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New research from Wisemetrics shows that while on average many pages have seen a drop in organic reach, the top 1% of pages still reached 82% of their fans, more than five times the average.
Marketers around the globe have been making dissatisfied rumblings about Facebook organic reach for a while now. The general consensus being: You’ve got to pay to play.
That doesn’t mean that we’ve got to pay Facebook though...
Wisemetrics' study showed that larger pages have been hit hardest: Pages with more than 1m fans saw reach reduce by 40% on average, while pages with less than 1,000 fans saw a decrease of around 20%.
The Econsultancy Facebook page is one of our fastest growing social channels. At time of writing we have around 28,000 fans, and our organic post reach regularly exceeds 25%.
We do put money behind some posts, but this is something we manually control.
Posts are boosted when they are already seeing strong organic engagement, and for the most part these promotions are targeted at users who don’t already follow us, in specific territories (primarily the US, where our brand isn’t as well known as some of our competitors).
On average each unpromoted post reaches between four and five thousand people, with promotions pushing this up to around 25,000.
Promoted vs. Organic reach for Econsultancy
So why are we seeing increasing reach, while many brands are seeing diminishing returns?
Facebook ‘Likes’ content that ‘Likes’ Facebook
As usual, the answer comes back to content.
Over time, Facebook’s design has evolved to focus more user attention on the newsfeed.
This is where engagement happens, and Facebook is keen to increase this as it promotes platform loyalty. Facebook only makes money if users keep coming back to Facebook.
This is the main reason why marketers struggle to see strong ROI from sidebar ads. Those ads are billboards. They are not designed or formatted to engage the user, but to raise peripheral brand awareness. The newsfeed however, is specifically designed to encourage a variety of actions.
A lot of noise is made about ‘the Algorithm’, a notorious, loosely-defined entity that stalks Facebook, deliberately hiding our posts from our fans.
This is, of course, absolute claptrap. Anyone who tells you this is why you aren’t being seen is a bad marketer.
Facebook’s algorithm does indeed promote some posts ahead of others, but this is because Facebook is constantly trying to show individual users content that they are most likely to engage with on an ongoing basis.
What is ‘good’ content?
This brings up an interesting problem. It’s easy to make sweeping comments about the types of posts we see on Facebook. We all assume that posts like this represent poor quality content:
This isn’t necessarily true though.
Of course these posts aren’t deep. They are fluff, but that doesn’t mean people don’t enjoy them.
When judging content, it’s best to take a leaf from legendary film critic Roger Ebert’s book: Judgement should be relative, not absolute. If this post works, then it’s succeeding on its own terms, but is it succeeding for you?
It’s unlikely that people will enjoy this type of post all the time. We all have a slightly annoying friend on Facebook who posts motivational quotes all the time, and after a while you get sick of them and move on. So posts like this are useful for creating a spree of activity on your page, but it isn’t the kind of activity that you can build on. It doesn’t last.
Focus on long-term goals
This means that Facebook is pushing posts that ‘should’ contain deeper content. Videos are a good example, as even if you are making a stupid video, it requires a degree more time and effort than just putting up a picture of a cat with “1 ‘Like’ = 1 dollar 4 poorly kits” written underneath.
In the past I’ve also written about the importance of formatting, and it seems clear that this also has an effect.
Posts that have been embedded using the power editor do seem to have more interaction and higher CTRs.
Partly this is because they contain more clickable elements, so have an increased likelihood of driving more traffic, but when it gets right down to it, it’s also because they ‘look more legit’.
I’m aware of how that glib that sounds, but I’m completely serious. This is why people assume that a newspaper contains better/more reliable content than a website, regardless of the actual level of journalism on display.
Sounds legit, yo.
Embedded posts implicitly (but not always explicitly, as the Buzzfeed Quiz proves) link to deeper articles, so long-tail engagement is likely to be higher.
This is all well and good, particularly if you are a publisher like Econsultancy. For brands however, it’s quite hard to write an intriguing 4,000 word article about cornflakes every day.
Time and again, the spectre of ROI has haunted Facebook.
A lot of marketers aren’t confident in their ability to measure returns from social media, so by pushing content that drives traffic or creates longer engagements, Facebook is offering us metrics which are easier to account for.
Having a million fans is fine, but it’s hard to prove the business value. Driving X amount of traffic, or having X amount of shares is easier to measure. It’s still not a direct transaction, but these metrics matter to publishers, who are well placed to tout the value of Facebook.
I’m not saying that there’s no place or value for Cornflakes on Facebook, but marketers need to refocus their investments. Advertising on Facebook does pay off if it’s handled correctly (and the recently released profit figures seem to back this up. Net profits jumped to $642m. Frankly, no one invests that kind of money if there’s really no payoff), but there’s far more value to be had from investing in content with a longer tail.
For FMCGs, video may well be the key, as they have long-standing experience in this kind of creative.
For the rest of us, pictures and images that connect with the customer are useful, but we need to go beyond simple memes. Everything we do should be tied to our core brand values.
Why does the brand exist? What emotions should it inspire in people? Are you useful? Do you make people happy? Are you a bowl of golden sun each morning?
Forget the cats (even if they are eating Cornflakes) and concentrate on posts that are tied to your brand. Here’s a quick example from Chocolate brand Milka, which currently has more than 8m fans on Facebook:
None of these posts sell. Some of them are silly, but they all underline the brand ideal.
Milka is something you share with people you love. It’s a part of your social life. The Facebook page may not be making money directly, but it is helping Milka weave into the fabric of the customer’s life.
Once again, there are no absolute rules or best practices for Facebook, but many of us are still getting caught up in the micro measurements offered by networks.
Simply moaning about diminishing reach or trying to buy our way out isn’t the best approach.
Instead, take a step back and ask yourself what Facebook would gain from limiting reach? Yes, it may add a few ad dollars, but long term, would Facebook really want brands to be less successful on the network?