Facebook's Organic Reach Is Not Dead / by Madalin Frodsham

There’s a heap of myths about Facebook floating around at the moment, and, like most myths, they have some factual origins but are still mostly fictional. The most common myth I hear? This old chestnut: “Facebook killed organic reach”. Newsflash! Organic reach is alive and kicking - it’s time to slay the mythical dragon!

Organic reach has declined, there is no denying that. But to say it’s “dead” is a bit dramatic. Facebook is for small business, and they’re not about to start punishing small businesses because they don’t have the same ad budgets as the big brands. When Facebook announced the decline of organic reach in 2014, they were mostly referring to the fact that “overly promotional posts” would be punished in the News Feed. Facebook users (like you and me!) were fed up of seeing “buy this shirt”, “play this game”, “download this book” ads constantly in their News Feed and Facebook is first and foremost for the user. If you want your post to be seen, you must put the user first. What does this mean exactly? Simply, it means that your posts must inform, entertain, educate, or inspire your fans. Stop selling products, start telling stories. 

Average Facebook Organic Reach

Current data shared from Agorpulse Barometer gives me some numbers to back up my counter screams of “organic reach is still alive and kicking!”. At the moment (September 2015), Pages with under 1000 fans have an average organic reach of 28.4%. That means, if you have 1000 fans, around 284 people (not necessarily fans, they may be friends of fans) will see each post you share in the News Feed. Sure, it’s not 100%, but it’s not too shabby. (As a side note, if you have 1000-10,000 fans, your average reach drops to around 16.1%. This is proof that Facebook is certainly on the side of small business.) It’s up to YOU if these fans choose to engage with your post, and by doing so, you’ll increase your reach because Facebook will let the friends of the engager know that they liked/shared/commented on your post.

Best Performing Post Types for Organic Reach

Regardless of whether your business is hitting the Agorpulse Barmometer benchmarks, your aim should always be to constantly increase your reach and engagement. You don’t need to be a wordsmith or an expert photographer to create posts that engage. All you need is a little bit of creativity! According to a March 2015 survey conducted by Locowise, the types of posts* that receive the highest engagement from fans are:

Images - 13.6%
Video - 11.8%
Links - 7.6%
Text - 5.1%
*For Facebook Pages with under 1000 likes

If you want to increase your engagement, put more focus on visual content in your posts. Don’t shy away from links and text updates if you know they’re providing true value, but there’s definitely truth in the adage “a picture tells 1000 words”.

Every time you post an image, video, link, or text update on your Page ask yourself the question: “does this post inform, entertain, educate, or inspire and would I share, like, or comment on this post”? If the answer is no, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Remember, tell don’t sell!

Other Ways to Increase Organic Reach

Post “Boosts”

There are lots of different ways to increase your chances of being seen in the News Feed without having to spend a ton of money on Facebook Ads. One of the best ways to increase your organic reach is to boost your post for a small sum of money ($3-$5). Yeah yeah, I know this is an article on organic reach (ie: not paid!) but bear with me for a few minutes. Spending a small amount of money on a high quality post can increase your organic reach as well as your paid reach. How? When you boost a post, the more viewers who engage with your post means that their comments, shares, or likes show up in their Facebook friends’ News Feeds. This reach “flow-on” is free. This is how posts go viral. If you’ve got a post that already performing quite well organically, then I strongly recommend you put a small amount of money into boosting it via Facebook Ads.

Need some proof of the power of a small boost to increase organic reach? Check out these numbers:

* These numbers come from numerous Facebook Pages of clients of mine - all posts were performing well organically, so I boosted them for a couple of dollars (between $1 - $3 USD). The fans on these Pages range between 1,000 - 16,000. 

Notice how the organic reach was higher than my paid reach? The boost simply helped get my post out to a broader audience and the fact that it was well suited to this audience meant that my organic reach and subsequent engagement skyrocketed. The next time one of your Page posts starts to perform well in terms of engagement, boost it for $3 and target it to your ideal audience. 

A word of warning, avoid using the “boost” button on the post and spend the time creating a “Boost Your Posts/ Page Post Engagement” ad in Ads Manager or (ideally) Power Editor instead. You’ll be able to target a much more defined audience in and increase your engagement by appealing to an audience more likely to engage with your post.

Responding to Post Comments

Once you begin to increase your reach, you’ll also see an increase in engagement in the forms of likes, shares, and comments. Comments are a particularly valuable part of engagement which often get neglected by business owners on Facebook. When you respond to comments and begin to interact with your audience on your posts you’ll increase the post’s organic reach because the friends of the commenter you’re responding to will be notified that X friend is repeatedly commenting on your post (hopefully responding positively to your engagement!).

On the topic of responses, all business owners should have a set of standards and procedures in place for comment response. For example, you should have a response rate of 24 hours (maximum!) to all comments (positive, neutral, or negative). You should also have an action-item for the type of comment received. For example, all positive comments may receive a smiley emoticon, a “thank you” or even just a “like” on the comment. Neutral comments may just receive a comment “like”. Which brings me to negative comments. Far too many times do I see both big and small brands totally ignoring negative feedback on their Facebook posts. Below are some screenshots of comments on a range of small businesses posts that I’ve seen recently:

Why have these been ignored? I’ve contacted a few of the business owners that these comments were aimed at, to let them know that there were negative comments on their posts that needed action. Bold? Maybe, but I’d want to know it it was my business! Interestingly, most ignored me. The few that did respond were generally appreciated and explained that they had someone else managing their Pages which is why these comments went ignored. 

All businesses must have an action plan for handling negative comments, and ideally aim to take these comments offline (ie: away from the News Feed comments box) for further discussion with the commenter. (Protip: If someone comments on your Page or Page posts, Facebook gives you the option of privately messaging them as your page). If a comment is derogatory or vulgar, feel free to “hide” or “block” it, however if a comment expresses a genuine concern about your product or service, it’s up to you to respond to it as soon as possible. Not doing so damages your brand and also wastes your valuable organic reach. People who do see your post in their News Feed will most likely read the comments and be turned off by your product or service and won’t ever like your Page, visit your webpage, or purchase your product/service. Your customer service is a reflection of your business, if you can’t find the time to respond to negative comments online it suggests to your potential customer that you wouldn’t be particularly caring towards them if they were to purchase from you and something wasn’t satisfactory. Ignoring negative feedback shows a lack of care for your clients, and can hugely impact your sales.

In short, responding to all comments increases your post’s organic reach by pushing the post out to a large audience consisting of Facebook friends of the commenter(s). You also get the added bonus of engaging with your audience strengthening, their trust of you and your brand- incredibly important for all brands big and small!