Experienced digital marketers around the world are getting rather frustrated with Facebook of late. Why? Post reach is a means of calculating how many people have seen any given post. When Facebook went through a major algorithm upgrade recently, page owners began complaining about their steadily declining post reach. In terms of digital marketing, this is a big deal. So big, that some users, such as Eat24, have even quit Facebook to protest the change.
What is happening?
Page owners work hard to collect their "likes". The better ones create new, alluring content, hold contests and share free material, among other things. Often page owners pay to advertise their page so that more people will look at their content. And when the "like" button is eventually clicked by a user, it interprets to the owner that someone explicitly wants to see more. This makes the page owner very happy. But when the posts don't reach the said user as expected, they feel let down.
So when statistics generated by Edgerank Checker showed that the organic reach for posts has steadily declined within the past couple of years, there was bound to be some complaints:
Organic Reach Per Fan - Source:Edgerank
Why is this happening?
In a perfect world, every page owner wants all of their fans to see all of their posts. But for an average user, there are over 1500 posts that need to be displayed on the News Feed every day, emerging from friends and pages. The post count may rise to over 10,000 if a user has a lot of friends and page likes. The overwhelming amount of content combined with the little room available on the News Feed is what actually causes the problem. Users keeps liking new pages, generating more content, but will not necessarily increase the amount of time they spend looking at the News Feed. This forces Facebook to filter what it shows.
Ideally, as more pages are liked by a user, the post reach of each page should decline equally. However this theory does not apply, because Facebook wants to provide a customised News Feed where it only shows what the user would like to see in their News Feed. This is where the competition arises.
Facebook Timeline Components - Source: Mashable
How is it measured?
Facebook uses a complex algorithm in order to determine which posts a user would see when they log in to the New Feed. According to Marketing Land, these algorithms take into account over 100,000 factors to filter the News Feed for a user. But according to Will Cathcart, the News Feed Director of Product Management, there are a number of general factors that determine the popularity of a post:
Popularity of the creator's previous posts (depending on likes, comments, shares and clicks)
Popularity of the post with people who have already seen it
Popularity of the creator's previous posts with this user
Content of the post with relevance to the user's previous posts (does the user like photos, videos, links, statuses, etc)
Published date of the post
Each post is assigned a ranking and is shown accordingly on the News Feed as "Top Stories". Therefore the more popular a page is, and the more popular its content is, the more likely it will appear on the News Feed.
Facebook Top Stories - Source: Facebook
What can I do?
Facebook recently released an updated algorithm for 2014 and not surprisingly, it upset many page owners because it resulted in a further loss of organic post reach. But in reality, that was to be expected. All Facebook wants is to provide a fresh and relevant News Feed to the user. The organic reach of all posts will inevitably keep dropping as more pages are created and more content is released. In such a crowded space, if your content is not engaging enough, it will be simply be scrolled past by your intended audience. When that happens, Facebook will omit your content from that News Feed fairly quickly. As a tip, Facebook seems to exclusively dislike memes and click bait links - so avoiding them altogether would be the best practice.
But all is not lost. In some cases, certain pages seem to have benefited from the new algorithms. This is due entirely to the richness of their content. The way to beat the system is to continually provide solid, engaging content for your intended audience – which is surely a good thing in any case. This means that your content, once displayed on a News Feed, will not be ignored. Once Facebook establishes that you create good content, your post reach will gradually increase. The ideal method is to use bio personas to tailor your content specifically to your target audience. This way, even if you have a small audience, your content will be interesting and consequently gain more attention.
What about the advertising?
There is a reason why all these changes make Facebook look money-hungry. That is because there is only one sure way to beat the system – no matter what you post – and that way is advertising. By paying for posts you can boost your reach. While this fact can aggravate users and content providers alike, advertisements have always been around whether you responded to them or not. They have merely evolved from a clumsy sidebar showing links to pages, into more subtle links such as "suggested posts" and "suggested likes".
Facebook's Sponsored Posts - Source: Inside Facebook
What should I take away?
Facebook has always been a free digital marketing tool, but it got saturated when everyone wanted to get a piece of the free action. Although we can safely predict that the overall organic post reach will continue to dip as more pages come up, this does not mean that your individual page reach has to drop. Instead, this will be the time when the good is sifted from the bad. Pages with content that lacks customer engagement will be ignored, while those with in-depth and relevant content will be given priority. That means that, as a page owner, you will have to try even harder to keep up with the competition. So is this how it ends? Not necessarily. If you create valuable content that is engaging enough for your fans, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.