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Is Facebook Getting A Bad Rap on Organic Reach?

Published: August 1, 2014

Author: Robert Brady

If you’ve been paying attention over the last few months, you’ve probably come across articles that could have been written by Chicken Little. With titles like “Brands’ Organic Facebook Reach Has Crashed Since October: Study” (that one’s from Ogilvy) or “Facebook Organic Reach Rapidly Approaching Zero” (that one is from WordStream), you might be led to believe that Facebook has finally succumbed to advertising and organic reach has gone the way of dinosaurs and dodo birds. But is it really the case?

Getting the Facts

First, it’s important to remember that “organic reach” refers to the reach received from posting, for free, to one’s Facebook page. The drama on this issue hit a fever pitch in December of last year when Facebook sent out a sales deck to partners that included the following:
“We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
This, accompanied by a few prominent brands releasing graphs showing the decline of their Facebook traffic, spawned several of the Chicken Little posts. Many of these posts focused on the greed element and pointed out that Facebook just wanted to get more companies to pay for all the traffic Facebook was sending them instead of getting it for free.

What Facebook Says

In the name of balanced reporting, what does Facebook have to say? There is a lot of focus on the quote mentioned above, but Facebook has provided some official FAQs that are quite informative. Highlights from my reading include:

-In response to why organic reach is declining: “More and more content is being created and shared every day.” Good point.
-In response to a question about not just showing everything: “The real-time approach has limitations. People only have so much time to consume stories.” Again, a good point to remember.

Of course, Facebook used these observations to support their use of an algorithm (sounds eerily like Google’s Matt Cutts to me) to determine what’s in the News Feed instead of a fire hose approach a la Twitter.

What You Can Do About It

One obvious solution is to get comfortable with Facebook PPC and learn how to get the best bang for your buck promoting your content. But what if you still want it for free?
As they say in economics, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To get organic reach on Facebook, you’ll need content that elicits not just good, not just great, but phenomenal engagement. If the small percentage of people who do see your content are engaging with it, it will get more reach. Facebook will deem it relevant and their algorithm will do the rest.
Some brands are already starting to see this. Phillip Ross of SocialBakers points out the following:
“In fact, since January 2014, Interactions have risen 30%. Facebook engagement for brands is most definitely not declining. For all the apocalyptic predictions, it seems that Facebook is still heading the same direction as always – upwards, steadily.”
So while the naysayers would point out that reach is down, Facebook is probably quite happy with the increased engagement because it shows their algorithm is successfully getting the “right” content to people’s News Feeds. Great content takes time and effort to create, and that incurs costs. So really, you’ll need to test and find the correct balance for your brand.

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