Stop Complaining About Your Facebook Reach and Start Creating Content For Your Fans

lizgross144
Liz Gross Social Media Strategist, Great Lakes

Posted on April 4th 2014

Stop Complaining About Your Facebook Reach and Start Creating Content For Your Fans
What Happened To My Facebook Reach?

It seems like Facebook page managers have been complaining about declining organic reach forever (well, it’s probably only been a year or so, but that’s forever in social media terms). Every once in a while I get in a debate on Twitter and take the position that it’s brands’ fault for creating crappy content to push out to users. Usually, someone responds and says, “But it’s not fair, I paid to get people to like my page!” And then a never-ending cycle ensues and we agree to disagree.

Today, Josh Constine published an excellent article on TechCrunch that outlines a rationale explanation for declining page reach. Simply put: the total number of page people like and friends they connect with is increasing, but they’re not spending any more time looking at their newsfeed. The competition is fierce to get in the couple hundred updates a person sees every day, and users will be understandably annoyed if the majority of their feed is posts from pages, not people. I honestly believe that Facebook is optimizing its newsfeed for humans, not businesses.

You Should Never Expect Every Facebook Post To Be Seen By Every Fan

Facebook uses a sophisticated algorithm (which Constine actually refers to as artificial intelligence), to determine what shows up in an individual’s newsfeed. Although there are reportedly 100,000 different variables that are considered when determining newsfeed content, some basic principles have applied for quite some time, and continue to apply today. Posts show up in a fan’s newsfeed if:

  • It’s from a source the user has had positive interactions with in the past
  • It’s the type of post the user has interacted with in the past
  • People who have already seen this particular post are interacting with it
  • The post is recent (it is the NEWsfeed, after all)

What Facebook page managers seem to forget is that this is a highly individualized algorithm. My newsfeed looks different than your newsfeed. I might prefer to read, while you like to look at photos. You may comment on a lot of page posts because you want to win free stuff, while that behavior annoys the heck out of me. Different content from different types of publishers will appear in our newsfeeds, even if we like the same pages. As a Facebook page manager, you shouldn’t be worrying about creating content that performs well on Facebook, you should be creating content that performs well for Susie, Mark, Jenny, and Tom. Your customers. Who are human. And are different. And like different things.

A good marketer understands their customer profile, and for most businesses that profile is diverse. It’s made up of multiple customer personas. If you can identify 10 different customer personas for your business, you should have 10 different perspectives for your Facebook content. Not every post will reach ever person. But if each post reaches 10% of your page audience, using this model you are 100% successful.

So, Does It Work?

I currently manage a page with less than 25,000 followers. According to EdgeRank Checker, my “organic reach per fan” (organic reach / # of fans) should have been 6.51% in March. It’s not clear if they’re measuring daily, weekly, or monthly reach.

I post multiple times per day, using different formats, and tailor content to different types of customers. Every few months I publish a post or two asking our fans what other types of content they’d like to see, so I’m constantly refining our subject matter. I do not post memes, quotes, or cute puppies (actually, I’ve posted one cute puppy and it was legitimately connected to our business). Less than 5% of the content I post is miscellaneous, while approximately 80% of it is meant to educate and engage our customers regarding our product/service or topics related to it. We’re on message all the time. We are currently not paying for any post promotion.

I just pulled our data for the last 6 months. On average, each post appears in the newsfeed of 9.73% of our fans. But remember, we post multiple times per day. Each day, 12.6% of our fans see our content in their newsfeed. Looking at an entire week, 40.63% get some of our content in their newsfeed. And in the course of a month, 66.4% see our content. This might be a good time to mention that our content is not particularly sexy—we service student loans. Yet more than half of the people that bothered to click “like” at some point in time now see our Facebook content on a monthly basis. I’m confident that number would be closer to 90% if I promoted some posts.

Because we have a small fan base, I know some of our fans by name. There are fans that like or comment on almost every single post. And they continue to exhibit this behavior. Because they’ve shown affinity for our brand, we show up in their newsfeed almost every time we post. Other people will see us once a week, or once a month, and it will probably be pieces of content that have been performing particularly well with our high-affinity users. If the once-a-week/month viewers engage, they’re more likely to become every day viewers.

This all makes perfect sense to me, and it’s a game I’m willing to keep playing. The rules are simple: create lots of different types of valuable content, in order to please as many types of your fans as possible. Engage when they engage, and continue to improve your content over time.

Are you willing to play this game? Or are you just fed up with the rules?

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

lizgross144

Liz Gross

Social Media Strategist, Great Lakes

Liz has 10 years of experience communicating on behalf of organizations, including a financial services company with over 9 million customers, a university department, three national student organizations, and a small two-year college campus. Read more of her work at lizgross.net/blog.

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Comments

Zach Ethan
Posted on April 4th 2014 at 1:32PM

If you're not willing to pay to play, you probably shouldn't be spending too much time or energy on Facebook. The reality is organic reach will continue to decrease, and regardless of how much people complain this won't stop Facebook.

Unfortunately great content isn't always the answer to the problem; many smaller businesses just aren't capable of producing high quality content that people want to share, unless you're lucky enough to have someone who is social media savvy and knows how to curate and produce eye-catching shareable content.

lizgross144
Posted on April 6th 2014 at 11:28AM

So, if a business isn't capable of producing high quality content, why is it spending time on Facebook in the first place? It's not Facebook's job to push crappy content out to users. It should be assumed that quality content is necessary for a content-based social network, I think.

So it's not "if you're not willing to pay to play," rather - if you're not willing to create great content, don't bother.

Ummah Global Relief Kenya Ummah Global Relief
Posted on April 5th 2014 at 8:44AM

This is a nice post mentioning true points. In my opinion if the likes and follors are real, they will do much better for you than fake....Before proceding make a proper strategy and then implement that.

 

apinchas
Posted on April 10th 2014 at 4:55PM

Hey Liz - 

This is really helpful! I've been looking at what content is doing well on our page overall to determine what content we should be producing, but I haven't been thinking about the different audiences of our page and producing content for each of them, that's a really helpful way to look at it. 

I manage a page with just 2K fans fo a local nonprofit, our content isn't super exciting generally. Can you share the process you go through to define different audiences and what content appeals to them, or how you think about making what could be otherwise dry content more exciting? 

 

Thanks!

Aviva

TomHumbarger
Posted on April 10th 2014 at 5:47PM

Liz - thanks for sharing, especially the analytics behind your page.  

After reading the Techcrunch article last week, I experimented with 2 paid ads on Facebook and set a budget at the minimum of $5 for each ad.  My Company Facebook page has around 13,000 fans and even with daily posts, our organic Reach has dropped to around 3,000 per week.  

One ad was promoted to anyone in our target market and achieved incremental Reach of 53,000.  The other ad was targeted to followers of our Company Page and we nearly doubled our typical Reach with that ad.

So, it looks like "Pay to Play" pays off and the good news is that you don't have to spend a ton of money to boost the reach of your page.  And I'll definitely experiment with other options in the future.

   Tom

lizgross144
Posted on April 16th 2014 at 4:36PM

Thanks for sharing your experience with the post boost feature, Tom. 

animaltv
Posted on April 10th 2014 at 6:04PM

Yes, yes, yes... it's all about great content, except on Facebook.  I have the proof: my content quality has been constant, my number of posts consistent, but over two days in December, I saw my reach go from over 500,000 to 10% of that.  Also affected, I was getting over 2000 likes per day, 200 comments and hundreds of shares - but not anymore.  At least not without paying.  But here's the rub... I know nothing comes for free, so I decided to promote some posts.. pay this much and reach up to 120,000, Facebook offered.  Not bad, but as the months rolled, that same amount of money was offering me a reach of 1200.  Facebook is bleeding me dry.  My posts don't sell stuff so my incentive to pay is low.  I aggregate videos... yes, including cat videos - but all very family friendly.  My page is Animal TV LLC and I believe Facebook is penalizing me because my posts drive users to an external site.  All I can say is thank you Pinterest for being the new best driver of traffic to my site!  Then again, maybe Facebook Execs hate cat videos!

jgibbard
Posted on April 11th 2014 at 10:06AM

Liz, nice to see you, it's been a while.  Maybe we'll catch up at another conference.  Anyway, my comment:

Here's my idea: Stop thinking of Facebook as even an option for marketing...because it's not.  At this point, it's an advertising platform.  Everything you just described in this article would be better suited to email marketing than Facebook.  Creating good content for your individual audience and optimizing to their needs is the name of every game, not just Facebook.  But only Facebook throttles organic reach.  Quality content has less chance being seen on Facebook than anywhere else unless you buy ads of course.

And I'm definitely one of those people that would settle on "agree to disagree" because I've heard every explanation about why the algorithm is built the way it is, and all the pitches about how the newsfeed is designed for humans and it's all BS.  Facebook has designed this algorithm for one purpose: control.  Control = money.  

If Facebook were really concerned about relevance the solution isn't a better algorithm, but better lists and filters.  Make a friends newsfeed, make a page newsfeed and let people slice and dice it.  Right now it takes 2 clicks to get to any list, or 3 or more on the mobile app.  And there is no quick and easy way to filter any of them.

Facebook pages have every right to be upset, managers have every right to be angry, they were sold a bill of goods under false pretenses.  I cannot fathom why anyone would stand up for Facebook when their goal is so clearly to drive ad revenue, not to deliver relevance.    

Further, to address the "high quality content" issue: if no one sees the content in the first place, how can you know if it's high quality of just not being shown?  Facebook doesn't even give the high quality content a chance to perform.

lizgross144
Posted on April 16th 2014 at 4:35PM

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for commenting. Drinks are definitely in order next time our paths cross.

I think I'm in a slightly different situation than some of SM2day's readers. I don't sell anything on Facebook. I use it strictly as an education and engagement tool, because I work in a service industry. We couldn't send an email out regularly to our customers, because they'd get really annoyed (It would be like if your cable company sent you a daily round-up of what's good on TV. Most people would probably get sick of that quickly).

I'm not completely sold on the idea that lists and filters would solve the problem. Sure, power users like us would utilize them, but would the average FB user bother building lists, or using pre-populated lists? Or would they still just go to whatever shows up by default in the newsfeed.

I don't disagree that you could accomplish a lot of this by email, but I don't think frequent email communication makes sense for every single business.

6 one way half a dozen another
Posted on April 17th 2014 at 4:58AM
As a Facebook user, I want to point out some other facts for you to consider. First: just because I may only read a post (or look at it, for images) and not "interact" with it does not mean that I do not want it in my feed or that it is a "bad post". Second: Facebook actively encourages users to excessively "like" brands and people to suit the marketing profiles it supplies to its ad division. Third: because of this excess of posts, Facebook has taken on the role of "knowing-us-better-than-we-know-ourselves" and proclaiming that we didn't really want to see all of those posts from all of those pages that it flashed before us in the first place, blaming it on "spammy" or "low quality" or "meme" posts instead. Facebook steers it users towards the behaviors that it wants from them but claims it all comes from wanting to fulfill users desires all while not really giving them the experience that was promised when they joined (all the posts from the friends and brands that you like). I have only two business pages that I "liked" because I want to ensure that I see their posts. I won't be adding more because I can't be promised that I will actually get to see the posts I requested. Twitter shows everything and Pinterest makes great use of photos for brands boards. Facebook? Facebook is a marketing survey pretending that it will show users requested ads (posts) but instead shows users unrequested ads (yeah, the paid for ads). Make your own site great and make every click on a post or an ad on Facebook have a link to that site where the GREAT content is.