Facebook Organic Reach Is an Oxymoron

Facebook organic reach is an oxymoron If you feel like your Facebook posts organic reach isn’t what it used to be, you’re right. Facebook has steadily cut back on Pages’ organic reach for years, most notably with brands and most recently with publishers.

Back in the good old days of 2012, Facebook started restricting the organic reach of content published from brand pages. At first, it was to about 16%. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced Facebook organic reach even more. According to Social@Ogilvy, Facebook organic reach dropped to 6% or less in 2014. Now in the first half of 2016, the number of people seeing the average post published on a publisher’s Facebook Page has been cut in half again, according to SocialFlow.

Facebook organic reach graph

The ability to build communities of Facebook fans, maintain contact and encourage engagement by publishing content to fans’ News Feeds was originally a crucially important part of Facebook’s appeal to marketers. Note we said “was”, because Facebook organic reach is going, going, gone. This change effectively completely cancels out the efforts of brands to build up their fan bases, with the understanding they would be able to reach a large number of these fans without having to pay.

In a sales deck obtained by Ad Age, Facebook plainly stated, “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time.” In other words, Facebook organic reach is now an oxymoron. The main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make your Facebook purchased ads work better. The free ride for brands is over and Facebook should now be moved into the paid advertising column in your marketing budget.

The main reason to acquire fans is no longer to build a free distribution channel for content; now it’s to make your Facebook paid posts or ads work better. The free ride for brands has come to an end and Facebook should now be in the paid advertising column in your marketing budget.

Going forward, for Facebook to be effective paid advertising will be needed to jump-start the life of a post.  You’ll be investing in paid posts in the hope that they will gather enough likes and social capital to earn the right to be shown for free.

Central to social media’s value to businesses was the concept that if brands interact with consumers with engaging content in the right context, they can reap benefits in the form of greater exposure and incremental reach, for free.  Do Facebook’s changes mean that vision of social media for business is dying? Probably. Cutting organic reach and forcing brands to pay seems to move social media in the direction of more traditional media models. Any business counting on Facebook organic reach as part of their marketing plan should reevaluate whether their investment of resources is still justifiable.

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