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?
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.
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.
They’ll love the idea of getting results without paying!
If only they loved the idea of having to work at it and it take time!
You’re welcome, Robert. The post itself is like the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot under the surface that business owners don’t understand. And many people are measuring the wrong things. People would be more active if they understood how to be.
Or they would shift how they think about what they are doing. Small business owners have had ROI so burned into their minds that without quantifiable numbers they can’t grasp that something may actually be working and with Facebook having made it easy in the past to get views they failed to grasp the concept that they now have to work at it (which might bring results without paying).
Thank you for this thorough discussion of reach. It’s making me reframe my ideas of reach.
Thank you Carol. Reach has some value but it has limited value as a real measurement tool. I’m working on a post that addresses how to measure activity and value. – Robert
Just reread your post, Robert. So many gems in here.
Thank you Carol. There is a follow up in the works. Business owners tend to fall into a trap of “I post and they don’t see it” without really understand that the posts may actually be seen. The second, bigger part (and the follow up piece) – why are you being passive and waiting for people to see it? Why aren’t you driving traffic to your content? You do with your blog posts, correct?