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December 13, 2017

Facebook Organic Reach is Dying: How to Prepare

Facebook’s organic reach is basically on life-support.

In short, get ready to visit the grave very soon. RIP, non-paid Facebook Page posts.

Here’s the eye-opening state of things:

In the last five years, organic reach on Facebook has fallen nearly 14 percent, as HubSpot estimates. That doesn’t seem like a big number, but that dive took us from 16 percent organic reach down to a minuscule two percent.

Two percent. Two. Percent.

This means those Facebook posts you don’t pay for, the ones you create to share your content, aren’t getting seen. Instead, they’re getting buried.

And, from 2016 – 2017, organic reach continued to fall… and fall… and fall.

BuzzSumo looked at more than 880 million Facebook posts from businesses and brands and analyzed their engagement. Here’s what happened as the months rolled by:

Yikes.

So, what the heck happened? How did we get here?

There are a number of factors involved. We can’t pinpoint one sole cause, but we can look at all the evidence together to reach a conclusion.

Put on your deerstalker hat a la Sherlock Holmes. Let’s dig into this hot mess.

What’s Killing Off Organic Reach on Facebook?

Facebook has offered an explanation for the steep decline of organic reach. (For reference, they specifically define organic reach as “how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page.”)

Facebook blames the die-off on three things:

1. Too much content.

2. Bigger competition in News Feed because of the amount of content posted daily.

3. Changes they made to News Feed to help users see relevant content in the midst of the content storm.

Let’s get into each factor individually.

1. Content… SO MUCH Content

Facebook says there’s too much content being posted on the platform these days. It’s in line with the climate elsewhere on the web: Content overload.

To get a good idea of what that looks like, take a gander at this chart from Smart Insights. It shows what’s posted online within an average 60 seconds:

Facebook alone gets 3.3 million new posts per minute. (Imagine, if you will, a game of Tetris on hyper-speed. The blocks keep falling and falling and falling. You can’t keep up. Cue anxiety.)

2. Too Much Content = Too Much Competition

Facebook says, because there’s so much content posted daily, the competition is fierce, which affects your organic reach.

Everybody’s jostling for attention, and there are lots of heavy-hitters in the mix (think big brands and popular companies). It’s harder to get noticed in such a crowded room.

This is definitely true, but it’s not limited to Facebook. This is a problem all over the Internet, but marketers still manage to get non-paid exposure with great content, good promotion, excellent SEO, and a little legwork.

You can score organic reach on Google, for instance. So, what’s the deal with Facebook, besides the cop-out answers the social network already gave?

3. The Algorithm: The Smoking Gun

Along with the content explosion and the competition hurting organic reach, there’s also the algorithm.

The News Feed algorithm decides what shows up when you load Facebook. It determines which posts you see first, which posts are an extra scroll away, and which ones you don’t see at all.

Recent changes to the way it works are intended to work better for you, the user. Depending on a variety of factors, you should see more posts at the top of your feed that are more relevant to you. This change was enacted so you’re not deluged with thousands of posts while the ones that really matter to you are hidden in the overflow.

This all would be well and good, but in the process, Facebook has essentially demoted Page posts in terms of relevance. Instead, posts from family and friends are prioritized…

As well as paid posts.

Goodbye, organic reach. It was nice knowing you.

Can It Get Worse? Yes

To add insult to injury, The Guardian recently reported on additional changes Facebook is testing. These changes would sock it to businesses – small businesses in particular. Here’s the deal:

They’re trying out moving non-paid posts to a second newsfeed (called the “Explore Feed”). Only businesses who pay would get a coveted spot in the primary news feed.

Via Inc.

I think you’ll agree that it seems really, really obvious that the network flat-out wants you to pay to get visibility on their platform, even if your content rocks and is totally non-promotional.

And yet, Facebook has continually claimed all these changes aren’t about increasing their ad revenue. They even say users who see more relevant content are more engaged, and are therefore more likely to engage with posts from businesses.

Whether or not this is true is negotiable, because Facebook is raking in profits from moving toward becoming a paid advertising platform for companies (and industry experts generally agree that this is what’s happening).

Convince and Convert put together this graph that compares organic reach with Facebook’s stock price based on a popular 2014 study. This is how each rate changed over the same time period:

The stock price rose while organic page reach dropped. Hmm…

Facebook, you’re not fooling anyone.

As for us, the businesses trying to survive out here, what’s the answer? Should we scramble to pay for visibility on Facebook? Should we pour our resources into creating and posting video, the top content that Facebook prioritizes?

Well, no. I mean, you can, but there’s another option, thank goodness.

There’s a Better Way Than Facebook Page Posts

It’s crystal-clear: Relying on your Facebook page alone for reaching your audience is not a good idea. (Unless you’re okay with paying for it.)

Instead, if you’d like to continue to enjoy organic reach, blogging as a core part of your content strategy could net you a higher ROI.

An Inbound Content Marketing Strategy Could Net Higher ROI + Better Organic Reach

For content marketing, most experts say it’s better to own your own content platform. This means you control the means for posting content – not some huge corporate entity that only wants your money.

John Battelle of Search Blog put it this way:

This way also protects your content investment.

It’s not likely that Facebook is going to dissolve anytime soon. But, if it’s all you rely on for reaching potential customers, if something did happen, you would lose everything. And, if organic reach continues to plummet, pretty soon it will get too expensive for a lot of small businesses to pay to reach their audiences on the network.

Bottom line: the ROI potential of your Facebook Page posts is going to be questionable going forward.

Where does the huge ROI potential really lie for organic reach?

With your domain and your blog.

In fact, you are 13 times more likely to earn positive ROI if you put blogging first for your content strategy.

Plus, the trust the average consumer puts in good content is overwhelming:

Keep this high ROI investment secure. Focus first on blogging on your own domain. Own your content, own your platform, and relegate Facebook Page posts to a complementary strategy.


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Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.

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