Redditor Gives A Marketing Reality Check on The Age Old Facebook Question: Why is Organic Reach Declining?

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If you’re a digital marketer, there’s a good chance you use and think about Facebook every day. You might feel a bit trapped even, almost as if you’re relinquishing more and more of your community, content, and valuable assets to the Facebook Gods every day. Despite knowing this, though, many marketers continue to invest time and money into Facebook, and one Redditor answers the question.

The question: “Why is non-paid Facebook reach so bad? It seems like a pay to win on Facebook, just wondered why it was so bad.”

briancristiano’s response: “There’s a huge misconception around why Facebook organic reach is so small. Is it because Facebook wants to make more money so they are forcing companies to pay for reach? Yes, partially, but that’s not the entire story. (BTW, every media company in the history of the world has charged to reach their audience – so this shouldn’t be surprising or irritating).

However, it’s not just about making money. Zuck has been clear that his main goal (as it should be) is keeping the users engaged on the platform. So as part of that they heavily weight the content on the platform that has the best engagement and drop the content that doesn’t. It used to be called Edge Rank, now it’s just known as the newsfeed algorithm.

Here’s how it works (in simple terms): Your brand page posts a piece of content. Facebook immediately puts that content in a very small pool (but statistically significant) of your followers news feeds (sub 1% of your following depending on how many people follow your page). It chooses the people most likely to engage with your content.

If that test audience engages well with your content it will open up your content to about 2-4% of your total audience, and if they also engage deeply with the content then it may begin to loosen the resigns and open it up to more of the audience. HOWEVER, if your engagement is low as a part of that initial test audience then Facebook will chose not to show it to anymore of your audience.

WHY? Because if Facebook shows you everything of all the brands you followed you would never want to engage with the platform. Because the vast majority of Facebook pages post crappy content that no one cares about. This algorithm protects the end user. If your content is awesome people will see it, if your content sucks no one will see it.

The one thing that brands don’t take into account is that the algorithm is rolling. So if your brand has posted poor content for a while and all of a sudden posts something theoretically awesome then Facebook knows historically your content sucks and it wont widen the audience. This is why brands can cause so much damage to themselves by posting garbage or too much promotional nonsense. It hurts short term and long term.

However if your content is GENUINELY engaging and something your audience really likes they will see it.

Now, that’s not to say Facebook is ever going to let you reach 100% of your audience, because lets face it they are for profit. And let’s also face it – they are one of the best media companies of our time – their audience is valuable and they are going to charge for it.”

Social Media Week

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A Look at the Declining Importance of Page Likes

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Back in the day, everyone wanted Facebook likes. Having more likes than your biggest competitor was a top goal. Who could blame you? More likes meant more users viewing your content, which meant potential customers.

Boy, have times changed! With a couple of major algorithm changes over the past few years, reaching a Facebook fan organically has become nearly impossible. Unfortunately, likes don’t hold nearly the same value anymore.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be focusing on likes so much? Maybe Facebook is secretly telling us not to?

Have you noticed that the page likes’ style and placement have changed multiple times over the years? More importantly, their significance on the page has also dramatically changed.

Let’s take a look at the history and some major variations:

2007:

Seventeen Mag Likes 2009

Facebook Pages are born! Brand pages changed the digital marketing game by allowing consumers to create personal relationships with companies. While the page likes (a.k.a fans) are not very prominent on the page, just give them some time. You can read more about Facebook’s announcement here(Image via Mashable)

2012:

Cola Likes 2012

Facebook Pages gets a major redesign and moves over to the Timeline format. What once used to only be a layout only for personal profiles, is now for pages. While it seemed like everything changed, the page likes’ number presence was much larger. In fact, they had their own section within the tabs. You can also spot them underneath the page title. Those were the days when decent organic reach existed and likes actually meant something for digital marketers. You can read more about the announcement here(Image via Axiom)

2014:

Nike Likes 2014

Wait a minute! Did the page likes shrink? I do believe so. It’s important to note that there were a few page like variations in this format. For a short period of time it was also blue and showed the entire number. (Image via Buffer)

2015:

Oreo Likes 2015

Here we are today! We’ve gone from tiny, to huge, to big, to tiny again. That’s a lot of change for a simple set of numbers.

The Future:

Shortstack Likes 2016

Recently, the CEO of Shortstack, Jim Belosic, wrote an article on Social Media Today giving readers a sneak peek at the newest desktop layout for Facebook pages. As you can see, the page likes number has become smaller, but the call to action buttons are much larger. (Image via Social Media Today)

It’s time for digital marketers to stop focusing on likes, and start focusing on engagement and more valuable actions for their brands. For example: Newsletter signups and website traffic.

Is this Facebook’s way of telling the industry to move on from page likes? I think so! Facebook is emphasizing the lack of importance page likes should have in a brand’s social strategy by decreasing their presence in the layout/format. If Facebook doesn’t think page likes are important, neither should digital marketers.

With so much News Feed competition and low organic reach, brands will be better off in the long run by investing in other Facebook efforts and actions.

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