Solving Facebook’s Organic Reach Problem

May 12, 2014

Solving Facebook’s Organic Reach Problem
By Dennis Jenders

Reposted from The Social Media Monthly

Have you examined the organic reach of your Facebook page recently? You may be surprised to find that your posts do not reach every single fan – you may not even come close. Has Facebook misled brands and social media managers about the platform’s power as a marketing tool? Last month, Valleywag’s Sam Biddle reported that Facebook is in the process of slashing organic page reach down to 1 or 2 percent. A survey by EdgeRank Checker looked at 50,000 posts from the top 1,000 pages on Facebook and found that organic reach by fan had already dipped to 6.51 percent in March of 2014. The truth is that organic reach has been steadily declining since 2012.

Unfortunately, many of these articles have presented the problem without offering a solution, leaving page managers unsure of what to do. In extreme cases, some companies have deleted their Facebook page in retaliation; carryout app Eat24 even wrote a (NSFW) break-up letter before deleting their page, which had accumulated more than 70,000 likes.

It is understandable that companies are concerned about the investment they made in open social communities like Facebook and Twitter. They have operated under the assumption that the platforms were (mostly) free and effective channels for reaching their customers. Recent changes cast doubt on the validity of these assumptions. To combat these changes, companies must leverage Facebook’s advertising platform, invest in creating content that is valuable and engaging and consider creating their own communities.

Amplify Content with Advertising
In the short term, the easiest way to combat the drop in organic reach and increase visibility is to leverage Facebook’s advertising platform. While many marketers may be irritated with this solution, it should not be a surprising answer to the problem. In fact, the integration of ads into the News Feed rather than in the right rail helps present content to Facebook users in the way they prefer.

Additionally, Facebook’s maturing ad platform provides an incredible number of parameters to target both your fans and people across the network. If used correctly, Facebook’s advertising platform should enable marketers to reach their intended audience effectively and efficiently.

Create Valuable Content
A longer-term solution is to change the way you approach content creation. Facebook’s primary problem is high volume – according to Facebook, “Every time someone visits the social network there are, on average, 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see.” Because of this high volume, Facebook has had to tweak their algorithm to filter out the excess noise. Facebook has said that the goal of every update to the News Feed algorithm is “to show people the most interesting stories at the top of their feed and display them in the best way possible,” and to meet this goal, many brand page stories must be suppressed from fan News Feeds.

These statements underscore the need for companies to develop a content strategy that will guide the content they publish so it is relevant and valuable across all of their channels – in other words, don’t be the noise that gets filtered out. Companies must value content types that drive engagement. It is easy to draw comparisons to Google’s search engine algorithm changes. An entire industry of SEO companies and experts was birthed out of understanding these changes. In similar fashion, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the mechanics of Facebook’s News Feed. Doing so will help you optimize your content for search and social.

Invest in a Community You Control
If you continue to have concerns about the declining organic reach of your Facebook page and the ability to effectively engage with your fans, you may want to consider investing in a community you control. Even if you invest in creating valuable content, create compelling Facebook ads and play by all of Facebook’s rules, the algorithm can change again at any time, knocking your brand’s page back to square one.

Quite frankly, would you prefer to support Facebook’s business model or your own? With your own community, you control the algorithm, branding, user experience and more. Customer centric-communities provide an opportunity to more directly engage and support your customers and prospects, share thought leadership, crowdsource ideas and conduct business transactions. Customer centric-communities also allow companies to harvest intelligence as they monitor the vitality of their community and the behavior of its members. This level of intelligence can be used to inform your entire organization, improving your marketing and communication strategies and driving more effective results.

While the algorithms continue to change, the importance of engaging with your customers and prospects hasn’t. It may be premature to completely jettison your Facebook community, but now may be the right time to build your own community and slowly migrate your fans and followers to a platform you can control.