Is Facebook Limiting Your Page’s Reach? What to Know About How Facebook Controls What Your Audience Sees

May 5, 2014

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Facebook Limits Organic ReachHow would you adapt your social media marketing strategy if only one to three percent of your Facebook audience saw your page’s posts? If you’re a brand with a larger following—say 100,000 Facebook fans—that leaves you with a relatively sizeable audience of 1,000 to 3,000 people.But assuming your page’s fans are in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, that means only a few dozen to a few hundred people see your posts.

While this may seem a grim exaggeration of the limits Facebook places on a brand page’s organic reach, reports say we may not be too far away from this. Valleywag recently published an article contending, “A source professionally familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells [us] that the social network is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent.”

Facebook has always limited organic reach, last disclosing in 2012 that pages only reach 16% of their audience on average.  But Time reports that as of February, pages now reach about six percent. An analysis of over 100 brand pages put forth by Social@Oligavy, Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach, shows the steady decline of organic reach from approximately 12% in October 2013 to roughly six percent in February 2014. Are we nearing the drastic one to three percent reach predicted by Valleywag?

To Pay or Not to Pay: Is Facebook Pushing Us Towards Paid Advertisements?

Many argue Facebook is trying to push companies towards buying ads and paying for distribution of content on what is otherwise a free platform.  Ad Age was one of the first to report on the sharp decline back in December, a month after Facebook announced the drop-off. According to Ad Age, “In the document, titled ‘Generating business results on Facebook,’ the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.’”

Paid advertisement is not a foreign concept to marketers. While the emergence of Facebook Pages seemed to provide a free avenue for building an audience of potential customers, social media was always meant to be just one component of a well-rounded marketing strategy. If anything, this shift is a reminder that Facebook fans are not a network for free content distribution as much as a targeted audience for more effective advertising.

As both Time and Ad Age say, the best way for distributing content will always be paid advertisement. Experts have also weighed in, embracing the necessity to temper organic reach with a paid strategy. John Clark, Fuze SEO, Inc.’s founder, recently told lonelybrad, “Previous to the change, we used to have a set budget to help promote specific posts for campaigns, events, etc. Now, we are giving everything we post an incremental dollar amount — at this point in time that amount happens to be $50/post. We have found this approach to be successful in helping to get initial shares, likes and lifting the content out of the abyss…we are actually seeing improved organic reach even after the funds are depleted.”

Why now? Opponents maintain Facebook is merely seeking to increase. However, it’s easy to understand how Facebook would be motivated to improve user experience. As the sheer volume of content available to users continues to increase, brands are in competition for limited space on peoples’ Newsfeeds. This can lead to an abundance of spam content—memes, duplicate posts, “like-baiting”—all vying for fans’ attention.

Facebook continually updates its algorithm specifically to penalize spam posts, to ensure users see only relevant content on their Newsfeed. Whether or not the company is trying to increase ad revenue, they are encouraging pages to post high-quality content that engages fans.

Work With What You Have: How to Engage Your (Limited) Audience

Paying to promote your page is becoming more of an inevitability, but what about those six percent of fans you can still reach organically? How can you get the most out of your organic reach?

  1.  Make Every Post MeaningfulIf only a fraction of your audience sees your posts, every post must have an impact. The Social@Oligavy report offers some valuable insight into the type of content you should share. News, current events, and trending stories are encouraged by Facebook, as these establish the quality of a page’s content. “This model establishes the value of brands acting as publishers,” says the report.Not only will sharing quality, timely stories maximize your reach, but it establishes your brand as a trusted source of information in the eyes of your fans.
  2. Engage Your AudienceYour fans shouldn’t just see your posts—they should interact with them. While Facebook is penalizing posts that solicit “likes”, you can still encourage people to engage with you. Treat each post as a catalyst for conversation. If you post a news story, share your brand’s thoughts and pose insightful questions that foster discussion. Social Media Explorer suggests encouraging people to share your stories. Your posts become theirs, and as a story shows up in their newsfeed, it reaches their friends as well. Their share becomes a recommendation, an endorsement of your brand that gets your page in front of even more people.
  3. Encourage People to Visit Your PageEven if you reached 100% of your audience, posts only live in their Newsfeed for a limited amount of time. The best way to ensure people see your posts is to encourage them to visit your page. You can share content in a series of posts (such as a developing news story) that encourages visitors to check your page again for the next post. When promoting your page outside of Facebook, as opposed to using a widget for people to “like” your page, share a link to your page so they have to visit it directly to become a fan.
  4. Balance Your Marketing Strategy
    One of the most important things to remember is that organic marketing should only be a part of your overall strategy on Facebook. If you want to increase your reach, you will eventually need to bite the bullet and pay for advertising. Paid and organic reach complement one another, and a well-rounded approach ensures every avenue is covered. Shift Communications offers some useful tips on budgeting your paid advertisements on Facebook.