How to Diagnose and Survive the Current Facebook Reach Drought

by Chad Wittman on Oct 11, 2012

Facebook PagesOver the past few week or so there have been a lot of rumors about Facebook decreasing Pages’ Reach.

My team at EdgeRank Checker released a quick study looking at how Pages have been impacted by this suspected change if you want to read more about the shift.

In summary, we found that organic reach is down 25 percent, viral reach is down 45 percent, and engagement decreased  17 percent, while virality marginally increased 7 percent.

The rumored date that this change went into affect is September 20th, according to Ogilvy. So we ran the above research for the week prior to September 20th and the week after September 20th.

As we collect more data in coming weeks, we will get a clearer view of the trend, but it is clear a shift has occurred.

How Do You Check To See How The Change Affected You?

The Easy Way:

Head over to Edgerankchecker.com and check out your EdgeRank Scores for the week before September 20th and the week after September 20th.

The Facebook Insights Way:

Head over to “facebook.com/YOUR_PAGE/page_insights_reach” and export your “Post Level Data” for 9/13 until 9/27 into Excel.

If you open this document in Excel, you’ll find that Column H contains “Lifetime Post Organic Reach”.

Average the posts that happened before the 20th against the posts that happened after the 20th. If you’d like to find out what percentage of your fans you reached, divide each of these numbers by your fan count (if you want greater accuracy, divide each post’s reach by the number of fans that day).

We analyzed approximately 3,000 Facebook Pages and found that only 10% of those pages experienced an increase in reach over the time period. We’d be interested to hear your results in the comments!

What Can I Do To Improve My Reach?

The simple answer is to continue to create kick ass content. Facebook rewards awesome content.

A few tips to improve your reach:

  • The key is engagement, create content that builds engagement
  • Use call to actions in your content (encourage discussion and interaction)
  • Avoid posting content that will receive negative feedback (when a user hides your post, hides your page, reports spam, or unlikes your page).
  • Know when your fans are online, post during these times so that your Post’s Lifetime overlaps the time they’re online
  • Try new strategies, analyze, test, and repeat!

What Has Facebook Said About This?

We’ve seen a few emails from Facebook ad reps discussing these new changes. Here’s an outline of what has caught our eye:

  • We’re continuing to optimize the news feed to show the posts that people are most likely to engage with, ensuring they see the most interesting stories. This aligns with our vision that all content should be as engaging as the posts you see from friends and family.
  • These changes are geared towards increasing engagement with content within individuals’ newsfeeds and likely won’t impact anything you need to create, but will definitely impact your metrics. We are optimizing the algorithm so that fans see what’s most relevant for them and most likely to compel them to take an action.
  • We’re continually optimizing newsfeed to ensure the most relevant experience for our users
  • One of the key factors in our optimization is engagement: the amount of clicks, likes, comments, shares etc. generated by a piece of content.
  • While overall engagement should remain relatively consistent as a result of our most recent optimization, your organic reach may be impacted.
  • The more engaging your content, the lower the impact this optimization should have on your reach going forward.
  • Feed is optimized to show users the posts they are most likely to engage with, where engagement is defined as clicking, liking, commenting, or sharing the post – or in the case of offers, claiming the offer.
  • Posts that are more likely to be engaging tend to appear higher in feed. Some of the strongest factors that influence this are how engaging an individual post has been for other users who have seen it, and how engaged a user has historically been with other posts they’ve seen from that page. Feed also takes negative feedback into account, which is the number of people who have hidden a post or reported it as spam.
  • Finally, if a page has a piece of content that it feels will be very engaging e.g. A good offer, a great photo, an announcement, etc. then using paid media to “boost” that post to fans in newsfeed can be an effective tool to increase engagement with fans.

Conclusion

At first it seems that this an attempt by Facebook to turn the screws a bit on brands. I don’t personally feel that this is the case. I believe Facebook is attempting to keep the news feed filled with truly incredible content.

The consequence is that the brands that aren’t producing this content, will lose out on their organic reach. The brands that understand this and excel at it, will dominate organic reach.

This is not very different from Google’s current search results changes. The brands that do cool stuff on the web are rewarded with high ranking search results.

Matt Wurst (@mwurst), from 360i, said it perfectly: “The bar has been raised. Create better content, supplement it with paid media. This is separating the proverbial “men from the boys” and that’s a good thing.”

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Post Author

Founder of EdgeRank Checker, an in-depth Facebook Analytics company. Interested in the future of the internet & Facebook's place in it....

  • reallifesarah

    Interesting perspective. In my stats, I found that the page level impressions for September included 900,000 MORE viral impressions then the lifetime post level spreadsheet. Could almost 1 million people have seen viral content that wasn’t associated with a particular post? A few other people have also concluded that the post level measurements are just wrong on FB’s part. I remember when the per-post organic numbers were adjusted because they had previously left out mobile users. Is it possible that this is the case again?

  • Han Boon Kiat

    lame: my account that I have deactivated keeps getting reinstated

    maybe this is their idea of boosting impressions
    probably it’s like 200,000 actual people with 4 defunct or unused aliases each

  • http://twitter.com/askppc Cleofe Betancourt

    Interesting. We actually noticed something similar to this in July in regards to posts shared via Hootsuite or using a URL shortner: (http://askppcblog.com/2012/07/11/facebook-limiting-exposure-of-social-media-dashboards/). In this case, my gut tells me that this is just another attempt to grasp at something, anything, to monetize their traffic. The plan is pretty clear: cut the brands reach so that fewer of their clients/readers see their content, offer “solutions” like promoted posts that promise improvement, and watch the ad dollars roll in. It just seems so…unnecessary. Facebook’s future is in search, but not within Facebook. Why they fight it is the billion dollar question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/debbie.lyonsward Debbie Lyons Ward

    I agree with you, Cleofe. Wondering if this lower engagement score is designed to raise the use of paid, promoted posts to get content into the hands of followers.

  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com Cendrine Marrouat

    The shift happened before September 20. I had noticed a sharp decreased in the number of readers of my content a couple of months prior to the official date. The FB team has been looking for a way to monetize the site for a long time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrussUT Jason Russell

    I don’t see “Lifetime Post Organic Reach” anywhere, column H or otherwise. Any guidance?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattantonino Matt Antonino

    The problem is making it so simple (views, likes comments) also makes it *very* easy to game…that can be good or bad depending on if you know how to game the system but we shouldn’t be worried about gaming it. If someone adds you, they want to see what you post. If someone follows your business, they care about the specials & such you promote. Missing the sad, negative, un-responded to posts may cause us to miss the things our friend posted but see the stupid spammy photo everyone has commented on because it says “like this if you’re against child abuse, ignore it if you hit kids” nonsense.

  • G4G

    What about non-profits and charities who can’t afford to promote their posts? Are Facebook going to allow us to return to the previous levels of message delivery or will they continue to squeeze us just like the big corporates?

  • mark cartwright

    something else happened around 10/10 or 11. I started posting things on my business page after a little bit of a hiatus. the reach went up dramatically on the 5th to 474. I posted regularly over the next few days and posted 6 posts on the 11th. one of which had the most engaged users i think I had. on the 12th it fell to 271 and now it is down to 83. and i even promoted a post…………….crazy stuff.

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