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:

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:

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:

And after 24 hours:

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:

And again after 24 hours:

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:

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.