Sword and the Script

Infographic: Navigating Facebook Organic Reach



by Frank Strong

facebook organic reach header
For every hundred fans a brand page has earned, just two will see status updates organically. Organic means those views that come naturally through the new stream, without paying Facebook to advertise content posted to a brand page.  What’s clear is there is a decline in Facebook organic reach.

For many brands, Facebook’s aggressive moves to generate advertising revenue, has reduced the value of Facebook as a platform and they feel as if it’s a bait and switch.  Jim Tobin might agree – and his company Ignite Social Media represents many large brands.

“The large corporations I talk to are very frustrated with Facebook and are re-evaluating their investments,” he noted in an “Off Topic” series interview for this blog. “It was very valuable when you had organic exposure that could be boosted with paid. As the organic evaporates, the value prop changes.”

I agree with him and having personally managed a half dozen Facebook pages for brands, I have seen firsthand the decline in organic reach.  It is frustrating, especially when other social networks – Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ – have found ways to blend organic and paid reach without crushing the work invested.  I’ve written my own Facebook rants, including one with an attempt at humor:

Building value on rented property

There are counterpoints that have validity: Its risky business to pour effort and resources into a platform you don’t own.  When Posterous shuttered, I essentially lost 220 posts I had published over several years. That experience drove the point home for me.

This is also the case Scott Stratten makes in the video nearby.  Brands have been “living in Facebook’s house for the last five years for free,” he said. “When you post and ad, you should pay to post an ad, that’s why it’s called advertising.”

The video runs just about 90 seconds and Stratten, a former comedian, makes his argument in a style that people either love – or hate.  It’s worth watching:

Usually better to earn Facebook fans than to buy them

Derek Muller an astrophysicist from Australia takes a very scientific look at the data behind Facebook’s changes and the effects on organic reach. He posted a video to his YouTube channel, which is called Veritasium, with a very compelling analysis. The video runs about nine minutes, has earned more than 2 million views on YouTube. It is well worth carving out some time to watch.

What’s especially damning is how Muller explains the effects of buying likes from Facebook.  Certainly coming from a PR perspective, I’ve frowned on buying likes, but as Muller points out in Facebook’s eyes, promoting a page (which is effectively buying fans) is supposed to be a legitimate tactic but it is not.

Buying fans from Facebook will have a dramatic and undesirable effect on organic reach.  I’ve seen this first hand years ago when a company I worked for acquired another one with some 23,000 fans they had purchased this way.  Even before the more recent hubbub over Facebook’s strong arm tactics, this brand’s Facebook page had very little interaction despite tens of thousands of fans.

What to do about declining organic reach on Facebook

Other than spending money with Facebook, there appears to be little brands can do about the changes.  So when I spotted this infographic on the Social Times I decided it would be helpful content.  The infographic was originally developed by Offerpop, which sells Facebook apps for promotions.

While the advice seems sound, there are three points that I think are missing:

First, while the infographic mentions responsive design, it does not cite mobile specifically. For many brands, mobile is an afterthought, but increasingly people are accessing data on the go.  Specifically for Facebook, there are more than 900 million active users checking Facebook from mobile devices.

Secondly, there is the subject of Facebook lurkers – people that passively consume information but don’t engage it.  A brand can get sense for this by examining Facebook Insights.

Third, checking web analytics (i.e. Google Analytics) for referral sources can help quantify whether or not Facebook is worth the time investment for a brand.  For the pages I manage across professional and personal sites, Facebook has slipped in the last 18 months from one of the top three sources of referral traffic however it usually still ranks in the top 10.

For those interested in advertising with Facebook, this post might be useful:

Here’s the complete infographic:

Infographic  Navigating Facebook and Declining Organic Reach

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Infographic:  Facebook at 10

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4 comments
JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

This is pretty interesting, I didn't realize it was so drastic. Curious, do you know - is there anything different in the fan experience b/c of the duplicity? E.g. with all the noise you wouldn't see things you actually wanted to? Or is there some way to combat that..

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong moderator

@JoeCardillo  Ironically, Joe, that's the problem Facebook says it is trying to solve.  It's own filter reduces the junk and shows people just what they want to see.  I've got two problems with that story-line.  


First, there's money involved.  Facebook, especially as a public company, has a renewed focus on revenue and profit. I'd prefer the company call it like it is rather than make excuses. 


Secondly, what Facebook is filtering (to earn money) is the very posts their *users* liked in the first place.  So you and I may have liked a page because we want to see the updates, but Facebook says "oh, no, little one, we know what's best for you...you don't want to see that" and they filter it.  To see it a brand has to pay up and we come full circle. 


There's merit to Stratten's point, but it's not so black and white either. This is different. And Facebook is screwing it up. 

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@Frank_Strong @JoeCardillo Yeah that's consistent with something I believe, which is that assuming public co's are capable of putting audience best interest first is antithetical to the profits they are pressured to make. I'd rather know what their vested interest is, too, than have to wade through doublespeak. 

To your point on filtering, that approach is basically anti-social. I know that sounds a little hyperbolic, but if the entirety of a brand's presence on a platform is based on paid reach, I don't see how the pressures associated with that wouldn't kill the community aspect. Have a hard time imagining anyone paying to boost posts that aren't directly related to lead conversion. Feels corrupted from the inside out. 

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong moderator

@JoeCardillo That's the gripe.  It is anti-social -- and no different than TechCrunch advertising on it's site, but allowing brands some control of the CrunchBase profile.  For many small businesses, Facebook is over. It's a big brand place and that is all -- keep your profile looking just good enough (because you have to) and spend lots of money.  All the organic work? It's a waste of time for most brands.  

Just talked to a small business owner on Google+ the other day. She was a power Facebook user and used to drive lots of sale.  It's dried up -- she's left and trying to get started on Google+.  In any case, no matter what, it's a bad idea to make home improvements to an apartment one is renting. I think Facebook is not only hurting itself, but other social networks because they've eroded trust. 

There not going to die tomorrow, but there's going to be a point in the future when Facebook is a shadow of it's former self.  Or its going to re-invent its model. Or backpedal on its moves in 2013.