Why Reach Is The Best Facebook Metric To Focus On

Emeric Ernoult, co-founder of AgoraPulse, will speak Wednesday at the AllFacebook Marketing Conference in San Francisco. He will lead the discussion, “Facebook Statistics 101: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems within Facebook Insight.”

Do you run a Facebook page? Are you constantly looking at your page metrics trying to figure out which ones really mean success or failure? The problem is that Facebook insights are made of a bazillion different metrics, and very few of them ring the bell to the savvy Web marketers we are. Stop looking for the ultimate, easy-to-understand, and meaningful Facebook metric: You already have it right here. It is reach.

Oh, I know what you’re going to say: “And what about engagement?” Isn’t engagement the only Facebook specific metric that really makes sense for brands? Yes, sure, engagement is a sexy new metric, but if we are all trying to get more engagement, at the end of the day, it is to get more reach. High viral reach means that you’ve been able to reach your fans’ friends somehow, and high organic reach means that engagement has remained high enough to keep our content on top of the EdgeRank algorithm.

The whole Facebook game, whatever way you look at it, ends up as giving you more or less reach. Period.

But wait, reach is broken: Facebook has limited our reach since last summer.

Wrong. Well, it used to be kind of right, between September 2012 and February 2013, and a lot of you probably complained about it, big-time.

But this was just a bug in the way reach was displayed in your insights. The bug has been fixed by Facebook since the end of February and reach is now back to normal.

 

Due to a bug, viral reach plummeted in September 2012. But since Facebook fixed the bug in February 2013, it has almost come back to normal.

Fan reach is the only way to gauge the value of your fan base.

You have accumulated thousands of fans, great. But, wait, is that worth something? Well, that’s an excellent question. Your hard-earned fan base is only worth something if it has allowed you to reach a fair percentage of them for free. That’s the Facebook game, right? You pay (or spend a lot of time and effort) to get fans, and then you can post to them for free. Sure, but what if, at the end of the day, you are only able to reach 2 percent of them? Well, it means you have wasted your time and/or money on the other 98 percent.

On average, a page post reaches between 2 percent and 40 percent of the page’s fan base (see image below). The smaller the percentage, the lower the value your fan base, and vice versa.

 

The average fan page post reaches around 16 percent of the fans. But the best pages do a lot better, and the worst ones, a lot worse.

If you want to find out if you are reaching more fans than the average page out there, you can benchmark your page with the Facebook Page Barometer.

Reach is the only way to value engagement on your page.

We all want more engagement on our content, don’t we? But why are we so obsessed with engagement?

First, high engagement means a better score in EdgeRank, and a better score in EdgeRank means more visibility in the News Feeds of our fans and friends of fans.

Second, engagement means that our fans have liked, commented on, and shared our content with their friends, making our content visible beyond the limits of our own audience. This is the viral promise of Facebook, probably the most appealing promise of the social network: “Be good with your own content and we’ll show it to the friends of your fans.”

And for some pages, viral reach even outgrows fan reach, this is the case for the the “Being Liberal” fan page, which reaches one friend of a fan every time it reaches a fan — pretty darn good:

Viral reach can be a great booster for your content. In some instances, a page can reach more people through its fans’ engagement than it can reach its own fans.

In other words, the only measurable consequence of engagement is more reach, whether organic, because we remain on our fans’ News Feeds, or viral, because we now appear in the News Feeds of the friends of our fans.

Let’s face it: If engagement was not providing any benefit other than the satisfaction to be liked or to have the pleasure to moderate comments, we would not fight for it so hard, would we?

Isn’t there anything else important beyond reach on Facebook?

Sure, there are a lot of very interesting metrics in your Facebook insights, but they all concur to one thing — giving you more or less reach — so if, like me, you have a job and can’t spend your day measuring dozens of metrics, just focus on your reach: fan reach, organic reach, and viral reach. These three metrics will tell you everything you need to know.

And if you want to know if you are above or below the average for these three metrics, benchmark your page against the Facebook Page Barometer. You’ll know instantly if you are going the right direction or need to fix your content strategy.

Readers: Which metrics are you paying attention to and why?

Emeric Ernoult is the co-founder of AgoraPulse, a Paris- and San Francisco-based Facebook marketing software firm launched in 2011. AgoraPulse is currently being used by more than 12,000 Facebook pages across 97 countries. He will be speaking about Facebook statistics June 5 at the AllFacebook Marketing Conference in San Francisco.

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