Digiday – Why organic reach on Facebook is not dead yet
November 12, 2014
The myriad changes to Facebook’s news feed over the past two years have fundamentally changed what users are likely to see when they log on to the service. They’ve also had a profound effect on brand and publisher distribution through the platform.
More specifically, brands have seen their organic reach plummet, while publishers have seen their referral traffic from the platform reach unprecedented levels. Hearst, for instance, now sees nearly half its referral traffic from Facebook, up from just 10 percent a year ago. Brands, however, have been forced to pay Facebook for the kind of reach they once enjoyed for free.
But new research suggests that organic is not yet dead and still plays an important role in how brands and agencies approach the platform. The posts that perform best are the ones that gain organic traction initially and are then boosted with media spend.
While organic reach for brands has dropped to the low single digits this year from about 16 percent in April 2012, brands are still able to reach a quarter (25 percent) of their Facebook fan bases each month, according to a study conducted from January to September this year by social media analytics firm Socialbakers. That’s markedly lower than the organic reach for celebrities (54 percent) and media (58 percent) over the same time period, but Socialbakers and agency executives agree that the signal provided by organic reach is far more valuable than its distribution implies.
Brands that try to make up for decreased organic reach with indiscriminate paid media are wasting money, according to another recent study conducted by digital agency Deep Focus. Brand posts that perform poorly among users — those that receive few likes, shares and comments — will have difficulty reaching a large number of users regardless of spend. Where it gets interesting is that it’s incredibly cost-efficient for brands to put spend on posts that would have performed well had organic reach never decreased.
The quality of the creative — as judged by a post’s organic reach — is arguably now an even more important factor for performance on Facebook. “Recent declines in average organic reach are often misinterpreted as ‘Engagement [not driving] reach on Facebook anymore,’” the study reads.
Engagement now has an even larger effect on a post’s reach than in the days of consistent organic reach. While the minimum reach a brand can anticipate is down to 1.5 percent in 2014 from 5.5 percent in 2013, the rate at which getting consumers to like, comment or share a post increases the number of people who see it is higher.