Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Marketers are frustrated by plunging organic reach on Facebook Pages. Pages formerly accustomed to percentage per fan reach in the mid-teens are seeing low single digits.
Facebook gets it. So today Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president of ads product marketing, posted a detailed explanation of why reach is falling and why marketers, businesses and other social publishers shouldn’t give up on the platform. Facebook has tried to explain before, but Boland’s FAQ post is the most complete rundown the company has offered. You can read it in full here, but we’ll address some of the more interesting answers below.
Why Is Reach Falling?
Much of Boland’s explanation is a rehash of previous details that will be familiar to anyone following the issue closely. It’s tougher to reach Facebook users for free because there’s more competition in the News Feed. There are more people on Facebook, sharing more with surge in use of mobile devices. They have more friends and they have liked more pages (the total number of pages a typical user has liked has grown 50% in the last year, Boland said.)
An average user could see 1,500 updates — from friends, family and Pages he has liked — each time she signs on and Facebook’s picks about 300 to show based on an algorithm engineered for maximum relevance to her.
Why Not Show It All In Real Time?
Boland pointed out that with a real-time feed, used by “several other online feed platforms,” users often miss stories that are important to them. There’s just too much information to process from an up-to-the-minute hose. Reach, Boland said, would drop further with a real-time feed.
In our tests, we’ve always found that the News Feed ranking system offers people a better, more engaging experience on Facebook. Additionally, given the amount of content in the average News Feed, using a real-time system for content would actually cause Pages’ organic reach to decrease further.
Is Facebook Just Greedy?
No, Boland said. Facebook’s primary goal is to provide its users the best content so they remain active and engaged. Such users are more likely to interact with content from businesses.
The Value Of A Like
Among the strongest complaints from marketers is that Facebook has pulled a bait and switch with Page likes. They paid Facebook to help gain more likes that now seem worthless. Naturally, Boland disagreed:
Fans make your ads more effective. When an ad has social context — in other words, when a person sees their friend likes your business — your ads drive, on average, 50% more recall and 35% higher online sales lift.
Fans also make the ads you run on Facebook more efficient in our ads auction. Ads with social context are a signal of positive quality of the ad, and lead to better auction prices.
You can use insights about your fans — like where they live, and their likes and interests — to inform decisions about reaching your current and prospective customers
Fans can give your business credibility
So, How Should I Use Facebook For My Business?
Publish great content, Boland wrote, content “that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives.” But don’t depend on viral hits because they rarely correspond with a business’s core goals. And supplement the content plan with advertising.
Like TV, search, newspapers, radio and virtually every other marketing platform, Facebook is far more effective when businesses use paid media to help meet their goals. Your business won’t always appear on the first page of a search result unless you’re paying to be part of that space. Similarly, paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content.
Will The Explanation Satisfy Marketers?
It depends. The fact that Facebook decided to post such a detailed response is telling and probably a sign that the issue isn’t going away and the comments on the post are mixed but more negative than positive. Here are two that sum up the two sides.