How to increase your Facebook organic reach

Struggling to improve your Facebook organic reach? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

All too often brands spend considerable amounts of time and energy crafting a Facebook social media post only to see it gain very little traction. Once you hit Share Now, all you hear are crickets chirping.

Does this sound like a familiar scenario?

Before you spiral into despair, know that you’re not alone. Gaining audience reach for organic (unpaid posts) Facebook content has become increasingly difficult over the years, even for the big brands with huge followings.

However, before you throw in the towel, I’ll cover some things you can do to improve the visibility of your organic content so that you don’t have to resort to boosting every post you make.

In this article

Is Facebook worth marketing on?

The simple answer is, yes.

Facebook is still a great platform for eCommerce brands to promote their business and the proof is in the numbers.

In 2019, there were approximately 2.32 billion monthly active Facebook users, which represented a 13% increase year-on-year – rebuking the narrative that the platform is on the decline. This also makes Facebook the most popular social media platform by a long shot.

The most popular social media network platforms

From a marketing sentiment, businesses recognise this. There are over 60 million businesses that have a Facebook Page with approximately 4 million that actively advertise.

With such a high audience penetration, it makes sense for a lot of businesses to have a presence on Facebook. On top of this, Facebook boosts some of the most sophisticated audience targeting and segmentation tools available, making it easy (but not simple) to communicate with your target market.

So with Facebook boasting the largest and most active social audience, why is it so hard to get engagement from organic posts?

Why is your Facebook organic reach is declining

If you’ve been operating a Facebook page for a few years, you’ll most likely have noticed the drop in engagement with your organic posts.

Previously, you could post something from your Facebook page and expect decent visibility and engagement. Fast forward to today and the narrative is quite different.

There are several reasons behind the decline in Facebook organic reach.

Firstly, the decline in organic reach is a result of the amount of content competing for visibility.

When you log into Facebook, there are a potential 1,500 posts that could appear in your News Feed. Facebook’s algorithm filters this down to around 300.

How do they do this? No one knows exactly, however, it has been estimated that over 100,000 weights are used in the Facebook News Feed algorithm (previously known as EdgeRank) to determine this.

Why does Facebook do this?

Due to Facebook’s increasing popularity as a marketing and advertising platform, people’s News Feeds were being dominated by external content. This is obviously a shift from Facebook’s core purpose – to connect friends and family.

In response to this, Facebook has recently reaffirmed its commitment to friends and family. This means lowering the priority of content from Pages appearing in the News Feed and displaying more from a user’s connections.

This doesn’t mean that content from Pages cannot appear in News Feeds, but the algorithm now looks for different factors to determine what gets displayed in prime News Feed real-estate.

According to a private Facebook webinar held in January 2018, those priorities are:

  • If the content is shared over Facebook Messenger
  • If the content is Liked or commented on
  • If the content receives multiple replies
  • If the content generates meaningful interactions between users, such as shares

The next factor highlights a more financial reason and reminds us that Facebook is a business after all.

Providing businesses tools to promote themselves for free is all fine and dandy, but at some point, Facebook has to appease their shareholders.

Providing a return on shareholder investments has led to prioritisation to paid content and has consequently squeezed out organic posts from people’s News Feeds.

Correlation between organic reach and Facebook's share price

In a frequently cited piece of research by Ogilvy, Facebook’s stock price increased in value as organic reach numbers dwindled. Clearly, this is a result of increasing advertising revenue and forcing businesses to “pay to play”.

Declining Facebook Organic Reach compared to Facebook's Share Price

With an increased focus on paid advertising, it’s not uncommon to experience engagement rates of less than 1% for your organic posts. The graph below by Rival IQ breaks down the average engagement rate per post by industry, and the numbers look glum.

Average Facebook organic engagement by industry

However, all is not lost and paid content is NOT your only option. If you understand the variables that influence news feed visibility, you’ll be able to find tune your organic posting strategy and improve your Page’s reach and engagement.

How Facebook’s news feed algorithm works

Before we delve into attributes that can improve organic reach, we need to understand how content gets served to us on our news feeds.

In the early days of Facebook (think EdgeRank), content was scored in a rather simplistic manner.

Different types of posts were assigned different values, for example, a simple text post might be worth one point, whereas a photo might be worth two. By multiplying the post type by the number of people engaging with it, Facebook would rank content based on this rudimentary scoring system.

Flash forward to today and things have gotten a whole lot more complex.

With the introduction of machine learning, Facebook has become a lot more sophisticated in ranking content. Unlike the basic value system, today’s content algorithm is fine-tuned on an individual basis.

For instance, if you never engage with photos in your news feed, Facebook will show you fewer photos over time.

This is an important fact to remember. Past and present user engagement can influence future content visibility.

On top of user-engagement, the following data points also come into play:

  • How recently the post was published.
  • How frequently the publisher posts content.
  • The number of likes, comments, and shares on the post.
  • How often the user has interacted with the page posting the update.
  • Past user interaction with the same post type.
  • Negative feedback on the post.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Facebook’s news feed algorithm and there are thousands of extra variables that will influence the outcome. Fortunately, you don’t need to know them all to gain organic traction.

In today’s version of Facebook, the social media platform looks to reward pages that produce person-to-person content.

What does this mean?

Rather than matching News Feed content to the individual, Facebook’s goal is to display content that reveals connections between each user.

How to improve your Facebook organic reach

Now that we’ve highlighted a few metrics that Facebook uses to display content on the News Feeds, let’s outline some simple techniques that you can employ for your eCommerce store to boost engagement.

Remember that Facebook is a social platform too

As advertisers, we sometimes forget what Facebook is really there for (at least, what they want people to think).

Facebook is based on interests, not the intent. Therefore, you should limit the number of posts that simply promote your products or services. For an eCommerce brand, this might seem blasphemous, but Facebook isn’t going to make exceptions.

Rather, you should approach your Facebook Page as an opportunity to build a community hub. Try to offer value to your followers and foster an environment that encourages conversations. The more people that interact with your posts, the greater the likelihood you will organically appear in people’s News Feeds.

Attract the right followers

Quality over quantity resonates immensely with Facebook. It won’t matter if you have hundreds of thousands of followers if they aren’t the right audience, as they simply won’t engage with your content. And as we know, their lack of engagement isn’t going to do you any favours with Facebook’s News Feed algorithm.

If you’re looking to grow your Facebook following, target people that are aligned with your business interests and build a better quality audience. That way, when you publish content, you’ll increase the likelihood of showing up in people’s News Feeds and increase your Facebook organic reach.

And whatever you do, DO NOT buy followers! It won’t work.

Think before you post

Facebook takes into consideration the frequency of your posting and unless you’re a news publisher or a sports team, 1 to 2 posts per day are all you should be aiming for.

How often you should post on Facebook

This means dumping any thoughts of spray and pray tactics and really reviewing the quality of your content. Ask yourself, what value does it present? Is the content engaging and shareable? Will it kick start a conversation? If it’s none of these things, you’re better off holding back and coming up with something else to talk about.

Time your posts well

Given that the optimal number of posts is limited to 1 or 2 per day, you’ll want to make sure you’re publishing your content at the right time of the day.

Obviously, timing is based on your own specific audience, and the best way to find that out is dive in your Facebook Insights data to find when most of your audience engagement happens. But if you don’t have enough data or are just starting out the guys at SproutSocial have done some research on this topic to help set you on the right path.

Heat map of when best to post a Facebook post

Avoid using hashtags

Although Facebook introduced hashtags back in 2013, it has never really been properly implemented.

In a study conducted by BuzzSumo, it was discovered that the presence of hashtags actually decreased engagement when present in a post. On top of that, it’s been found that the more hashtags you had in your post the greater your engagement suffered.

So although they might sound good in theory, it’s probably best to leave them out from your posts.

Apply targeting to your organic posts

Audience targeting isn’t just limited to Facebook ads. You can also set targeting parameters to fine tune the audience you want to reach out to, including targeting based on:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Education
  • Location
  • Interests

By setting audience targeting parameters for your post, you can increase your chances of content relevancy and consequently engagement.

Encourage your fans to update their following settings

When a Facebook user Likes your Page, they are also automatically set to Follow you too. However, people can alter their settings to gain better visibility of your content by changing their Following status to “See First”. This is the best kind of Follow you can get from your audience.

Share engaging video content on Facebook

Video has always been a great medium to capture people’s attention. Consequently, Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon and provided users tools to host and publish video content natively.

According to quintly, native Facebook videos have 186% higher engagement and are shared 1000% more than videos hosted on external sites. If you have the content and the resources, native videos are a great way to engage your followers.

Broadcast on Facebook Live

Another video platform on Facebook is live videos. According to Facebook, users spend 300% more time viewing live broadcasts compared to traditional videos. Because of the quality of engagement, Facebook Live will naturally get a better organic reach than a lot of the other post types.

However, before you start engaging in live videos, that the time to promote the fact that you are staging a Facebook Live campaign so that you can build audience exposure and engagement.

Conclusion

Organic Facebook posts are never going to get the audience reach you would expect from paid advertising. However, there are obviously strategies you can put in place to improve your content visibility.

Fine tuning your organic content strategy will help save costs in promoting your brand, as well as lower your overall CPC from Facebook. It will also serve as a good testing ground to see what resonates with your audience and roll out similar strategies when boosting your posts or when you develop Facebook Ads.

How have you found posting organically on Facebook? What has worked well and not so well for you? Leave a comment below and tell us your Facebook organic reach stories.

Wei Tan is a digital marketing consultant, based in Melbourne, Australia.

I work closely with businesses to help them achieve growth and sustainable profitability through online marketing. I have over 15 years of experience working with multinational brands through to startups.

On top of empowering businesses online, I’m also a founder of a leading digital agency, operator of several eCommerce brands, and an avid content writer on all things digital marketing.

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