Dealing with Facebook’s Organic Reach Problem

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If you’ve had a chance to read our guide on Facebook advertising, you’ll know that Facebook represents a huge slice of social media marketing that can reach the widest demographics to the most specific of niche communities localized to individual cities.  While this is all fine and dandy, the other side of the coin suggests that Facebook has been having contentious issues with preexisting business because of its “organic reach problem.”  In this article, we’ll be discussing the finer aspects of Facebook’s organic reach problem (dubbed “Reachpocalypse” by the media), how it affects your business’ marketing strategy, and how it applies to the future of social media marketing.

What is Facebook’s organic reach problem?

“Organic reach” is simply a term to express how businesses (and users) can interact with customers for free by utilizing a social media platform.

According to Facebook, the wide-spread usage and acceptance of smartphones/tablets has created a surplus in online content.  In the past, creating the same amount of content was fairly labor-intensive and therefore achieving a realistic organic reach was less of a problem.  Now, the same content is only a few clicks away from being generated.

Based on Facebook’s statistics, they claim that anywhere from 1,500 posts can be shared to an average user’s newsfeed, whereas popular and active users could have as much as 15,000 posts displayed on a newsfeed.  Further compounding this problem is that users are “liking” 50% more pages than they had in the past, thus creating more competition for the “real estate” of users’ newsfeeds. As a result, competition through advertising and users’ organic efforts to reach as many people as possible created a difficult situation for the company: how does Facebook deliver relevant content to users while not flooding them with extraneous material?

Facebook’s solution for the organic reach problem is that they’ve taken measures to clean up spam on the newsfeeds, and they’ve changed their algorithms to display high-quality content.  On the contrary, several critics have pointed out (social.ogilvy.com/facebook-zero-considering-life-after-the-demise-of-organic-reach/) that organic reach has fallen (and continues to fall) in an inverse relationship to Facebook’s stock value increasing, citing a fiduciary responsibility towards their stockholders.  Regardless of the truth, the data is clear: things ain’t what they used to be.

What Can Be Done?

As an entrepreneur, this should be worrying if you’ve banked a considerable amount of time and effort in the past on building a following on Facebook. If it is now a “pay-to-play” scenario, with the only option to advertise being paid-for option, what’s a bootstrapper to do?  Let’s consider a few options:

  • Jump ship: If you feel that Facebook is no longer is a viable option, why bother using it? Some have emphasized looking for the next big (and free) thing to jumpstart their organic reach.  Instagram (check out “Using Instagram for Business”), though owned by Facebook, is currently free, and Google + (also free) may have the ability and clout to accept users if Facebook’s newsfeed landscape alienates more of its core users.
  • Pay for what it’s worth: If Facebook is critical to your business, perhaps you can justify finally paying for the service. By taking into account how to effectively advertise on Facebook, you can make more deliberate paid strategies than the typically-riskless organic reach method.  In effect, Facebook is like any other type of advertising venue (like radio, television) that you normally would pay for.

Facebook Strategies

So, if you’re still going to advertise on Facebook, what are some methods to still take advantage of what’s left of organic reach?

First, don’t rely solely on images.  While it used to be a surefire method to attract attention, the once-manipulable algorithms have changed (marketingland.com/want-maximum-reach-facebook-dont-post-photos-118536) and users have other social media platforms (Instagram, Pinterist, etc.) that provide images in a more user-friendly method.  Images, especially compelling ones, are still a good method, but don’t rely on gaming the system.  Instead, links and videos seem to be the next way to go to stay on top of organic reach.

Second, emphasize your videos by uploading to Facebook.  While creating videos can be daunting and more time-consuming than links or images, the fact of the matter is the videos create a better emotional response in viewers.  While it may be great to read about a topic or see still photographs, having a video is more descriptive and evokes more reactions from viewers.  Videos also can go unpredictably viral, so hitting the jackpot is more likely than a viral article.  Facebook’s auto playing feature is a great method to snag user’s attention, especially if the content is provocative.

Finally, create quality content always.  By creating something that helps a viewer, whether it is an instructional image or link (think LifeHacks), offsetting value in favor of your business lets the viewer feel subconsciously grateful for your free contributions, therefore trusting your brand and associating it with value.  Consistently good content can filter traffic to your website, which is where more great content lies and you can take advantage of your well-crafted inbound-marketing strategies. Combining quality content with tracking how that content performs and resonates with your audience (using Facebook Insights and other tools), you can adjust your methods to suit what your fans want to see.

Finding out what route to go for the future of your business on Facebook is clearly up to you.  While it may not be as viable as an inexpensive marketing source, it can be an invaluable asset for your business if you choose to provide your audience with quality content that they desire, relying less on gaming the system that clearly has turned the tables in their favor.

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