Commentary: Why Facebook Can’t Kill Organic Reach

Just before you read on: yes, it is Wednesday, and wasn’t the Commentary supposed to be published on Friday? Well yes it was, but we are moving it to the Wednesday! Because we believe it deserves more attention and because that gives us the possibility to do something exciting new on the Fridays which we will share something about soon!

This post is part of the Commentary. In this series every week experts will shine a light on the digital industry. Where are we heading, what is going on and how should we approach this as decision makers? In this commentary we are talking about Facebook reach and where Facebook is going with Kristjan Mar Hauksson.

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Facebook has many sides, an important one is to make more money. They are actively trying, from both a Tech and PR point of view, to force brands to spend money on every post, if you do not ‘boost’, you do not succeed.

I have always found this a bid odd and if you compared it with Google then you can see why Google as a sample can never kill organic and from where I stand, the arguments are the same. As soon as Google stops being helpful and relevant they lose the appeal and thereby loose the stature they have as a search engine.

Ok, so back to Facebook. Organic reach is not dead, it is less, but far from dead. Facebook’s algorithms have gotten better in pushing/stopping posts and people understand the platform better and can therefor filter better what they want to see and what not.

In an recent article I read, written by Jon Loomer, he mentions that the reader should test searching for “Facebook Organic Reach” and when you look at the results you will see that the sentiment is more and less about organic reach being dead – Here are few of his results

·        Facebook Puts Everyone On Notice About The Death Of Organic Reach

·        Facebook officially kills organic reach for brands, making all your Page “Likes” useless

·        Facebook Explains Why Organic Reach Is Dying

·        2014: The year Facebook organic reach died

·        Say Goodbye to Facebook Organic Reach

These basically all point the same direction, organic is dead and paid is the way. What I find interesting (as does he) is that this sentiment seems to have started back in 2014 before the real impact was clear and many of the articles are written by some respectable brands/people (makes me think about their agenda). So where do we stand? Is organic dead? No, but it has changed, it has made it so that brand owners have to put more work into their posts and understand better when to boost and when not to. 

So why am I writing this article, while Jon Loomer does a really good job of summarizing things? The reason is that he talks about the agenda of those writing the articles claiming the death of Facebook organic reach and hints at Facebook’s agenda in all of this, that is getting more brands to sponsor their posts. What I am missing in his talk is the emphasis on creativity and the impact that has on making posts fly organically. Each post should be crafted based on a clear purpose, creativity and analytical learnings using the data from previous posts to enhance what comes after and so on. 

What Facebook says is “Don’t feed the feed” and more importantly, “Users don’t want to be sold to”. Brands that churn out posts with hard sales pitches need to be boosted as Facebook’s ranking factors filtering much better than before. This as such should not come as a shock, on Google most clicks happen on the organic results, but the likelihood of transactions is more on paid. There is nothing that indicates that this is different on Facebook, they just have more power in controlling it. 

The bottom line is that Facebook wants its users to see relevant content in their feed, content that they relate to and engage with.

Back to the drop on Organic

Yes, reach has dropped and there is no need to demonize Facebook for it, as with any of the platforms out there Facebook has been victimized by spam and misusage of the system. Besides of wanting to make a better platform, this has made Facebook react to the misusage and they have done that through algorithmically updated and starting to focus  more on monetizing their offering and that is fine. What bothers me (as does Jon Loomer) is that marketers assume that if reach goes up clicks do also, they assume that if clicks go up then sales will also and they assume that if reach goes down then their whole marketing ecosystem breaks down.

This is understandable and very in line with conventional marketing wisdom, but what this ignores is creativity, the core factor of quality and that organic reach is based on that.

This is a question that Jon Loomer posts: 

“Let’s assume you created pretty good content, but your reach has dropped. Conventional wisdom says that this is bad. But what if you are still reaching the same people who engaged before? What if you no longer reach those who previously ignored you?”

This is exactly the point I really want to get across, Facebook has not killed organic they have just made it harder for us to reach, they are more demanding on quality and that is something that seems to be forgotten in the dialog. I am not saying that brands should not boost, but dismissing organic is plain crazy as it is still there and works fine. 

I totally agree with Jon that every time I see an article that focuses on reach then it is clear that the person writing the article does not have the full picture and from my stand-point lacks some important pieces of the puzzle or has agenda that is not fully honest.

Likes still matter and they are important

Suggestions that LIKEs don’t matter have been growing a momentum over the past months, if I quote Jon Loomer again “By liking your page, users help bucket themselves for you so that you can serve ads to a very relevant group” – I have said before that to succeed organically these likes are important but also running ads towards them, this is your core audience the 10% that engages and influences the rest.  As Jon’s, my experience is that “likers” are more likely to convert when advertised to and more likely to advocate your offering and/or take a stand with you when crisis hits. Please do not tell me that there is no value in likes. 

To summarize I agree with Jon that organic is not dead. If brands really want to test their Facebook presence they need to test organic visibility regularly and they need to put some work in to the post that they generate. As important, brands need to look at the data it generates, take ownership of that data and use as a part of the development of Facebook posts and other communication activities.

Facebook is going through the exact changes as Google has gone through in the past and quality is now even a bigger factor than before, brands have to invest in creating posts that relate and are relevant. By doing that everybody wins.

The bottom line: organic reach is not dead and likes still matter.

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About Kristjan Mar Hauksson

European Search Personality of the year 2014, Kristján Már Hauksson, is the Co-Founder and COO of SMFB Engine, based in Oslo, Norway. This newfound digital activation/marketing agency works closely with the award winning creative agency, SMFB, in making sure that each idea has the digital presence to make it fly.