Facebook’s Brian Boland has taken to a Facebook blog to talk about the decline of a post’s organic reach in the social network. In his role as VP Ads Product Marketing, he walked through the implications as organic reach becomes a less effective engagement tool.
A post’s organic reach reflects how often it will be seen without any further help from either the Facebook algorithm or paid-for engagement.
With more information, posts, auto-playing videos, large images, game alerts, and more, all flowing down a Facebook user’s timeline, the first reason given by Boland makes perfect sense. With more content generated by users, businesses, and groups on Facebook, there is far more to show in the same digital space. That means more screening, and more posts that will never be shown automatically on someone’s timeline.
The second reason is the black magic that is Facebook’s algorithm. This decides which 300 stories of around 1500 potential stories will appear in the news feed of the average user. The goal is to show each user the posts that are most relevant to them. That’s not always going to be the latest marketing message put out by a page.
Brian Boland (image: Facebook.com)
Even if Facebook left the news feed code as it stood right now, organic reach was already on the decline. Social@Ogilvy tracked the drop earlier this year, from 16% of followers engaging with a brand page post in 2012, to 6% in February 2014 for smaller pages and just 2% for pages with over 500,000 followers. The advice then was for community managers to expect organic reach to approach zero by the end of the year.
Boland has suggested why brands should continue to engage in Facebook and gather fans, but the suggestions all feel rather ‘second tier’ to me; fans give you credibility; fans can offer insights into your customer base; fans can be used to create social context which improves auction price for advertising; and fans can make ads more effective when they interact with them, increasing the chances of them being shown on the news feeds of other fans.
Those last two points are my big takeaway. Not that fans can improve your adverts, but Facebook signaling that you should be using adverts around your brand on Facebook if you want to reach your fans and other users. For all the talk of improving the news feed and making it a more engaging place, these efforts are on making it a better place for users. Not for brands.
Brands must now have Facebook down as a ‘paid channel’ on their marketing budget so they can work campaigns around this fact. The free ride and access to Facebook’s user base is coming to an end.