Reach of Facebook Posts Lose Ground to Facebook Ads

The quality of the content on Facebook Pages barely matters anymore. Bigger Facebook Pages have lost almost all of their capacity to use great content to reach people who have Liked their page. Smaller Pages have also felt the squeeze.

It is simple. If you don’t pay for ads, Facebook won’t allow a Facebook Page to reach its Facebook Fans. They put a very low ceiling on the spread of a post. Other than social media marketers, independent restaurant owners who manage their Facebook Page mostly do not know of this change.

Basic Measures of Quality of Facebook Posts

Let us explain what has happened.

Facebook has had two measures to assess the quality of a Facebook post, found in Facebook’s Insights (see the new Facebook Page Design). First, it was Virality and now it is the Engagement Rate. Both offer approximately the same figure except the Engagement Rate takes into account action such as Clicks or Plays along with Likes, Shares & Comments. Virality is only Likes, Shares & Comments.

You figure out the percentage of each by dividing them by the total reach. They are helpful guides as we look at content quality.

Once you were able to predict the total reach by these measures of popularity and quality (based on Facebook Fans reaction). Not anymore.

Case Study: Post Quality and Reach, Now and Then

Recent Post

Here is a short  case study to show how bad it has become. On a Page with 45,000 Page Likes, we posted some popular content. In this case, the content is a picture with a clever thought.

Though not viral, the post was very popular, especially with the demographic of the client. Here is what happen in the organic phase.

Of the 757 people it reaches (ignore the reach glitch at top of page), 235 people took action on it. That is 31% of those that saw it in their newsfeeds. It is a very high rate and once would have caused near saturation of the entire 45,000 Fans.

Note: Facebook Insights numbers have been all over the place in the last month, but with any calculation the organic engagement rate was double that of the below posts.

Instead, the reach dried up at less than 1,000, at about 3% of the entire Page Like reach.

Past Post #1

Back when there were 25,000 fans, the results were profoundly better, even with content of less quality. In 2013, Facebook rewarded great content and these highly popular posts reached almost 50% of the people who had LIKED the page.

In a past post about celebrities in September 2013, the post received 234 actions (Likes, Comments & Shares) an reached 10,788 people.

The engagement rate was about 6%, which was definitely a successful post. There was no advertising.

Past Post #2

From the same time period in October 2013, another post that was a photo with a clever quote did better engagement wise receiving 506 actions out of 8648 people reached.

The engagement rate here was about 8%, which was also a successful post. There was no advertising.

The difference is dramatic and disappointing as it shows that Facebook does not reward good content from Pages.

New Realities for Facebook Pages

Now, there is a certain max that is very hard to top without paying money. With bigger Facebook Pages, these limits are even more dramatic (by percentage). We have seen this with our client that no matter how good you do, you are limited.

Boosting Posts

We decided to boost the ad from 2 weeks ago with $20, bumping the reach to 3,900 or so. It then received 564 likes/shares/comments and 30 photo views. That is a 15% engagement rate.  But imagine the days when I could have reached 5,000 (or 20%) without paying a dime and with good content, not great.

We have posts back in 2013 with a similar or worse rate of engagement that reached nearly 50% without a dime of advertising (the page was at about 25k last year).

Obviously, this is disappointing and coercive. Facebook presented a choice that will lower the quality of content coming from Facebook Pages overall.

Recommendations for Restaurant Facebook Marketing

The boosting of posts is essential to a powerful Facebook Page presence. Large Pages have no choice and probably do not have the budget to counteract the 80% to 90% decrease in reach for a similar post.

On the other hand, smaller Pages (500-5000 Fans) can make up the difference with $50 to $100 per month deployed wisely (on higher quality posts). Their decrease in reach is more like 50%. All these decreases have an deflationary exponential effect as it isn’t only first degree of separation, but people who like posts their friends like.

We recommend to all restaurants with Facebook marketing to have at least a small budget for Facebook post boosting. It is the only way for your quality posts to reach your customers. And the sad other side of the coin is that poor content can reach similar numbers with the same budget. This is the new world of Facebook marketing.

Image courtesy of  Rasmus Thomsen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net