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Consumer Training as a Method to Improve Organic Reach on Facebook


Declining organic reach on Facebook has been a hot topic as of late.

Potential solutions are being offered up left and right for how to overcome this trend and earn content a valuable position in the News Feed. I wrote a piece about this as well, which you can read here if you have any interest.

The fact of the matter is that Facebook is making changes to suit its business and keep a diverse group of stakeholders happy.

As it pertains to organic reach of content and keeping businesses and brands happy:

Could they provide an unfiltered News Feed that mimics Twitter’s endless stream of recent updates? Sure.

Could they give greater priority to branded and business-related content in the News Feed? Sure.

Could they do any number of things to make marketers and business owners happier? Sure.

But you’ve got to know that Facebook is continually thinking about options to optimize the News Feed algorithm and are probably making more adjustments and testing more approaches than we can possibly imagine.

At the end of the day, they need to find a balance between what keeps their user-base happy, what keeps businesses and brands happy, what keeps shareholders happy, and what keeps any number of additional stakeholders happy.

A difficult task to say the least. But…

What if the solution for declining organic reach had more to do with user behaviour than complicated News Feed algorithms?

Let me explain.

It’s widely known that people spend the vast majority of their time on Facebook perusing the News Feed. For the most part, they accept what’s being shown to them there, and that comprises the bulk of their experience.

This is intriguing behaviour, however.

On other content distribution networks – which at the end of the day is a big part of what Facebook is – people actively make choices about what they want to see based on their interests, mood, time of day, what people have told them about, and a multitude of other factors.

On television, people surf channels, they PVR their favourite shows, they search Google on their tablets for what’s showing when… they make choices about what they want to watch.

In print media, people flip pages, reference indexes and tables of contents, bookmark pages, highlight passages… they make choices about what they want to read and look at.

And online, people demonstrate similar behaviour – they surf the web, they conduct endless searches, they bookmark, add blogs to RSS feeds, and on, and on… they make choices about the content they want to consume.

Why don’t people make choices about the content they want to see on Facebook?

My theory is that many people might simply not know how, and that many people are viewing the platform more as a broadcast channel than a personalized social experience.

Facebook has great built-in functionality to create Interest Lists that are essentially timelines of content that the user curates into custom lists. And these lists are available on the home page – right beside the News Feed – in the left sidebar.

You know all this, so I’ll not go into detail here, but Interest Lists are awesome, right?

In my opinion, the standout qualities of Interest Lists are that they’re user-created, they’re unfiltered, and they’re easy to make.

If everyone knew how to make Interest Lists, and you consistently produced absolutely killer content, don’t you think you’d end up achieving greater organic reach on Facebook? Don’t you also think that users would have an overall better experience on Facebook? If this isn’t win-win, I don’t know what is.

So, let’s make this happen.

How? I’m happy you asked.

I think there are two parts to this equation: 1) consumer training or education, and 2) the consistent publication of awesome, can’t live without it, content.

Let’s train Facebook users how to create and populate Interest Lists

Remember the early days of Facebook? When we created like-gates and huge graphics pointing to the ‘like’ button to acquire new fans?

We did those things because people weren’t used to using the platform (and sure, because we could). They needed training on how to get updates from the businesses, brands and organizations that they identified with, and train them we did!

Is there any reason we can’t get people creating Interest Lists and adding our businesses to those lists? Of course we can do that! It’ll just take a bit of time, some education and consistent reminders.

And if we all made a concerted effort to train this new behaviour, we could probably get them using this feature even sooner, and take a bite out of this declining organic reach issue we’re spending so much time talking about.

We need to live up to our end of the bargain by providing some pretty great value

Of course, if we’re going to get people to start making Interest Lists, and then have them want to add our businesses to those lists, we’ll need to give them some incentive.

So, we’ll need to be providing a solid value proposition to people to take the time to add us to their lists. This require continued energy and emphasis on producing killer content, facilitating some amazing social experiences, and of course building real relationships with these people so they feel compelled to continue checking out our businesses.

Essentially all the things you’re currently doing, but amped up to 11.


I know this maybe isn’t the solution for countering dramatic dips in organic reach, but you’ve got to think that if consumers spent a little more time organizing the content they want to see on Facebook, and a little less time letting Facebook dictate what they should see, that we’d all be in better shape.

The best part is that people have proven to be open to this type of behaviour; it’s just a matter of training them to apply the planning and organization that they happily practice on other media channels, to Facebook.

No big deal, right?

Aside from running ads, how are you planning to counter this drop in organic reach?

Do you have any predictions about what, if anything, Facebook will do to make businesses happier on their platform?

What do you think about training consumers to use Interest Lists? Is it crazy?

As always, it would be great to know what you think. If you’d like to continue this discussion, please leave a comment or touch-base on Twitter @RGBSocial

And finally, if you’d like to receive future updates from me, via RGB Social on Facebook, it would be awesome if you could add us to an Interest List!

Join The Conversation

  • RGBSocial's picture
    Apr 11 Posted 3 years ago RGBSocial

    Hi Zach –

    I think your curiosity about Facebook changing their stance the prospect of Pages urging their fans to more frequently use Interest Lists – if it catches on – is well founded. They’ve proven time and time again that they’re not afraid to not just tinker, but make big changes to their platform.

    This said, if we’re all going to hang with Facebook for the foreseeable future as a channel through which to connect with our consumers, I think it’s imperative that we take action to positively address the changes Facebook makes, particularly when they negatively impact the effectiveness of our efforts. If Facebook views changes in how we all decide to use their platform, using the tools they provide us, as an exploit, then there’s not much we can do about that… except for dropping the platform all together (which some have had success doing).

    You’ve made some great points that are certainly worth consideration. Thanks for your comment.


  • Zach Ethan's picture
    Apr 11 Posted 3 years ago Zach Ethan

    Great idea. I really like the idea of interest lists, I'm just curious to know if Facebook will change their stance on this option if they notice that pages are trying to 'take advantage' of this ability to boost organic reach. I doubt Facebook would act on it unless they noticed a high volume of business pages encourage their fans to add them to an interest list in order to ensure they receive their pages updates. 

    Not directly related, but when businesses identified that text-only status updates were reaching larger audiences they took advantage of this and of course Facebook caught on and changed this. Wouldn't be surprised if they did the same with interest lists if a lot of businesses took advantage of this opportunity. 

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