The Death Of Organic Reach On Facebook

Image by Thomas Wolter from Pixabay

There was a time when social media seemed magical. It was going to be a way for us to cut through the barriers and talk directly to our customers. It was going to level the playing field.

Facebook opened up its platform to businesses the promise of social media seemed possible. It wasn’t just hype. Then Facebook changed.

Well, nothing stays the same forever. Like death and taxes, change is inevitable.

Last week I talked about four Google trends that you need to keep in mind when planning for 2020.

This week I am going to talk about Facebook. Like Google, you might wonder at times if they friend or if they are they foe.

The answer is really neither. Facebook will do what is in the best interests of Facebook. That’s not any different than any other business including yours and mine.

The reality is that Facebook has changed over the last couple of years and you need to know how so you can make the best choices when your planning.

Goodbye To Organic Reach

Before we get into it, let’s start off by defining organic reach.

Organic reach is the number of people who see your posts without paid distribution. Put another way, these are the people who are viewing your content without you driving them to it with an ad.

If you read my blog post about updating your marketing mindset, you know that in 2011 business pages on Facebook had 26% organic reach. This isn’t amazing but it is pretty good. In 2017 it was .5%. You read that correctly. It was half of one percent. Ugh.

What happened?

A couple of years ago Facebook made the decision to downgrade business content and favor content from friends. This was a decision to get back to the original promise of Facebook which was to connect us to people, not companies.

The result is that business pages now have almost no organic reach but it doesn’t stop there.

Engagement is Down

Some of you may be saying, “Ok, I get it. Organic reach is way down but I have a ton of people following my page already. I’m pretty good right?”

There are two things to consider. The first is reaching new people is going to depend on your current followers. If they like you enough, or if they know somebody whom they think could benefit from your page, you might get a referral. That’s hard to measure and to count on.

The second is that engagement on Facebook is low. Really low.

Don’t believe me? I understand you need proof and it just so happens that I have some.

Trust Insights just started its 12 Days of Data series. The first post was “Facebook Brand Engagement Statistics for Unpaid Content“.

They looked at over 2300 brand pages that published over 6 million posts that were not boosted by paid ads and the results were fascinating.

The median number of engagements per post was 108 reactions and 15 comments. The median number of posts per day by these pages was 7.62.

If you were to just look at those numbers, you would most likely think, “That’s pretty good.” I wouldn’t argue with you. That’s nearly 823 reactions and 114 comments a day. However, there is a piece of data that is missing to help understand these numbers.

The median number of followers for these pages is 649,696. I’ll let Trust Insights put it into perspective:

“The median amount of engagement a Facebook brand post, unpaid, received in 2019 was 0.0215%. To put it in context, that’s 1 out of 4,647 people who follow a brand page engaging with its unpaid content.”

Trust Insights: “12 Days of Data, Day 1: Facebook Brand Engagement Statistics for Unpaid Content”

.0215%. Think about that for a minute. Two-hundredths of a percent.

Would you put your money into something that had a return on investment of .0215%? Probably not.

As far as tactics go, both email and native advertising have better click-through rates than the engagement brands see on Facebook.

Pay to Play

There is a big question that is staring at you. If organic reach is .5% and engagement is .0215% how do you use Facebook to help you meet business results?

The answer is you will have to pay to play. In other words, run ads.

The days of being able to leverage Facebook to build our brands for free are long gone and it’s not coming back.

Businesses were lured in because of the large base of users and the fact that the cost of entry into Facebook is nothing. The only cost you incurred was the time that you spent managing your page.

The cost of entry hasn’t changed. You still don’t have to pay anything to create a Facebook business page but to get significant traction your going to have to buy ads.

Outside of ads, chances are you are not going to see much in return.

However, before you make any decisions you need to see what your investment into unpaid Facebook posts is providing.

Look at Your Data

When you’re determining the effectiveness of a tactic, such as using Facebook, you want to look at the data to see what it shows. You then need to view it from the lens of your business goals.

What are you Facebook for? Is it to create awareness? Is it to drive traffic to your website? Maybe its something else entirely but if you are using Facebook, you need to know how it fits in.

I share third-party content on Facebook but my primary objective is that it drives traffic to my website.

Recently I was looking at some data and I got more referrals from Facebook than any other social network in 2019. Good news, right?

As I looked closer at the data, Facebook referrals were the worst for time on site. I got more traffic from Facebook but the traffic it drove didn’t stay long.

This means as a referral, Facebook isn’t very valuable to me.

The only real way to make Facebook valuable is to buy ads. That’s the cold hard truth, not only for me but for many businesses.

The Big Picture

Despite all its problems over the last couple of years, Facebook remains the 800 lb gorilla of the social media world. Because of this, I can’t help but wonder what other social media networks are going to move in a similar direction.

My best guess is that they all will to varying degrees over the next couple of years as they see that they are leaving money on the table.

This isn’t necessarily horrible.

The cost of digital ads is still low compared to other mediums such as television, radio, and print. This and the fact that they are measurable is what makes them a great option.

However, more businesses running ads will mean that the cost of an ad will rise as it has already has on Google and Facebook. This could drive some businesses away as they look for cheaper options but it will take some time to see how this plays out.

If you’re looking at the big picture you can’t ignore owned media. With owned media, you own the content and the channel. This is typically two things: your website and email addresses.

With owned media, you won’t have to worry about changes that Facebook or any other social media platform might make.

Moving forward, you will want to determine how you can move your followers on social media onto your email list.

There is still value in Facebook but it’s going to come at a cost and for some, it may not be worth it.

Now I want to know what you think. Tell me in the comments.

Shane Carpenter
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