Ever since the first kick to the teeth that Facebook gave social media marketers all across the globe back in September of 2012, the blows have kept coming. Organic reach, the bread and butter of successful social media campaigns, has plummeted. Likes, the sole indicator of a page’s integrity, has died a solemn death. Click through rates? Don’t even bother, they’re all gone too. If you think we’re being harsh, here’s a graph showing the slaughter in all of its gory detail.
Now you’ve read about how unmitigated disaster has descended on small businesses on Facebook, forget that we ever said it. Keep it in the back of your mind, however, as by the end of this article, we will explain the who, what, where, when and why of why organic reach has dropped, and how to utilise it to your full potential. But first, let’s focus on exactly what has happened in the last three years.
Once upon a time…
Facebook, as we know it, was made public in 2006, and immediately took the world by storm, destroying every other social platform in the process (Myspace anyone?) The power it wielded, first to individuals, then to businesses, was simply immense. You would write anything, whether it be an ad, a thought, an opinion, or a video of cats, and it instantly reached all of your friends. This was never possible before, and we lapped it up and loved every second of it.
News feeds became more powerful than classifieds in the local newspaper, and individuals and groups launched their wildest dreams in incredible detail. It seemed that, for so long, literally anything and everything was possible with Facebook. The company grew, gained notoriety, made sharing global news possible, changed our opinions, and shaped society as we saw fit. What a wonderful world it was.
Everything was sailing along smoothly, until around October of 2012, people started noticing they were getting less and less likes and comments. Around the same time, Facebook poured all of their resources into their advertising services, bolstering their strength in the market for that year’s IPO. Conspiracy theorists the world over link all three together as some dastardly plan to get everyone to pay. The truth, however, is far more boring.
Consider the time from when Facebook launched publically, to the date of 2012. They courted the majority of the market share in social media, fighting off Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and pretty much any challenger that dare crossed paths with them. That’s a huge chunk of people – 1.06 billion to be precise – and that’s also plenty of posts to mull over. The news feed, once a simple and innocent noticeboard, became a hotbed of competition the likes of which we had never seen before.
Facebook’s decision to control what showed up on your feed has been and most likely will continue to be a contentious one. Facebook’s help centre went from a friendly source of advice to pages upon pages of hate and bile, demanding an explanation as to why all of their hard work over the years was now so quickly nullified. Pages that had fans in the tens of thousands were particularly furious, as they were now only reaching a hundred people max – reportedly.
At the time, and ever since it must be said, the “boost” function of posts started to become more and more integral to the success of any social campaign. Seemingly overnight, reach went from a section of the insights that no one ever looked at, to the most pivotal metric that Facebook provided. Because of this, the analysis changed, page owners became obsessed with numbers, and not the quality of their content. A tad ironic, given that one begets the other.
The new Facebook algorithm was quite ruthless. Anything deemed promotional received the full hammer of reach wrath, with the terms “click here”, “offer lasts until”, and “contact us today” being sent straight to the sin bin. This had some unfortunate repercussions for non-profit organisations – of which is still yet to be addressed – but for the rest, it is quite hard to argue that we really miss those type of posts.
So, where to from here?
The argument over whether organic reach is dead or not has filled up many blogs across the internetsphere. The simple answer to the long debated question is no, organic reach is still alive and well. However, marketers and page owners perhaps need to change their vision of what Facebook actually is supposed to be. The quest for reach and likes has engulfed us, and we as a collective may have forgotten about how amazed we were at Facebook when we first used it.
To further explain this, consider Facebook in its most purest form. In 2004, it was a simple platform for those attending Harvard University with Mark Zuckerberg to communicate more easily with one another. In this way, it was purely user orientated, and for those lucky enough to be able to say “I was there when it was called thefacebook”, they only ever posted user content. This term effectively means nothing outside of “what an actual person would post”.
Now, let’s look at the problem behind newsfeed competition with this in mind. Facebook, rightly or wrongly, is enforcing the mindset that you should post content as you would on your own page, rather than relying on gimmicky calls to action or overly promotional discounts and offers. Yes, this did shave the reach considerably as a result, however Facebook is back to being about quality content. With this in mind, let’s look at how you can combat low, organic reach.
Some types of posts obtain more reach than others
Various studies have been conducted into the reach phenomenon to see exactly which type of post works best. By type of post, we’re referring to status updates, photos, videos, or links. The generally accepted, average percentage of your page’s likes that you can reach with these four different post types are:
- Links – 18%
- Videos – 9%
- Status update – 9%
- Photos – 7%
Therefore, we should be posting more links, and less photos, right? No way! Think about what you would do if you came across a page full of outbound links, would you not immediately smash the back button on your browser? In a similar effect, a page full of just text will come across as dull and boring. Your Facebook page is about your brand’s awareness – utilising all four post types when appropriate will go a long way to establishing the integrity of your social presence.
To promote, or not to promote?
As illustrated in the chart that we posted at the top of this article, your post will reach about an average of 11% of the people that have liked your page. There is an inherent temptation to incessantly promote the page as a result. After all, 11% of 100,000 is bigger than 11% of 100 – right? Whilst this makes mathematical sense, a broad targeting of potential likes opens your page up to people who may have little concern for your brand, product, or service. This is bad.
Doing this only ever leads to one thing down the track – systematic disliking of the page – and the best way to connect with like minded people is still through targeting. Whilst you will get less likes through this way, they will be likes that are of the highest quality – people that will want to engage with you. This, in turn, will kick your reach up considerably, as there will be a loyal base willing to talk about your subject, service, or product.
Stick with it
On top of the pronouncement that organic reach is no longer obtainable, many have called Facebook out for being actually harmful for small business. A quick Google search will bring up many people listing out high ROI social platforms that are better for small business. One that regularly gets a mention, rather ironically, is Instagram, which was purchased by Facebook in 2012. Regardless, for all of these to be true, Facebook by the numbers would have to be particularly dire reading. So, let’s look at what makes Facebook tick.
Over 13 million Australians use Facebook on a monthly basis, with 60% of these being referred to an external site for more information. Generation X’ers are no longer the main demographic, with there now being an even spread across all of the age brackets, right up until the 65 and overs. Australians spend more time looking at Facebook on a daily basis than they do anything else. All of these stats are set to jump, too, with Facebook having enjoyed a staggering 32% increase in growth over the last year alone.
Remember what we told you to keep in the back of your mind? Whilst the decline in reach has been sharp, all other metrics are up, as you can see. This presents a smorgasbord of opportunity for marketers and small business that no other social platform can match. Yes, the game has changed significantly, and the methodology may be questionable, but there is still a playing field out there for great content, engaging commentary, and increased awareness.