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For the last week or so Facebook has been displaying ‘Reach’ figures on page posts. There seems to be a bit of misunderstanding around these so I thought I’d take a minute to clear things up, and delve into the realms of user behaviour a little at the same time. 

The Reach metric is being displayed because Facebook wants to promote its new Promoted Posts feature.

Promote your post and Facebook tells you that you can reach more of your fans (for a fee, natch). The jury is still out on how effective these promotions are, but I’d assume that they are at least as effective as Facebook ads, and are targeted to a slightly more relevant audience. 

Before we get to user behaviour, I'd like to take a moment to clarify promoted posts because I’ve seen a number of posts and tweets over the last week that echo this rather histrionic (and incorrect) sentiment:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0001/9861/facebooku_you_so_bad.JPG

Here’s a post I made on Econsultancy’s page a couple of days ago. This screenshot was taken 10 minutes after I had initially posted:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/9859/facebook_post_reach_after_10_minutes.-blog-half.jpg

As you can see, this post ‘reached’306 people, 5% of everyone who has ‘Liked’ our page (Around 6, 480 at time of writing). Many people are seeing this figure and misinterpreting it to mean that Facebook has somehow ‘restricted’ the post, only displaying it on 306 timelines.

This is of course, utter nonsense. This simply means that only 306 of our fans were logged in to their Facebook page when I posted this. 

Here’s the same post after 30 minutes:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/9856/facebook_post_reach_after_30_mins.-blog-half.jpg

And after 24 hours: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/9860/facebook_post_reach_after_24_hours-blog-half.jpg

You can clearly see the number going up as more people see the post, from 306, to 928, and finally 1686.

So far, so brain-numbingly obvious, but this is actually rather useful, as it gives us some interesting insight into customer behaviour on Facebook.

Econsultancy uses the SocialBakers CMS to post to Facebook, which provides CTR figures on posts. Not always the most relevant metric but quite handy in this case as it allows us to see how effective that reach actually is in generating an action.

Here’s the CTR on that same post after 30 minutes:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/9855/facebook_post_ctr_after_30_mins-blog-full.jpg

And again after 24 hours: 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/9857/facebook_post_ctr_after_24_hours-blog-full.jpg

Posts I’ve placed on our page are defined as a campaign in Google analytics, so it’s easy to separate them from content other people have shared in Facebook’s wider ecosystem. We can match this CTR in analytics by viewing the campaign:

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/9858/facebook_post_ctr_analytics_after_24_hours-blog-full.jpg

Social bakers tells us there were 127 click-throughs, while GA says 135 reached the page. There are always slight discrepancies in analytics, so... close enough.  

So, what does all that mean then?

Of the 1,686 people reached in 24 hours, 7.7% clicked through and read the article. That’s actually a pretty good percentage, certainly comparable to many email CTR rates. 

In addition, this reveals something interesting about the way our users behave:

The figure is climbing over time.

Most research suggests that posts on Facebook have a ’20 minute window’, where they gain the majority of ‘Likes’, Shares and interactions.

This seems like common sense because that’s when people see posts in their Timeline. Any longer and they are driven off the page by newer posts. 

Of course, Facebook’s Edgerank ensures that more popular posts reappear so that’s a big influential factor, but given the low number of ‘Edges’ garnered by this post, it’s reasonable to assume that users are coming specifically to our Facebook page to view content.

Assuming that our own page isn’t a shining bastion of individuality (not that I mind if it is) then this could indicate a big shift in user behaviour on Facebook, with users treating pages as specific destinations, much like microsites. 

This is obviously an isolated study, but looking back over our CTR rates for the past few weeks this seems to be a recurring trend, with posts made in the last couple of weeks garnering a fairly steady stream of views and clicks over time. While there aren't a great deal of additional 'Likes', this could be extremely useful for pages like Econsultancy's that primarily exist to drive traffic to an external site.

What are your experiences of this? I’d be fascinated to know if this is something that’s relatively unique or if this is something a lot of other page managers experience. As always, it would be great to hear your views below. 

Matt Owen

Published 18 June, 2012 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (26)

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Bogdan

You should do this experiment with an image, not a link. Link statuses have the lowest engagement rate and, I'm guessing, the lowest reach.

over 4 years ago

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Jenni

"This simply means that only 306 of our fans were logged in to their Facebook page when I posted this."

"Of course, Facebook’s Edgerank ensures that more popular posts reappear so that’s a big influential factor, but given the low number of ‘Edges’ garnered by this post, it’s reasonable to assume that users are coming specifically to our Facebook page to view content."

I thought that EdgeRank determined how many people the post reached in the first place. How can you tell the 'low number of Edges'?

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Both good points,thanks guys. Yes agreed, our own images do result in higher engagement on average, this was just a convenient example as I'd just posted it to be honest, as mentioned it's not a full study by any means, merely a trend I've noticed over the last few weeks.

Jenni - apologies for wooly language, I mean that there are a low number of 'Likes', 'Shares' etc etc on this. My fault for typing too quickly :)

over 4 years ago

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Steve

Great piece - I've seen so many of those 'Facebook is restricting my page!' posts recently.

Slightly tangentially, this sentence caught my eye:

"Posts I’ve placed on our page are defined as a campaign in Google analytics, so it’s easy to separate them from content other people have shared in Facebook’s wider ecosystem."

I'd love to know how to do this. Would you mind sharing?

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Steve, thanks for that, glad it was helpful. Yes of course, the process is pretty straightforward:

You'll need to use Google's free URL Builder tool: http://bit.ly/v4polE

Step 1: Add the URL you want to share.
Step 2: Define the Source, Medium, Term and Campaign Name (Google has full instructions on what these mean).

For Facebook you might want something like:
Source: Facebook
Medium: YourPage
Term: Filter
Name: FBYF (Anything you can spot easily).

Click 'generate URL' and use the provided Url to post to your page -make sure you do this for every link you post.

In Analytics, take a look in traffic sources/all traffic (It will take about a day to start showing up incidentally), and search for Facebook. You'll be able to see those FBYF posts as a traffic source. You can also search by campaign. It's useful as it helps you gauge how much traffic comes from your Facebook page, and how much comes from Facebook as a whole.

Hope that helps,

Matt

over 4 years ago

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Steve

Thanks Matt - much appreciated!

over 4 years ago

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Jenni

Thanks for clarifying Steve :) This EdgeRank stuff is still a bit of mystery to me, I loved the Econsultancy post on it though!

over 4 years ago

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Jennifer Bilbro

This is great information, thank you. What do you think is more important, building a fan page or engaging more of who you have? Obviously, both are desired. But when choosing where (and if) to spend money on Facebook, would you use if for ads or promoting posts? Secondly, is mobile activity Included in these numbers (not CTR but those who just see the post)? Specifically, 3/4G?

over 4 years ago

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Chris Norton

Nice post - I think they still have a few bugs in here. We run quite a few Facebook pages and constest for clients and so I recently tested the promote a post feature. I tested it out for 3 days and although the post was interesting and fun it didn't really deliver much. It also had problems with stopping the promotion and although I cancelled it, it kept appearing as it if it was still running. I think Mr Zuckerberg is desperately trying to monetise as much as possible but we still have some ways to go with this.

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Thanks Chris. Agreed that FB analytics in general tend to be a bit muddy, it will be interesting to see if response is equal or exceeds regular ads as things progress.

Jennifer, as you say, both are important. It really would depend on the individual page, and as per Chris' comment, I think we'll have to wait and see. I'd guess promotions would work for some pages, but at the moment it's all down to A/B testing until reliable stats have been assembled.

I'm not sure if this includes mobile, although I'd assume Facebook would want to include mobile figures as this would give higher numbers? I don't think this has been rolling long enough for conclusive answers yet I'm afraid.

over 4 years ago

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Gerry White

I have seen people talking about Reach and impressions with quite a bit of confusion, good to have a post to point people back to, one issue that people seem to be confused with is the fact that Reach = uniques and impressions does not. Reach can be greater than fan base, but typically it isn't!

Edge weight is still a bit of a mystery to me, it reminds me of Page Rank in that it has a mythical maths element to it ...

over 4 years ago

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Sam Collier

Interesting post and great info on how to set up analytics to track Facebook in the comments too. I think where the frustration from page owners has come from is that these stats right alongside that promote option have made it really obvious that you're not going to reach all of your fans with every post. You might reach half of them if you're lucky.

Of course it's not news to those of us keeping a close eye on the ins and outs of insights stats but if you're a band trying to get info about gigs and new material out to people who've signed up to get that info, you notice you're only reaching say 20% of your fanbase and then that promote button appears, well you can see how it might wind you up!

I don't think they think Facebook is suddenly restricting updates to that number or percentage, but I do think it has made a lot of people realise how much Facebook was already hiding..

And it's not just bands that are worried, I've seen a lot of bloggers and charities react in the same way, posting the instructions to select all updates for a page. I can't see big brands going down this route but for small businesses, artists and blogs with loyal followings it could work. The question is how far EdgeRank comes into play even when you've gone through that process, and if you started seeing every single post from those pages would it then annoy you and make you more likely to hide or unsubscribe?

over 4 years ago

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Matt Sweeney

"As you can see, this post ‘reached' 306 people, 5% of everyone who has ‘Liked’ our page (Around 6, 480 at time of writing). Many people are seeing this figure and misinterpreting it to mean that Facebook has somehow ‘restricted’ the post, only displaying it on 306 timelines.

This is of course, utter nonsense. This simply means that only 306 of our fans were logged in to their Facebook page when I posted this. "

I think this is a bit misleading; It's not complete nonsense. Facebook still restricts your updates to some/most of your fans. Most people's News Feed settings are automatically set to sort by 'Top Stories' rather than 'Most Recent', which means the Edgerank algorithm restricts and omits certain status updates depending on whether Facebook thinks you'll be interested in the update or not.

You're using the fact that the reach went up to 24% after 24 hours to back up your argument that Facebook doesn't restrict posts, but Facebook's DAU hovers around 50% of total users. If what you're saying was true, and Facebook don't filter out your status updates for certain fans, shouldn't your reach have been 50% of your total likes?

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Good point Matt, yes various filters would apply, and there's no real way to see who's decided to 'see less' from you over time. you can often only benchmark according to increased reach and response over time.

I'm not sure, but my assumption (and there I go assuming again, always a mistake in my experience!) is:

You post to your page, Facebook cranks it out to all your fans. Only those logged in (to a live session)at time of posting will see it.

Over time, interactions may make it appear again in some users timelines, based on their preferences, interests, recent interactions etc etc, so a few more will see it. Some more users will visit your page directly, and further increase the reach level.

So I'd guess that being a daily active user wouldn't matter, if I posted at 2pm and you checked your page at 4pm, my post would have been driven down your timeline by newer/more relevant/popular posts.

All of that 50% wouldn't be online at the same time, so visibility would again depend on timing, and how busy the individual users page happened to be that day -again, something you can't really account for accurately.

over 4 years ago

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Matt Sweeney

Good point - you're right, it shouldn't be 50% for the reasons you explained. However, I still think Facebook 'restrict' certain posts so they don't appear in a good chunk of fan's feeds.

I get that if someone is logged in at the time of a status update, they'll always see that update. However, my understanding (and I may be wrong) is that for the majority of people who sign in after a status update is published, Facebook may use Edgerank to completely filter out status updates from the news feed, if that person's feed is sorted by 'Top Stories'. This wouldn't mean the status was buried in the feed - it means the status was never in the feed at all.

I thought the whole idea of Edgerank was to filter out, or 'restrict' status updates that Facebook don't think you'll care about. Promoted updates are a way of paying to bypass the Edgerank block, in the same way PPC bypasses SEO. Saying this, I don't think there's anything wrong with Facebook filtering updates, as it's a way of making the feed more relevant for users, but all the same, I do think it's happening.

Bands and businesses complaining about not appearing in people's feed should concentrate on creating engaging updates so Edgerank makes their statuses appear in more people's feeds, in the same way websites are forced to improve their content to climb the Google rankings.

over 4 years ago

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JD

Hi Matt. Thanks for taking the time to write and post this for us. Very informative.

Based on your example, would you recommend that businesses re-post their posts several times a day (and delete the previous duplicate post) to ensure higher reach? -- Or simply get savy with when we decide to post based on reach statistics (that were previously observed)for that time of day or other factors?

Also, if we re-post, do you think that would that irritate our fans who have already seen that post earlier in the day?

Again, thanks for sharing your insights and expertise.

over 4 years ago

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Erica

"...this could indicate a big shift in user behaviour on Facebook, with users treating pages as specific destinations, much like microsites."

Just take a look at your Page Views and Unique Visitors and overlay that with your CTR data. That would give you a corollary indication of whether more people are clicking through directly on the Page.

We haven't seen a significant uptick in Page visits within the last couple of months. (To give some context we have about 70k fans and get about 400 Page visits per day and about 15K newsfeed impressions per day.)

The exception is when we are purposely driving folks (through posts, email, or advertising) to specific landing pages within our Facebook Page.

Which--to your point of a microsite, that's exactly what a FB Page can be. The main purpose is always going to be newsfeed optimization, but brands can utilize different landing pages for different marketing purposes--lead capture, conversion, referrals, or awareness-based campaigns. It's multipurpose/multi audience if you build it that way.

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hey all, thanks for all your answers and insight, there's certainly a complex picture emerging!

JD - I'd say if you time it right it is possible, but I'd be more inclined to write fresh content for each update. We often promote our events on our Facebook page, and given the long lead-time we place a number of posts about them, however I do take time to write new copy and to frame things differently each time.

Erica, thanks, that's a great comment. Agreed that Facebook can be made to function in this way, although previously I was of the impression that our users picked up on most of our content from their newsfeed, there does seem to be a definite increase in on-page CTR for us. As mentioned this may be a unique/rare example, but thanks for your insight - definitely important to look at the bigger picture rather than isolated analytics.

All interesting stuff -as Matt says, ultimately it has to be about creating engaging updates and having good content.

over 4 years ago

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Ben Teoh

I agree with Matt Sweeney on this one.

My understanding is that Edgerank always applies. That original 306 will still only represent a fraction of the fans that are logged in.

The benefit of personal newsfeeds defaulting to 'Top Stories' means that Facebook will continue publishing your content to walls even after you post live. This is where you're seeing the increase.

Your content can be given a further boost by fans interacting with their page and that interaction being published to their friends feeds. Theoretically, you should exponential growth in your reach over the life of the post.

The most important aspect to all of this is working with Edgerank and try to raise your fan's affinity with your page.

over 4 years ago

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Gerrie Smits

Hey Matt,

You say "...this could indicate a big shift in user behaviour on Facebook, with users treating pages as specific destinations, much like microsites."

That would indeed be quite a change. I've not seen anything to indicate it on our various pages, but I've been wondering whether it will happen.

Can you see any trends that indidate Pages becoming more of a destination, simply from looking at Page Visits (& Unique Visitors)?

Other point, you say the post had a low amount of Edges. Could it possibly be that Facebook is taking into account clicks (Engaged Users) and not just Talking About This to increase the reach?

over 4 years ago

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Erica

Thanks, Matt.

Forgive me if I'm being obtuse, but I'm not understanding how you're differentiating between clicks on links in the newsfeed and clicks on links on the Page itself. Is this some kind of magic through SocialBakers? Share please :-)

Oh, and as an aside, I also track shared content on social as campaigns (through Omniture). What I've found is that visits from FB have very low bounce rates (under 50%--much lower than Twitter and, naturally, paid sources) and high time on site.

over 4 years ago

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Michelle

"...this could indicate a big shift in user behaviour on Facebook, with users treating pages as specific destinations, much like microsites."

I don't think there's been any strong evidence presented that would indicate this at all. I don't think you can assume that because some research says the average lifetime of a post is 20 minutes, that therefore the lifetime of this specific post was 20 minutes, and that it didn't appear in anyone's news feed after that 20 minute mark, so people were forced to go to the page to see it. That's quite a leap to make.

I'd be interested to see what research points to the 20 minute lifetime of a post in the first place, because I'm sure I've seen research that points to a 3-4 hour average lifetime.

It not only depends on the 'edges' or interaction the post has achieved but also characteristics of the people who like the page so you can't really be sure when the post has last been seen in a news feed.

Gerrie, to your question, that's interesting, and I'll definitely have a look to see if there's any semblance of a trend in that direction.

over 4 years ago

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John Wood

Thanks Matt

Apart from the obvious, "the metrics from different systems never tie up!", I would expect your Google metric of Visits to be generally higher than Reach (i.e. Visitors) because an individual may visit multiple times.

We have just started using Facebook ads, which supply stats for both Impressions (number of times the ad is seen) and Reach (number of people who saw the ad). Promoting a concert we observed that the CTR is increasing over time because the average number of impressions per person is rising and standard marketing lore states that people see an ad 7 times before reacting to it.

Have you seen any research for Facebook that comes up with a similar (or different!) figure to help our internal discussion of whether to buy clickthroughs or thousands of impressions?

over 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Thanks Michelle, yes definitely worth pointing out that you should absolutely question any data sets when measuring social. I think it could well be a page specific trend, appearing in some sectors but not others, but it's certainly interesting to hear what everyone has to say here.

I think the earlier comments about mobile use may be a big factor as well -do users behave in a markedly different fashion depending on device? I know that I usually look at my page cover and click on the notifications button on my phone, rather than going to the newsfeed (but maybe that's just me...;)

Erica - apologies, I'm differentiating between posts made by me to our page, rather than those posted/shared by others onto Facebook (for example by clicking a social button on our site) here, rather than by newsfeed/on Page clicks.To be honest some of this may be a bit finger in the wind, but it's an interesting change I've noticed recently (actually before the new reach figures were posted, as a similar thing happens with click-throughs from our page).

Some great responses, thanks everyone for your input so far!

over 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Great to see some insight into user behaviour on your Facebook posts. This backs up my rule that timing is so critical to gaining maximum post exposure.

It seemed to me when Facebook pages became prominent that Facebook wanted them to become destinations and they were quite different from personal profiles. Now with Timeline, profiles and pages have become equal. I believe sharing stuff to appear in fans feeds is now more important as users are less engaged by a businesses' timeline.

But as suggested, this paves the way for sponsored and promoted content. I feel sorry for the pages that don't have the budgets to help with this.

over 4 years ago

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Jon Leon

I think it's a really interesting, if smallscale, test. It certainly indiciates Facebook updates have a certain lifetime value and that it's not lost within minutes of posting.
People spend time browsing and looking through older updates and searching out important friends and business updates.
Regardless of what Facebook does or doesn't include on the timeline, people will make sure they see what they want to and by continually providing interesting and valuable updates, and interacting with people, you will continue to get seen.

over 4 years ago

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