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How to Diagnose a Drop in Facebook Reach

James Parsons • Updated on February 17, 2015
Written by ContentPowered.com

Why Reach Drops

Can it really be called a scandal if it’s been the norm for years? The “scandal” of Facebook dropping brand organic reach has been going on for at least three years, if not much longer.

If you’re a brand running a commercial page, declining reach is bad news. It means your messages are reaching fewer people… or does it? That’s one factor discussed below. In any case, it means a lower number in your analytics, and lower numbers are scary. What caused it, and what can you do to fix it?

An Influx of New Users

Reach, specifically organic reach, is not a fixed number. It is a number derived from a calculation. Rather, in a sense, it is both. When you see a reach number, like 1,114, that’s the number of users who saw your post organically. When you see a reach percentage, like 6.48%, it’s a calculation of how many people saw your post out of how many people are part of your audience. If you have an audience of 10,000, and 1,000 people saw your post, you have a 10% reach, a reach of 1,000.

What happens, then, if you were to see an influx of new users? Maybe you ran a newsletter informing your past customers of the presence of your Facebook page. Astonishingly, 5,000 new users followed your page. If those users are all valuable users, your reach percentage will stay the same, or even increase. At 10% reach, your new 15,000 user audience would mean your post reaches 1,500 people. A fixed percentage, a new higher raw number.

On the other hand, what happens if you buy a bunch of awful fans from a clickfarm in Bangladesh? You spend $20 and get 10,000 new followers, which boosts your total audience to 20,000. However, because those users don’t actually care about their news feeds, and they don’t interact with your brand in any way, so Facebook doesn’t show your posts to them. Your reach stays fixed at 1,000 users. However, because that’s now 1,000 out of 20,000, your reach percentage has dropped to 5%. That’s quite the sharp decline!

If you find your reach percentage dropped, check to see if you received a sudden influx of new users, as a result of some campaign or some purchase you made. Occasionally, these can be valuable users who haven’t had a change to engage enough to see your posts. Other times, they’re bad users, and you’ll want to remove as many as possible.

A Facebook Algorithm Change

Facebook changes their algorithm in much the same way Google does; abruptly, sometimes without warning, and inexorably. Sometimes, you can check the Facebook business news to see warning or announcements of those changes. Sometimes, they happen behind the scenes and are barely acknowledged.

If your reach declined suddenly, but nothing has changed in your post types, frequency or scheduling, you might consider checking to see if Facebook rolled out a new update. It’s possible that you were simply left in the cold by a change in guidelines.

A Shift in Posting Style

Facebook is currently on a crusade against “organic advertising.” What I mean by this is advertising that makes use of organic channels rather than paid channels. This is happening for a number of reasons.

First, regular Facebook users don’t like to see advertising in their feed. While they accept sponsored posts as a fact of life and tolerate them, they don’t like to be shown posts from brands that advertise without being sponsored ads. Facebook, ever mindful of curating the best – by their measure – news feed experience, have been cracking down on overly promotional organic posts.

Second, Facebook is in it to make money. The less attractive organic advertising is, the more likely businesses are going to turn to paid options. If a few businesses drop out along the way, well, that’s just fine. Facebook makes more money in the long run.

Facebook has to strike a careful balance here. If they push too hard and look too much like a money-grubbing scrooge of a company, businesses will abandon the platform in droves. If that happens, Facebook will lose copious amounts of money, ruining the business and the site for everyone as they scramble to stay afloat. Some say this is exactly what’s currently happening. I’m not so cynical, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if it happened in the next few years.

In either case, a shift in posting style towards a more advertorial style, particularly if you’re trying to push a new released product or a new event in a way that’s too commercial, will mean a decline in reach.

A Challenger Appears

You know what else causes a decline in reach? When your users abandon your page in favor of a better competitor. Up until now, you may have been living in something of a bubble, where your competitors just didn’t understand how to use Facebook. Now they’ve hired a competent Facebook marketer to run their page, and they’re drawing in users by the thousands.

If your reach declined, it could be because a bunch of your users have forsaken your business for a competitor. This hurts your reach specifically because those users very likely didn’t un-like your page. Most people don’t prune their likes very frequently, after all.

A Handful of Stray Reports

This is one of the more minor, less common reasons your reach can drop; your page has been reported as spam. Sometimes, users will try to harm your page out of spite, and will try to report your posts regardless of their content. Facebook’s automatic damage control can hurt the reach of each post before a manual review removes the penalty. It’s not common, however, and unless your posts have been removed, there’s no real way to tell if it’s happening.

Increasing Reach Organically

Entire posts have been written – on this blog and others – about increasing your organic reach. Therefore, I’m just going to summarize some of the better advice.

  • Post a little bit before your fans are typically online.
  • Post frequently and on a regular schedule. Daily is good. Multiple times daily is better.
  • Schedule evergreen posts for a repeat performance during off-peak hours.
  • Produce great content. It goes without saying, avoid advertorial posts to avoid penalties.
  • Build a better audience, and prune out inactive or fake users.

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