Complaining you get less organic Facebook reach is looking down the wrong end of the telescope

You’ll have heard a lot over the last few weeks on how Facebook is screwing down the organic reach of brand posts, and there’s a lot of unhappy people out there. I think anyone complaining they get less organic Facebook reach now is looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

People are on Facebook for their friends. The numbers make that obvious. On average, someone “likes” about 40 brand pages. From Millennials, with a median of 250 friends, to baby-boomers, who median at 50, nearly everybody is connected to more people than companies.

It’s estimated that on average when you visit your Facebook news feed it has about 1,500 items of content to show you. The algorithm gets a lot of stick from people who say “I’d like to see everything”, but really, you wouldn’t.

If that’s how it actually worked you’d be hearing a lot of moaning from people who missed the birth of a friend’s baby which had lots of “likes” and comments, in favour of Facebook showing you that someone nerdy had listened to the same track 15 times on Spotify more recently.

So where do brands fit into those 1,500 bits of content? Well, if you’re one of the people currently kvetching about organic reach, you’re basically saying that stuff from brand pages should leapfrog everything else and get to the top.

And if we assume that the average number of brand “likes” is 40, and that any good social media manager is posting a couple of times a day, you’re saying that every time people land on Facebook, they should be exposed to between 40 to 80 commercial messages.

Erm, nope.

What impact do you think saturating the news feed with essentially advertising at the expense of content from friends and family would have on Facebook’s Daily Active User numbers? On the people who visit several times a day?

As I say – the wrong end of the telescope. Too many brands see Facebook as a one-to-many broadcast medium, rather than a one-to-one interaction medium.

Fretting about these numbers is a symptom of measuring the wrong thing – reach instead of engagement.

There’s a disconnect between these numbers too. Look at how many “Likes” you have on your Facebook page. Then look at the number of daily recurring active users you have on your own website. The latter represents the true size of the market who are desperate to hear from you every single day. Not the massive number that includes people who once pressed “like” on your page four years ago to enter a competition or whatever.

When I publish on Facebook on behalf of Ampp3d or UsVsTh3m, I view Facebook’s throttling of organic reach as a series of little A/B tests. They show our content to some of our fans. If they like it, or comment, or share it, then it passes the first test and goes out to a wider group. If we don’t pass the first test, then we haven’t made an engaging bit of content, and no amount of reach or boosting is going to magically make it into better content.

You want to achieve reach because you’ve made something good that people want to share. And if you’ve made something good or interesting, then people will be sharing it organically in any case.

So sure, yeah, we’d all like truckloads of free marketing from Facebook, and the numbers looks great on our marketing PowerPoint slides, but that doesn’t do anything for Facebook’s end users. And Facebook care about them more than you do.

Source for figures: By the numbers: 98 amazing Facebook user statistics