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What’s in Store for Organic Reach?

When  Facebook launched its Fan Pages (now referred to as brand pages or just Pages) in 2007, brands, publishers and businesses were quick to jump into the mix. Since then, many companies have had success building large followings and engaging within the space through the use of brand pages.
In December 2013, Facebook  published a blog post revealing a slightly new algorithm for its news feed. The platform decided to make changes, putting more emphasis on “high-quality” stories and “bumping up posts with new comments”. In part, this means that fans who previously “Liked” certain brand pages wouldn’t necessarily see those updates in their news feed, unless those updates had many comments. While personal users may not necessarily notice a difference, social media managers who represent brands on Facebook have begun to worry.
In a review of 689 posts across 21 brand pages,  Ignite Social Media found that in the week since the algorithm tweak,  organic reach and organic reach percentage had each declined by 44 percent on average. This has many page managers and social media marketers wondering if their current posting strategy on Facebook is no longer working. Further,  many are speculating that this move by Facebook is simply a clever ruse used to disguise the real motive: more ad dollars.
“Some people, particularly Facebook, seem to be saying that brands should just be comfortable with paying,” said  Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media. “But I think brands need to take a step back and look at the value proposition that Facebook offered. When it was roughly 16 percent organic reach plus an ad budget, it made for a very compelling overall value proposition. But if it’s only five percent organic plus paid, now you’re basically paying for ad space. So each brand should re-evaluate if those ads are delivering to their value.”
Tobin said he believes brands and marketers are too focused on Facebook as a promotional tool, and suggests brands focus on creating quality content that can be shared on many different platforms and that resonates across communities. While paid content is becoming commonplace among social media channels, there needs to be a balance.
“Instagram is already easing into it and Twitter is—fairly cleverly—more actively monetizing,” he said. “The difference is that neither has restricted their feeds to do it. One of the biggest challenges for Facebook right now is that it feels like people aren’t sharing much content. The user experience is getting boring, which is why teens are leaving and others are checking less often. If they fixed that, things would be better for Facebook and they’d have room for more ad impressions.”

Samantha Hosenkamp
, social media director at  Ragan Communications, said she has not seen a negative impact on the company since the algorithm update. PR Daily, Ragan’s daily news site for PR and media professionals, has not yet used sponsored advertising on Facebook, but she believes Facebook has a right to jockey for additional revenue.
“Facebook is, ultimately, a business,” she said. “Paying for ads to get the kind of reach one had prior to the changes Facebook has made may seem unfair, but hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While our reach has gone down, our strategy of sharing great, timely content, asking thought-provoking questions and sharing insights with our audience has kept comments, likes and shares flowing. And our traffic to our website keeps increasing from Facebook.”
But for those who have noticed a decline in organic reach, there are options. On Jan. 21, 2013 Chris Turitzin, Facebook’s product manager of news feed ranking,  published a blog post revealing another tweak to the algorithm. Text status updates from brands—posting an update with the link embedded into the post—will see a decrease in viewers. However, Turitzin suggests companies post updates using link-shares to see more engagement and thus an increase in organic reach. A link-share status update is already the default setting in Facebook, meaning when a community manager posts a link, the article and photo to the post will pop up.
Brand managers and companies can also look into paid content as a part of their social media strategy as a whole. And paid or unpaid, social media managers are now learning to focus on how their audience reacts to the content they share, instead of worrying about fan views, Tobin said.
“Paid should be part of the mix,” he said. “Over the last couple of years, however, for too many brands, they relied on paid to buy bad fans, or to boost bad content. That doesn’t help anyone.”

About Gina Joseph

Gina Joseph is a features writer for Cision Blog, and is also the digital engagement manager for Cision’s marketing department. She’s a book nerd, Detroit sports enthusiast, lover of cats, lifelong Phil Collins fan, and budding snowboarder. Find her on Twitter @gmg912.

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