the curve.  Just don’t get too caught up in it.  Reach is still a vital measurement about the overall health of your Facebook activity but it’s only one measurement that, on its own, tells us very little about your overall of visibility and post effectiveness.

The Latest Facebook Algorithm Change, April 2015: Facebook Organic Reach = (Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency + Engaged Fans; Tactical Social Media: a Tacoma Social Media Consulting Agency

The Latest Facebook Algorithm Change (April 2015)

Will (Did) Your Brand Benefit?

Facebook gets some heavy criticism from brand and pages admins on algorithm changes.  What was a great tool to get visibility for just showing up and posting morphed into a “you need to work hard at it and maybe add a few of your hard-earned dollars” tool?  Most saw this as a negative, for those brands that did social media right, it hurt but certainly wasn’t a death-blow.  The latest Facebook algorithm change (there are three significant changes) looks to be no different.  How brand pages will be affected depends on several factors.  For some brands, this latest Facebook algorithm change will be a major benefit.

 

The Latest Facebook Algorithm Change, April 2015: Facebook Organic Reach = (Quality Content + Post Timing) x Post Frequency + Engaged Fans; Tactical Social Media: a Tacoma, WA / South Sound Social Media Consulting Agency

 

Facebook Organic Reach

The primary measure Facebook has given us to measure post effectiveness is “reach” – how many saw your content in their feed (not that this in and of itself was a good measure).  Initially, liking a page meant seeing content.  That meant good reach.  Shifts over the years have limited content from ‘liked’ pages being seen in favor of content and activity from your friends.  Facebook assumed this was what people wanted.  It went so far as telling us what our friends were up to with Open Graph and details in our feeds.

Organic Reach took a deep hit unless brands provided timely, relevant content or paid to have their content show.  It seems Facebook got this ‘half’ right.  People complained about sponsored posts they didn’t want to see and being shown content friends liked or commented on they could care less about.  People, it turns out, don’t want a play-by-play of what their friends do.  They want content FROM their friends and pages.  Afterall, that’s why they connected with people and liked pages.

 

Enter the latest Facebook algorithm change.

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Posts about friends liking or commenting on a page’s content will be pushed down the news feed.

What does it mean for pages? Brand pages who relied on a couple of engaged fans to leverage reach through likes and comments will mean a further drop in those already dismal reach numbers. Unless you have other methods in place to drive fans to your Facebook content (if you want to know more, contact us now), this will have a significant impact on Facebook’s value for your brand.   

 

A larger fan base that isn't actively engaged has no value. You still need numbers, but you need active numbers. How you get those fans and who they are matters.Click To Tweet

 

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Trying to balance the content you see in the right mix.

Facebook seems to have taken the stance that if you engage, you want to see it.  While the change is designed to show more of “content posted by the friends you care about”, we cannot help but think ‘friends’ includes ‘pages’ – “If you like to read news or interact with posts from pages you care about, you will still see that content in News Feed.”

What does it mean for pages? Brand pages with good fan bases that are active, who post quality content will have that content seen by their fans.  While reach will increase, but only within your core fan base.  Expanding your ‘Reach’ will now require more sharing by your fans.   Now, more than ever, your better content needs to be timely, relevant and shareable.  If your content is already there, this change is a major win for you.

Significant Facebook Algorithm Change:  Facebook will allow multiple content from individual publishers to show in your feed.

What does it mean for pages? Previously Facebook had rules in place to essentially prevent individual publishers (friends and pages) from monopolizing your feed.  While that meant seeing more content from your entire network it also meant missing out on content from those you interact with the most.  While we don’t suggest leveraging this as a tactic to purposely drive more reach, when you do have additional content, it will get seen.  Again, if your content is up to par, this is a win for you as well.

 

My Take

The latest Facebook algorithm change might be the first I’m happy to see.  Brand pages who post good content, drive interaction and engagement with their fan base and are truly social will see big gains.  Like Google’s algorithm changes designed to weed out ‘Black Hat’ SEO practices, this change should have the same effect, reward those who are doing it right.

The only downside we can see initially while being social and relevant are still key, as they always have been, smaller pages will be hurt more than larger ones.  Expanding your reach will require a bigger and more active (bigger alone is not enough) fan base.  For some brands, who were seeing good numbers in the past without having to ante up, they may now.

Again, do it right, and you may just see some big rewards.  Of course, while more organic reach is good, we still caution of focusing too much on it.

UPDATE:  It does appear that those brands ‘doing it right’ should have seen a big uptick in visibility a result of this particular Facebook algorithm change.  Did YOUR brand?