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How Does Buying Facebook Ads Affect Your Reach?

James Parsons • Updated on May 4, 2024
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Facebook Reach

Facebook reach is on a decline. It seems like every few months, there’s a minor scandal, as Facebook implements another rule that causes businesses to lose organic reach. Some people go on scathing tirades about the moneygrubbing Facebook board trying to force businesses to pay or get out. Some just reason that it makes the site more comfortable for users, which makes it a better place for marketers overall.

It truly is a pay to play world, but that’s not the question at hand. The question is, how do organic reach and paid ads interact?

Basic Organic Reach

First, let’s look at organic reach and how it works. When you make a post, it is immediately – or eventually, if you schedule it – shared with a selection of people who follow you. This selection is made up of mostly the people who are most engaged with your brand. People who comment, like and share your posts see your posts more often. Some part of the selection of users who see your post are “wildcards,” as I like to call them.

Basically, if engagement was the only way to see posts by a brand, anyone who missed a couple posts or went on vacation for a while would lose all messages from any pages they follow. So Facebook shows brand posts to some people who don’t typically engage, to give them a chance to re-engage.

This happens with every post you make. The only exception is for dark posts. These unpublished posts are just that; unpublished. The only people who see them are the people you pay to have see them.

Follower Quality and Reach

This, by the way, is why the quality of your followers matters. Consider those wildcards, and now consider what happens if you have a lot of fake followers. When Facebook chooses those wildcards, each choice is a person who might come in and engage more with your brand. They might be reminded you exist and go seek out your product, or they might share your posts with someone else who will.

A fake fan, meanwhile, just won’t. They won’t be sharing your posts, because they probably aren’t using their news feeds at all. All they do is log on to like pages and send out friend requests, and sometimes not even that. It’s like part of your potential reach just falls into a black hole.

Viral Reach

Viral reach is the sum total of additional people who see your posts based on the likes, shares and comments of your original organic reach. Each time someone shares your post, some of the people that person is friends with will also see the post, because they see the share. When they comment or like the post, it’s the same deal; their friends see the comment or the like.

Each time a fake fan is shown your post, that’s a lost chance for viral reach. Let’s carry on, though; none of this has much to do with paying for ads.

Boosting Posts

Boost Post

Boosting posts is a special action using Facebook’s specific boost feature. It essentially turns your normal organic post into a paid post ad, using generic targeting options. This is the easiest and least effective way to boost your organic reach by injecting money into the problem. You’ll very likely end up spending more money than the metrics you get back are worth.

The reason, again, is bad fans. The targeting that comes with boosting a post is basic and minimal at best; you end up with a wide potential audience, but they aren’t particularly united in their attitude towards you.

Promoting Posts with Ads

Using promoted posts is the better version, assuming you use them properly. You need, of course, to learn all about targeting, audiences, keywords, demographics, geotargeting and all the rest of that fancy CPC terminology. You also need to have the budget to make your ads reach their full potential.

Both kinds of ads, boosted posts and promoted posts, have no negative effect on your organic reach. There are two scenarios in which an ad can come into play; either you have a post you’re promoting, or you’re creating a post in the ads manager to promote.

In the first option, you already have a post and it’s already being shared. Turning it into an ad doesn’t diminish that, because it’s already happened. The only thing it does is expand the number of people who see your posts. Thus, promoting an existing post cannot possibly decrease your reach, only increase it. The absolute worst case would be no one seeing your ad, for whatever reason, so your reach stays the same.

When you’re creating a post to use for a promoted ad, that post didn’t exist before the ad went live. That means its organic reach is 0. When you post the ad, it gets hits, and it gets exposure. This gives you reach you didn’t have before. Therefore, every view you get from an ad is a bit of reach you didn’t have before.

Paying for more exposure also gives you another round of potential viral reach. Just like with organic posts, everyone who sees a promoted post has a chance to like it, share it or comment on it. And, just like organic posts, each time someone does one of those actions is a chance for that person’s friends to see the post and potentially continue the viral chain.

Bringing it all together, you can only draw one conclusion; Facebook ads increase your reach, though they don’t directly increase your organic reach.

Now, there could be a conspiracy theory out there that when you buy ads, you show Facebook you’re willing to spend money for reach, and so they start to decrease your organic reach to encourage you to spend more. If anyone is truly promoting this theory without evidence, I haven’t seen it. I don’t believe Facebook would be so transparent if they were going to push for more ad spending; they have better ways to achieve the same goal.


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