Facebook organic reach: is the sky really falling?

When you work in social media, change is a constant. There are always new products, new platforms and new ideas that need to be incorporated – sometimes mid campaign. Yet every time there is a change to the Facebook platform we go all Henny-Penny and start telling everyone that the sky is falling.

We know the Facebook newsfeed works on an algorithm that prioritises content in newsfeeds based on the people, businesses and types of content we like to interact with. So it figures that if you want to build and/or maintain good organic reach, you need to be creating engaging content, all the time.

Facebook recently published a Q&A with their head of Ads Product Marketing on how organic reach works, and it makes interesting reading. Key points are:

  • Use Facebook to drive specific business goals. You don’t run a loyalty program, create a TV campaign, sponsor an event or run an in-store activation without a specific business goal in mind, yet so many organisations don’t know why they are on Facebook. You may be able to track tangible goals such as online sales or database signups, or your goals may be around awareness, reach and engagement. The important thing here is that you have a goal, and a way of measuring it.
  • If you want good organic reach but don’t want to invest in advertising, then you need to invest in creating a constant stream of engaging content. This can be done very cost effectively with some thought, some planning and an Instagram account – but make sure it’s content your fans find engaging, not just content you think looks good or has the right messaging in it. Getting people to keep engaging with your content is what keeps them within the ‘engaged core’ of fans that you can reach organically (ie. for free).
  • Pages that are supported with paid media tend to do better. You can maintain good engagement rates without investing in paid media but over time it’s likely you’ll see the numbers of people who engage with your page, and the size of your overall fanbase decrease. (For more on how to measure engagement, click here).

While supporting your page with paid media is recommended, you don’t need big budgets if you take an always on approach and put some thought into planning how your content will roll out across a week or month. Here are some tips on getting the most out of a small budget:

  • Pick and choose which posts to support: put paid media behind your most engaging content, but make sure that content is also about your brand. You wouldn’t pay to run a TVC that wasn’t strongly linked to your brand and so you shouldn’t put paid media support behind unbranded (or worse still, someone else’s) content.
  • Choose your audience: to build organic reach you only need to promote to ‘Fans Only’. This will reach your most engaged fans and their friends (depending on how your fans interact). If you are looking to build likes, then extend reach to Friends of Fans and let social context do some of the work for you. Only promote to a wider target audience if your post is specifically designed to drive likes.
  • Check the flow of your content: make sure all your promoted posts are evenly spread out across the week/month, and think really carefully about how each post relates to the last. If your promoted post gets really high engagement, then it’s likely that audience will be included in the organic reach of your next post. If you make sure that next post is also engaging and on brand, and that it has some relevance to the previous post you stand a much better chance of keeping that audience within the pool of people you can reach organically.

If you are looking to drive engagement and build organic reach then investing in good content planning and creation is a priority, but ensuring you get a return on that investment by having an audience to distribute it to, is also important. Even a small budget can make a big difference if used wisely.