Why Organic Reach on Facebook Feels More Like Organic Strain

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‘Organic’ things seem to be everywhere these days. Except, that is, when it comes to posts on Facebook. For a great deal of businesses out there attempting to bolster their brand via social media, it would appear that their organic posts have become just out of their fan base’s reach. So, why has Facebook made organic reach more like organic strain? Has it really just become all about making money for the good ol’ Book of Faces?

Facebook Responds…Well, Kind of…

In an attempt to answer such questions, the head of Facebook’s Ads Product Marketing team, Brian Boland, wrote an article titled: “Organic Reach on Facebook: Your Questions Answered.” In it, he provides two reasons as to why organic reach has been declining. Read between the lines and one can gather that in actuality what he is attempting to do is justify Facebook’s decision to limit organic reach. It is up to you to decide whether or not he accomplishes this.

The first reason that he gives for the decline of organic reach is actually pretty fair. That being there is just more content being created and shared every day. He writes, “On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook.”

Then there’s the fact that the total number of pages being liked by the typical Facebook user has also increased. Boland states that, “Facebook’s director of product management for News Feed told TechCrunch this April the total number of Pages liked by the typical Facebook user grew more than 50% last year.” Thus competition for any given fan’s attention has increased dramatically.

Facebook Knows What’s Best for ALL of Us (At Least They Think They Do)

His second reason is much less compelling. It involves how News Feed works, or rather how they have chosen to make it work. Instead of showing all possible content, the feed is designed to show users the content that’s “most relevant to them.” In other words, “Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300.” (Boland) So the question becomes: what determines content’s relevancy? Boland claims that there are thousands of factors that come in to play relative to each individual.

 So why not just show every piece of content? Boland argues that a real-time approach would actually cause organic reach to decrease even further – it’s all about prioritizing engagement over exposure. He claims, “In our tests, we’ve found that the News Feed ranking system offers people a better, more engaging experience on Facebook.” The logic behind this being that by presenting the content that may be more valuable to the user, the likelihood that he or she will interact with it increases.

Is it truly all about the Benjamins?

He goes on to claim that this set-up is not merely a means of making more money, and that many other marketing platforms have seen a similar decline (but some are simply more transparent about it than others.) He reassures us that having fans still has value in that they make ads more effective, lead to better ad auction prices, provide customer insight, and increase a business’ credibility. How then should businesses be using Facebook?

First of all, Boland suggests that businesses “Use Facebook to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or boosting app downloads.” He goes on to note that, “Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals.” This is far from hard to believe.

He closes by reassuring readers that things may keep changing—but only for the better. “We’re working hard to improve our communications about upcoming product changes.” So, are these limitations on organic reach ultimately for the better? It seems that only time will tell.

I Keeps It Real!

Want to know more about how all of this stuff has actually played out in the real world? If so, then scope out this infographic from Inside Facebook detailing how these changes have impacted organic reach on Facebook for different industries. You just might see a trend or two, if you look hard enough. Or, you know, if you just glance at it.

Facebook Organic Reach Infographic
From Inside Facebook, this infographic details changes in organic reach across various industries from July 2013 to May 2014.

Shelley Graff

Shelley Graff is a Content Marketing Specialist for Affinitiv (formerly Dealer Product Services). Following completion of her Master’s in Communication, Shelley discovered a passion in designing quality, original creations for the digital realm. In her personal life, Shelley’s interests include indie music, muscle cars, the animal kingdom, photography, philosophy and foreign horror movies. Her hero is Mark Twain.

Matthew Davis

Shelley, this is well written and informative. I’d like to take a stab at what you’re suggesting. If you’re a business looking to tap into the power of Facebook, moving forward, be prepared to not rely on the free stuff. Essentially as with most other forms of marketing/advertising, you should have the know how along with a budget.

Shelley Graff

Thank you so much, Matthew! That is a spot-on assessment of the information. Obviously any given business using Facebook as a brand-building tool can still try to continue with an unpaid approach, but the likelihood of seeing significant growth through said approach is limited. I would even go as far as to say EXTREMELY limited.

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