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Facebook Organic Reach is Dying: Here’s Why It’s a Good Thing

Facebook reach
More and more our News Feeds are full of updates from friends… not companies — but there are benefits to this. Image via Shutterstock.

Facebook wears many hats. It does everything, and is everything. It’s where we turn to celebrate many important life milestones, share our lives with our friends, organize events, consume media and much, much more. But for marketers, it’s an advertising tool.

Social media marketing has changed a great deal over the past few years. One of the biggest changes is Facebook’s shift away from organic reach into a paid marketing channel.

If you manage a Facebook Page, I’m sure you’re familiar with this subject, and you’ve probably noticed a sharp drop in the number of people who are seeing and interacting with your content organically.

As a marketer, this change has been tough to stomach. It’s now much harder to reach your audience than it was a few years ago. And with recent updates that Facebook is, again, shifting its algorithm to focus on friends and family, it’ll be harder still to reach people who are already fans of your page.

Facebook organic reach is hard
TFW you can almost reach your audience… but not quite. Image via Giphy.

Before we dive into why the plight of organic reach is a good thing, let’s first take a look at what brought along this decline in the first place.

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Understanding how social reach is declining

In 2014, Social@Ogilvy released its much-cited report, “Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach.”

In the report, Ogilvy documented the harsh decline of organic reach between October 2013 and February 2014. In that short period of time, organic reach dropped to around 6% for all pages, and for large pages with more than 500,000 likes, the number was just 2%.

Ogilvy graph

Based on this data, a Facebook Page with around 20,000 fans could expect fewer than 1,200 people to see its posts, and a page with 2 million fans would, on average, reach only 40,000 fans.

The reasoning behind this change from Facebook’s perspective is twofold, as Facebook’s VP of Advertising Technology, Brian Boland, explained in a blog post.

The first reason for the decline in organic reach is purely the amount of content being shared to Facebook. Advances in smartphone technology means we can now create and share this content with just a few swipes of the finger or taps on a screen. More and more of our friends and favorite brands are also active on the platform, meaning competition for attention is higher. Boland explains:

There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it. On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.

The second reason for the decline in organic reach on Facebook is how the News Feed works. Facebook’s number one priority is to keep its 1.5 billion users happy, and the best way to do that is by showing only the most relevant content in their News Feeds.

Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.

To a marketer, this may feel like a negative, but it’s actually a good thing, because what we’re left with now is a far more powerful marketing tool than we had when reach was free.

Let me explain…

Why the decline of organic reach is a good thing

When a social network first achieves mainstream popularity (think Facebook circa 2009, Instagram in 2014-15, Snapchat in 2016) organic reach rules the roost. As a marketer, it’s all about figuring out what content your audience craves and giving it to them.

Then, we hit a peak, and suddenly the social network all but transforms into a pay-to-play platform — bringing with it another huge marketing opportunity. At Buffer, it’s something we like to call The Law of the Double Peak:

Buffer double peak

Facebook hit the organic peak in 2014, and since then reach has declined to a point where it’s almost at zero now. But, on the other hand, we’re left with a far more powerful advertising tool than we had before.

It’s also important to remember that before social media — with print, radio, TV, banner ads, direct mail or any other form of advertising — there was no such thing as organic reach. You couldn’t create a piece of content and get it seen by thousands (even millions) with no budget.

Facebook, now, is probably one of the most cost-effective digital ad products we’ve ever seen. It’s the best way to reach a highly targeted audience and drive awareness about your product or service, and probably an even better marketing channel than it was back in 2012 when organic reach hit its peak.

4 ways to maximize the paid marketing opportunities on Facebook

Once you’re over the fact that not everyone on Facebook gets to discover your brand for free anymore…

1. Ensure your ads are relevant

With more than 3 million advertisers all competing for attention in more than a billion users’ News Feeds, Facebook uses what’s called an ad auction to deliver ads.

The ad auction pairs individual ads with particular people looking for an appropriate match. The social network’s ad auction is designed to determine the best ad to show to a person at a given point in time. This means a high-quality, hyper-relevant ad can beat an ad that has a higher advertiser bid, but is lower quality and less relevant.

The two major factors you need to work on to ensure Facebook sees your ad as relevant are your targeting and ad creative.

For example, if you’re targeting a broad audience such as men and women, ages 18–25, living in the United Kingdom, chances are your ad may not be relevant to every person. However, if you were to break your audience down into smaller, more specific groups your message may be more relevant (and therefore successful).

2. Test different messages and creative

There are endless opportunities for testing on Facebook Ads: titles, texts, links, images, age, gender, interests, locations and so on.

The image is the first thing people see when your ad shows up in their News Feed. It’s what grabs their attention and makes them stop and click, which means it’s essential to get the image right. Though, you probably won’t hit the nail on the head first time ‘round. Thankfully, Facebook allows you to upload multiple images for each advert and optimizes to display best performing ones.

Your creative can have a huge difference when it comes to conversions. AdEspresso recommends coming up with at least four different Facebook Ad variations and then testing each one. For example, you might test two different images with two different copy texts (2 images x 2 texts = 4 variations).

AdEspresso also found that creative with a picture of a person performs far better:

Facebook ad variations

When you create ads, plan out a number of variations — changing copy, images and CTAs in order to discover what works best for each audience you’re targeting.

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3. Be specific with your content

Combining the first two points above, targeting to a specific segment using creative that is specifically built for that target audience is incredibly powerful.

Many businesses have a range of customers, all with slightly different needs. For each customer your business is targeting, jot down as much information as you can about them and try to form a few customer personas to create specific ads for.

Then, with your target personas in place, think about how you can use Facebook Ads to target each individual group. This could mean creating an ad set for each group and testing different images and copy within your ads to see what works best for each group.

By tailoring ads to specific personas, you can vastly improve your advert’s relevancy and also serve the needs of your customer better.

4. Pay attention to real metrics

With social media, it can be easy to fall into the trap of measuring only soft metrics — the things that don’t correlate directly with sales or revenue growth, but can still be good indicators of performance. On Facebook, this means things such as Likes, Comments and Shares.

When it comes to paid marketing channels, like Facebook Ads, it’s important to have some solid goals in mind and pay attention to the metrics that translate into your ultimate goal. For example, having a post receive a few hundred Likes or a high engagement rate could be seen as success, but that’s probably not the ultimate goal of your campaign.

Paid advertising on Facebook is a lot like paid-for marketing has always been. For 90% the end goal is sales or, for larger companies, brand awareness. And with paid-for ads you’ll want to be a little stricter with yourself when it comes to measurement. That’s not to say ALL advertising on Facebook must be purely focused on selling — that strategy likely wouldn’t work — but certainly any specific advertising campaigns should be focused on increasing your bottom line.

How do you use Facebook?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of Facebook as a marketing channel. How have your strategies changed over recent years? Are you one of the 3 million businesses who advertise on the platform? I’d love to hear your learnings and perspectives too.

Thanks for reading! And I’m excited to join the conversation in the comments.

About Ash Read
Ash is an editor at Buffer and co-founder of content analytics startup PostReach. When he's not writing, you'll usually find him on a football pitch or basketball court.
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  • Amazing article and great read! I learned quite a bit when it comes to organic reach. Learned that there are some things that I’m doing wrong, and going to fix them right away. Thank you for the post.

    • Thanks Teresa! Glad you found this one useful, best of luck with improving your organic reach.

  • Very informative, Thank you for the post.It will definitely help in improving the page rank as well.

  • At first, I was unhappy about declining organic reach and Ads on Facebook. However, now I look forward to the Ads that pop up on my feed because I know they are things I have an interest in. Found a lot of stuff this way, hoping that Facebook continues to improve on this.

  • Great read, Ash. Thanks for posting.

    Do you have any suggestions for ways to gather demographic data of e-commerce customers? Maybe a plug-in (preferably free) you have used successfully?

  • Ben de senin öğrendiklerini ve bakış açılarını duymak isteriz.

  • Great Article for Digital Marketing….keep writing…..thanku

  • Hey man,
    Well, I see a trend that is rather problematic where all marketing channels will become pay-to-play. I wrote about this trend thanks to a VERY worrisome article I read on Buzzsumo “The Future is More Content” which made me realize how the next global economic meltdown will happen.

    I don’t think this is good news at all.
    But great article nonetheless

    Best regards
    Peterson Teixeira

  • Thanks for this valuable information Ash.

  • Great sharing sir. This is really a helpful article. Facebook can be used in different purposes. We are using this excellent social network to promote our blogs or websites. Thanks for your informative article.

  • Excellent blog. Thanks for sharing.

    http://www.vayamtech.com

  • Hi Ash,
    It’s always helpful to get the latest metrics on what works with social media. I like how you shared that images with a person work much better than just a plain graphic.
    Will put this info to good use.
    Thanks
    Glen

  • It was great Ash! Specially the gif image. Thanks for posting.

  • hello i read this post according to me that’s why this is best because The first reason involves a simple fact: More and more content is being created and shared every day. You’ve probably felt this change yourself. Just a few years ago, sharing important moments and experiences, articles you’ve read, and photos and videos of your loved ones was a relatively labor-intensive process. Today, thanks to devices like smartphones, many people can share this content with just a few swipes of the finger or taps of a button.nice post

  • For business owners it’s certainly not a good sign specially for those who have actually organically build their pages and not paid Facebook or any other 3rd party for likes and followers.
    It has affected not just sales but genuine followers are missing updates from the pages they have liked. You certainly like a page to get updates from the page.

  • Thanks Ash, yes I believe is ever more important to deliver the right content in the right place. The strategy of social media channels will IMHO tighten as time goes on, and with more people coming online very day, the chances of “chancers” increases. Making it less then easy for them is key to good Internet marketing communication and business, and better opportunities for those who are prepared to work hard and play the game properly; *we* will be the ultimate winners. BF it seems, is playing its part in this by aligning with pay-advertising. IMHO

  • Thanks for sharing this informative blog, This blog is very useful.

  • I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog spot. I like and recommend it very much.

  • I’m discourage lately every time I do some paid ads in FB because I have observe only 5% average of my fans see my ads. So that means less opportunity to make sale. And I thought only big spender are given more exposure to their ads on FB. But with your input not really. Thank you fro your insight…