photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc
photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via photopin cc

A few weeks ago I noticed a massive dip in my Facebook reach. One post only got 9 views but 10 likes, I was confused. A day later reach seemed to have returned to it’s regular level but I’ve seen it dip again, not as far as 9 views but definitely below previous levels.

It can be quite frustrating. My conversational posts naturally reach more people but the links and photos I post seem to die a death.

I’m not alone. There’s been a massive drop in reach on Facebook over the last few weeks and people are complaining. I feel the pain that small businesses are experiencing and I understand their assumptions that Facebook is now ‘Pay To Play’, that they are only reducing reach to force businesses to pay for it, to make money for the all important stock holders.

Although I do believe money may be the end goal for Facebook I don’t believe that it is as simple as people think. Here’s why

Why Do People Use Facebook?

It can be hard for us to remember as small businesses but people go on to Facebook to interact with their friends, to see photos from parties, to see those baby pictures, to give a reassuring hug to someone who is going through a hard time, to have a discussion, to have a bit of banter.

We may not like it but the primary reason people visit Facebook isn’t to see our latest special offer or our latest blog post. Every time we post to our business page on Facebook we are attempting to interrupt a conversation between friends so what we offer better be worth it. We are privileged that some have chosen to Like our page and allow us to communicate with them on a regular basis and sometimes we forget this.

Why Don’t We Reach Everyone Who Likes Our Page?

When I set up my first business page in 2008 I was the only person I knew who had a business page. I had less than 100 friends on Facebook at the time and the page, over a two year period accumulated 253 Likes or ‘Fans’ as they were called at the time.  253 likes seems tiny now as does 100 friends but that’s the way Facebook was back then. Lets look at some statistics:

According to Social Bakers:

  • In 2009 the average number of pages a Facebook user liked was 4.5 in 2013 it’s 40.
  • The 4.5 pages we liked shared on average 5 posts per month, this means that users were seeing roughly 22.5 posts from business pages per month.
  • In 2013 users connected to 40 pages are seeing an average 36 updates from each page per month which means a total of 1,440 posts each month.

Add to this the increased number of friends we connect to, the groups we belong to, the people we follow and you can imagine the volume of posts we would be seeing in an unfiltered feed.

Why is Facebook limiting Post Reach?

Facebook needs to keep the user experience good. Currently around 1/2 of all Facebook users log in every single day. They are an interactive bunch and Facebook has to keep them happy so that they keep logging in.

Facebook has the option of either showing users every post and interaction from every page, group, friend that they are connected to or to filter the content to show what they believe is most relevant. I believe they have chosen option two because they think it offers a better user experience, resulting in us continuing to log in every day.

They do in fact show us every update from everyone we follow, like or friend in the ticker on the right hand side of the screen. Most users still have this, it moves at quite a pace, similar to your Twitter feed. Looking at my Ticker I can tell why Facebook don’t do this on the newsfeed, it moves so fast I don’t have time to digest what I am seeing. The newsfeed may offer me a filtered feed but I am able to digest the content that appears there. I pay attention to it.

As I make more connections my ticker runs faster but my newsfeed stays the same. I like over 1,000 pages, can you imagine how fast my newsfeed would move if they showed me every interaction from every one of them?  By keeping the content I see on my newsfeed interesting and relevant Facebook still have me hooked. I can be sure that each time I dip in I will see something that interests me. They don’t always get it right but they do seem to know what I like looking at most of the time.

Facebook are keeping me as a user happy even if they aren’t keeping me as a business owner happy and that matters to them a lot. Why? Without it’s massive user base logging in every day they would be unable to sell ads. Because they are learning to understand my wants and needs better they are better able to sell me to advertisers and advertisers have a better chance of capturing my attention. The benefit for me is that I see more interesting ads and content, I enjoy my time on Facebook.  The benefit to small business is that if we get our ads and content right we will be reaching the exact people who want our product or service.

Increasing Reach – What doesn’t work

I sometimes get annoyed when I see pages sharing viral memes about what I need to do to see updates from their pages. These vary from adding pages to an Interest list to going to their page and clicking some buttons.

Neither of these methods will have much if any impact on your reach. Like it or not Facebook is going to decide what people see and they are not going to let you game it.

What does work

1. Good valuable content

I recently created the graphic below for We Teach Social, it’s my own checklist for deciding if I should post something to Facebook. I still believe that creating good content is the best way to reach more people on Facebook. If you build a loyal following who intereact with your post either by clicking Like, commenting or clicking your links and images you will continue to reach them on Facebook.

Trying to involve people in conversation works well too. My farthest reaching posts are generally status updates where I ask for feedback from my Facebook followers.

Facebook Reach - What's The Story?

2. Advertising – but make it quality

Facebook advertising is hugely effective for reaching the right people with the right content and it can be very reasonably priced if you target it well. I’ll be talking about this further here on the blog in January.

The biggest mistake people make when they advertise on Facebook is to think of it as an advertisement. The same rules apply to advertising posts as regular posts. If you are not adding value to your target market in some way don’t post it.

I think Facebook’s big mistake has been not allowing us to see our unfiltered feeds. I’m sure we’d get a bit of a shock if all of a sudden we were bombarded with posts. Those who want it however would be able to keep it that way.

Are you struggling with Facebook marketing? Take my 'Build Your Facebook Page' eLearning course.