Blog Post

Why Facebook's Organic Reach is Declining


Facebook has created a powerful platform for small businesses to reach people through social media. Small business can use their recently updated business pages to post content, engage with their audience, invite people to events, and much more. People started noticing, however, that brand page posts weren't showing up in users' news feeds. Facebook openly acknowledged that brand pages were seeing rapid declines in organic reach. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn what Facebook said about its declining organic reach for brand pages and what you can do to get the most out of your Facebook brand page.

Also available on YouTube.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello and welcome to Daily Brown Bag. Today, we're going to be talking about Facebook's latest changes and whether the days of getting free results are over for good. I'm Chad Hill and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Good afternoon, Chad. Talking about Facebook today and things are evolving. This is an interesting and complicated topic. People often wondered early on if the days of free Facebook organic reach would dwindle until they eventually disappeared.

And we actually did a brown bag on this last year, Chad, where we were talking about the Facebook algorithm. We were trying to help people understand why you may or may not see content from your Facebook page being shared in someone else's news feed.

This is a process called "organic reach." Where you are able to get content to spread through the social media platform. And of course, similar to Google, people want to understand how it works and maximize it for their business potential.

It really was quite valuable because a page might share content and others would see it along with their friends' content. The social sharing would happen. And it's just really magical. Particularly in the early days of Facebook when people thought "Wow, this is really the wave of the future."

But I think right on queue, as Facebook did their IPO and they started to turn their attention towards greater profits, they started to change the algorithm. And it's part of what we're talking about today. Critics have recently been saying that Facebook is forcing pages to buy ads, since they can no longer get their content to spread how they used to. These ads are encouraging them to pay to get likes. But a lot of people are saying "No matter how many likes I have, the content just doesn't reach the audience it used to."

So, there was a big algorithm update from Facebook last winter. And at that point, the consensus was, it made things even worse. And it got so bad, that some high-profile businesses threatened to leave the platform.

Chad, you may remember this, but Eat24, this very popular food site, said in March "We're breaking up Facebook." They got a lot of press. They were talking all about how they got 70,000 likes, yet they couldn't seem to get their content to spread. And even back in March, Facebook seemed to be a little indifferent to them.

So, I know things are changing, but people are really eager to hear, what is new, what is really happening with Facebook? And really, is this the end of free?

Yeah. Well, the news here is Facebook broke the silence and actually came back and addressed some of these concerns and some of the feedback that they've been getting. They said that, really, there are two reasons that, Adam, you hit part of both of them.

But the first one is just the fact that just the platform itself has grown tremendously. So, we can all remember this, when Facebook was a little entity and there weren't that many businesses participating. A business page and a regular person on Facebook were probably treated more equally and they got this great Facebook organic reach.

Well, that's grown a lot. And obviously, there's just so much happening, that it's impossible for you to get that same Facebook organic reach you were.

The second big thing here is that they talked about then, how Facebook actually determines what shows in someone's feeds. And I want to go through some of that.

So, on average, there are 1,500 new items that can appear in someone's news feed at any given time. And Facebook has to narrow this down to about 300.

So, what they do is they try to find things that they believe would be most interesting to the user. Because, again, Facebook wants to encourage people to stay on Facebook. So, they want to do some of that heavy lifting to filter that 1,500 down to something more manageable.

And they look at about 100,000 factors and actually...how one of their product development people came out and talked about what kinds of things they're looking at in that algorithm, if you will, that determines what to show. And these are some of the most important factors.

The popularity of a page's past post, in general, and the popularity of past page posts with the particular user. And then, the popularity of this post with people who have already seen it. And then, the date of the post.

So, there are these factors that go into play. And obviously, you can try to gain these. But obviously, you're never going to be able to get the same sort of Facebook organic reach that you used to.

So, a couple questions came out of this and we want to go through them. "Why can't Facebook just do something similar to what Twitter does and just show you this unfiltered news feed, everything is fair game and shows up?"

And in their testing, Facebook came back and said that "The ranking system gives users a better user experience." And it argues that "The Facebook organic reach would be even lower if they did a real-time feed." Because, again, you're probably more likely to be getting your message in front of someone who doesn't like it. Whereas what they're doing today is at least getting your message in front of someone who has a better chance of engaging with it.

So, again, exactly that, they said it's basically a better user experience for the end user and actually gets your message in front of people who are more likely to read it.

Another question that came up was "Many argue that the only way to win the game is to pay for ads." And definitely, Facebook has made it a lot easier to buy ads. In fact, in most cases, when you're posting, there's an opportunity to expand your Facebook organic reach right there.

So, I think that really, in this latest iteration, Facebook is really advocating for a more balanced approach of paid and organic. So, you're going to get that built-in, filtered, Facebook organic reach that we just talked about. But if you want more, they're giving you a very easy path towards expanding your Facebook organic reach.

So, Adam, I guess at the end of the day, does that mean that the days of free social media are over? I think that certainly on Facebook, if you really want to maximize Facebook organic reach, probably. But I think what Facebook is saying here is that there's definitely, still, they're doing a lot of work to filter those messages down to your core audience for you. So, that's certainly free. But more Facebook organic reach sounds like it's going to cost you something.

And all debates are really fascinating, Chad. We talk about it all the time. This whole idea of the free Internet and things should be free. I feel like we see this across different platforms and it follows the same curve. Everyone rushes to it, it's wildly successful, usually because there's a large amount of venture capital money behind it. Which primed the pump to make it so successful.

But they positioned it as it just happened, in a viral, organic way. And then, over time, those VCs want to be paid back and they started looking towards their exit and monetization strategy and these changes invariably come.

I feel like we've seen this play over and over again. We know Google is actually still working through it. I suspect Pinterest is on the horizon to have the same kind of videos. So, I guess that might be a cynical view. But it is true that these companies do need to have a return for their shareholders.

So, interesting topic. I'm sure we'll talk more about it. Share with us a comment and we hope you'll subscribe to our YouTube channel, so we can see you back here tomorrow.