Facebook’s Brian Boland On Why Organic Reach Is Down, What Brands Can Do About It

BrianBoland650Facebook organic reach, or the recent lack thereof, has been a hot-button issue among brands on the social network, so who better to address the issue than Brian Boland, vice president of ads product marketing and Atlas Solutions?

In a post on the Facebook for Business page, Boland explained why organic reach is declining on Facebook, why likes are still important, how businesses on the social network should adapt, and the prospects for further changes in the future.

Boland introduced his post as follows:

Over the past few months, I’ve read articles and answered questions from many people who are concerned about declines in organic reach for their Facebook pages. Organic reach refers to how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page. My colleagues and I at Facebook understand that this has been a pain point for many businesses, and we’re committed to helping you understand what’s driving this change so your business can succeed on Facebook. To that end, today I’d like to answer some questions we’ve been hearing.

On why organic reach is declining, Boland pointed to the explosion of content in Facebook’s News Feed and steps the social network has taken to improve the quality of the posts seen by users, writing:

Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them. Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300. To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.

Several other online feed platforms display all content in real-time. But the real-time approach has limitations. People only have so much time to consume stories, and people often miss content that isn’t toward the top when they log on. This means they often do not see the content that’s most valuable to them.

In our tests, we’ve always found that the News Feed ranking system offers people a better, more engaging experience on Facebook. Additionally, given the amount of content in the average News Feed, using a real-time system for content would actually cause pages’ organic reach to decrease further.

Many large marketing platforms have seen declines in organic reach. Online search engines, for instance, provided a great deal of free traffic to businesses and websites when they initially launched. People and businesses flocked to these platforms, and as the services grew there was more competition to rank highly in search results. Because the search engines had to work much harder to surface the most relevant and useful content, businesses eventually saw diminished organic reach.

Boland also discussed why fans on Facebook are still valuable to brands, despite the drop in organic reach for their posts:

Fans make your ads more effective. When an ad has social context — in other words, when a person sees that their friend likes your business — your ads drive, on average, 50 percent more recall and 35 percent higher online sales lift.

Fans also make the ads you run on Facebook more efficient in our ads auction. Ads with social context are a signal of positive quality of the ad, and lead to better auction prices.

You can use insights about your fans — like where they live, and their likes and interests — to inform decisions about reaching your current and prospective customers.

So what should businesses do on Facebook? Boland wrote:

Organic content still has value on Facebook, and pages that publish great content — content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives — can still reach people in News Feed. However, anticipating organic reach can be unpredictable, and having a piece of content “go viral” rarely corresponds to a business’s core goals. Your business will see much greater value if you use Facebook to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or boosting application downloads.

Like TV, search, newspapers, radio, and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals. Your business won’t always appear on the first page of a search result unless you’re paying to be part of that space. Similarly, paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content.

What does the future hold? He wrote:

We’ll always innovate on behalf of the people who use Facebook. And we must be more transparent with and helpful to the businesses that market on Facebook. We’re working hard to improve our communications about upcoming product changes. For example, in April, we let you know about how right-column ads will be changing to increase engagement and to make it easier for businesses to create these ads. We’re committed to helping your business grow and making sure you get the most from your investment in Facebook.

Readers: What did you think of Boland’s post?

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