The days of depending solely on organic posts to reach and expand your audience on Facebook are over. The reach of organic Facebook posts has been declining steadily since 2012. In fact, between 2012 and 2014 organic reach dropped from 16% to 6.5% and even as low as 2% for some industries, and is now sitting on average around 5.2% for organic reach and .25% for the engagement rate.
Organic posts are still important, however, and we will talk more about that below, but to use Facebook effectively to expand visibility and drive business, it really is necessary to include Facebook ads into the mix. The key is to recognize the strengths of each and use them together in a holistic strategy. First, let’s take a look at why organic reach is declining.
Declining Organic Facebook Reach
Organic reach is defined as how many people see a post in their News Feed through free distribution after it is posted on a user’s Page. This all decided through the Facebook algorithm. Facebook has modified the algorithm over the years in order to attain its business goals and prioritize what it thinks users are interested in seeing. The bottom line is that Facebook wants to keep people on the platform so they see more ads, which makes more money for Facebook.
When Facebook launched Fan Pages in 2007, most of the messages posted on a Page would automatically appear in their fan’s News Feeds. As the platform gained popularity and the sheer volume of posts ballooned, Facebook started to manage messages according to different aspects of engagement. The competition for space on the News Feed was simply too fierce to continue with the original almost laissez faire approach. Adding to the space crunch issue was the increasing number of ads, especially since about 2014. Accordingly, Facebook has incorporated various criteria into the algorithm over the years to attempt to show only the most relevant posts to users. Here’s a quick overview of the changes starting in 2009:
- 2009 – Posts with the most ‘likes’ were prioritized
- 2015 – Posts seen as promotional were demoted
- 2016 – The time spent on a post signaled its value
- 2017 – Positive reactions such a hearts bumped position, as well as if a viewer watched a video to its completion
- 2018 – Posts that sparked conversation and interactions were prioritized, as were posts among friends rather than from Pages
- 2019 – Video took as staring role
- 2020 – FaceBook took a swipe at what it deemed to be misinformation
- 2021 – FaceBook made some moves towards transparency allowing users better access to their data
Now in 2022, Facebook’s “Feed” (no longer called the news Feed) displays stories that are meaningful and informative according to three main criteria:
- Sources that the user interact with such as friends and businesses
- Types of content such as video or images that the user most often interacts with
- Content that has a lot of engagement, especially from people the user interacts with
Users can also “train” the algorithm by choosing people to add to their “favorites” and users can now hide posts or ads. Facebook has also updated their community standards and will remove audiences for sensitive content.
Why Organic Reach is Still Important
The restrictive criteria of the algorithm may seem daunting and you may be wondering if it is even worthwhile to try and work within the limitations as a method to reach a larger audience. Are the meagre results worth the trouble? The answer is still yes. Organic reach is free and Facebook ads are getting progressively more expensive. The solution is to use the two approaches together, focusing on the strengths of each and using them appropriately. Organic reach can make paid advertising more effective for less money since you’ll be able to get your message to people who already know your brand. But the main reason that organic reach is still important is that it is the best way to nurture relationships with your customers. And a happy, loyal customer is gold in business.
To reach your organic audience, try these tips:
- Post when your fans are online
- Be selective about what you post and target users
- Engage with your fans and encourage them to engage with your posts
- Use video
- Broadcast using FaceBook Live
How Paid FaceBook Ads Can Make Up The Loss
While pure organic reach is still important, the reality is that paid Facebook ads are becoming increasingly necessary as well. Paid advertising is the best way to target new audiences and convert them to customers. With paid advertising you can reach a larger, highly targeted audience.
To expand your organic reach through Facebook ads, try these tips:
- A good way to start is to boost your best performing organic content with paid advertising, making it available to a larger audience.
- All that data you’ve built up from your organic audiences can be used to build lookalike audiences based on demographics and behaviours, so your ads can be shown to a larger portion of the population that is likely to be receptive to what you have to offer.
- Use retargeting to stay top of mind with your organic audience
To Sum up
Both organic and paid Facebook posts are important in a holistic strategy. While the reach of organic is declining, it remains important to build relationships, to keep customers through customer service and to build awareness. Paid advertising allows you to reach a large, targeted audience to build brand awareness or drive sales.
The key to using them together in a strategy is to use organic to nurture existing relationships and to use paid to expand your reach.