brand communications / branding / digital marketing / facebook / marketing / online advertising / online marketing / small business marketing / social media / social media marketing

Stop Crying About Facebook Organic Reach


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years you’re already aware that businesses using Facebook pages have experienced a dramatic reduction in organic reach. To be clear, organic reach is a percentage measure of how many people your Facebook posts connect with, without paid promotion. If you’re complaining about diminished organic reach, please, please, please stop. I promise that this is the best thing to ever happen to you and your social media marketing program. If you question my sanity or intent, just read on. If you want to challenge this opinion, go for it. Comment away. I’ll call your challenge and raise you one back. Facebook is your friend, but they do expect an allowance for the privilege of social communication with your audience.Minimal organic reach is the best thing that has ever happened to you on Social Media. Here’s where you need to focus your attention if you want to continue being successful on Facebook in 2015 and beyond.

Remember MySpace? 

Sure it sounded like a great idea to give users and businesses total control over how they “skinned” their pages. Sure it sounded like a great idea to freely allow the use of HTML in messages and feeds. However, by 2007 MySpace became a wasteland of sparkly animated pixie gifs and it was a displeasing experience for all but the most tasteless humans. Lost was any type of attention or serious focus of any type. Personal networking and engagement plummeted. Users left in droves for the promise of a cleaner, fresher, albeit more controlled social experience. Even though your intentions are altruistic and profound, you’re a marketer. If left to our own devices you’d ruin Facebook for your own gain. Not even Tom wants to be your friend on MySpace anymore.

This is a Math Problem

According to Pew Research, “Among adult Facebook users, the average (mean) number of friends is 338, and the median (midpoint) number of friends is 200. In other words, half of all Facebook users have more than 200 friends, and half have less than 200.”

Let’s use round numbers to make sense of why even 10% organic reach doesn’t make sense to you or any business. Let’s say that the average Facebook user has liked 25 pages and has 200 friends. Let’s say that of your fans 50 post once per day on average. Let’s just say that each business liked by your fans each posts just once per day. (Yes, I know that Facebook’s feed display algorithm is more complex than this.) In this scenario, the average user’s feed would look like a walk through Times Square. Again, think MySpace but more than that, realize that there just isn’t enough time in the day for people to wade through commercial content to stay engaged with friends and family.

Facebook Advertising Works

I’ve managed a range of campaigns, if you’ve set up the right goals and tracking, you’ll find that the numbers work. Ad dollars in = ad dollars out, the ROI depends on many factors, but it is there. The numbers support the case for Facebook advertising. If you’re not seeing these results, either Facebook isn’t right for you (something I highly doubt) or you’re just not doing things right. I’m happy to trade notes on what has worked for me and would love to hear what’s worked for you.

Stop Treating Facebook as an Advertising Platform

At the risk of contradicting my last point, Facebook isn’t an advertising platform. Facebook, and other social media channels are about brand communication. Traditional media generally offers businesses outward communication to consumers with limited, if any open communication with customers. Mad Men (and Mad Women) of the past built their careers on slogans , pitches and concepts that were designed to manipulate, rather than engage customers. If this is how you still see social media, hang up your hat and move on to a new career.

You Don’t Own Your Relationships, You’re Renting

Yes, so if you primed the pump, so to speak, by spending Facebook ad dollars on collecting likes, you did make an investment in your relationships that has a distinct monetary value associated with your work. Did you spend $1000, $10,000, $100,000 or more on generating page likes? Great. Did you expect that you then own those relationships and as such deserve free organic reach? Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. It never was meant to work that way. Remember, Facebook built the platform, achieve mass appeal and owns their relationships with their users. You’re a lessee. Not an owner. Facebook owes you nothing, you owe them everything for this opportunity to get closer to customers than any other channel offers.

Play Along or Move Along

Facebook won’t be reversing their decision to reduce organic reach anytime soon. You’re going to need to pay to play. You should be excited about this opportunity to help you brand stand out from the noise created by others who are butt hurt about having to drop a dime on boosting their content. If your content stinks, doesn’t engage, and is otherwise lacking in purpose or value to your user, you’re going to find that maybe social media isn’t for you. You also needn’t boost all of your content, there are triggers you need to look for and be aware of to know when to boost content.

Please, please stop whining and complaining and cluttering social media discussion groups about your distaste for the capitalist ambitions of Facebook. If you’re looking for ways to work within the system to build great customer relationships with engagement at each step, let’s talk.


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