To Facebook or not to Facebook, that is the question.

It’s a serious question that any business, marketer etc needs to consider – is Facebook worth our time? Facebook used to be a place where with the right approach, brands etc could make a decent impact without parting with any actual cash. A reasonable amount of people would see your update in their newsfeed – it was nice. Whether that actually achieved anything for the business is another question, and frankly one that the vast majority would struggle to answer, but you at least knew that people would be given the opportunity to see your post.

I’ve got 9% problems…

Rumours started to circulate last year about average organic reach falling to an average of 9% (organic reach is the percentage of your total fans that have your update served to their newsfeed). You could class that as a kick in the teeth. Why did this happened? Well, Facebook will tell you they’re trying to improve the quality of your newsfeed, while others will speculate it’s all about the benjamins – they want you to pay to ‘boost your posts’ in order to increase that reach. Zuck needs more flip-flops.

9% was a blessing

How does 1.5% sound to you? Pretty bad right? Well, in March, Page owners started reporting average reaches of 1.5-2%. We then had the much-publicised Eat24 withdrawal from Facebook, which really brought the issue to the attention of marketers. Since then, there’s been a constant debate questioning the sense in even being present on Facebook without having some budget to pile into post boosting and further advertising.

The end is nigh…

Or is it? Well, Clarion Comms carried out some interesting research in April. They tracked three Pages over three months to see if the reported drop was a reality, granted, three Pages isn’t exactly an all-encompassing study, but at least it gives us something to consider.  Here are the results…


What does this show? Well, two of the brands (it would be nice to at least know what realm these brands are in) are surpassing the 2% by a large margin, while ‘brand 2’ is sitting in between that 2-9% scale. Note that brands 1 & 3 have spent money on advertising, but not promoted posts. I’d wager that their higher reach is a natural product of the fact that their ads are taking their Page to a wider audience, which really should cause an increase in organic actions, which makes me think that’s isn’t a particularly valid metric. A handy bit of data, but far from conclusive.

What about my experience?

At Velocity, we manage a number of Facebook Pages. One of the Pages we were handling (a short-term project) was for a very popular brand in the B2C realm, the updates on the Page used to have a great organic reach (an average of 48% and strong ‘engagement’). The project ended in March this year and I worked out the average reach of the last ten posts we published on their behalf. The average organic reach amounted to 0.3%. Ouch. We hadn’t changed tact as things had been working very well, this drop was very, very sudden, almost overnight. That 0.3% renders organic activity as useless in this case.

So, is it time to abandon Facebook?

The data is inconclusive. If you look at this chart (via Adage), you’ll see that while reach is down, engagement is up…

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 15.02.54

Again, this data isn’t exactly comprehensive in terms of the number of Pages assessed, but it does give some hope that while brands perhaps aren’t reaching as many people, they are creating more ‘engagement’.

Ok Mike, what should we do?

First things first, make sure you are as aware as physically possible as to what your Facebook activity is achieving for your business, client etc. If you don’t have a clear picture of that, you can’t even begin to consider the sanity of my next piece of advice for you.

De-prioritise Facebook

Does that sound crazy? It isn’t. If you used to have actual success via Facebook on an organic level, and that’s no longer the case, then you have to consider its importance in your marketing mix. That sounds rather obvious, but often businesses (and their suppliers) will plough on regardless, which is just plain silly. It may be the case that you’ve placed a lot of emphasis on Facebook and Twitter as part of your social media activity and that’s fine, but can you make better use of your time by dropping Facebook down your pecking-order? Perhaps you can reach similar audiences in one of the other plethora of other social media options out there? Don’t want to remove Facebook from its pedestal? Then, you need to ask yourself…

Can you up your game?

To increase organic reach, you need to be putting out content on your Facebook that people want to get involved with. Is your content good enough? Can it be improved? Monitor, and I mean really monitor the effect of each update – what is creating the biggest reach and engagement? Are you linking back to your site or content within it? What updates are causing the best traffic and what are those people doing when the arrive on your site? Up your game and focus on the wins.

Can you shell out?

If you have budget available to put towards post boosting and wider Facebook advertising, then you can still achieve solid results with a blend of paid and (quality) organic activity. However, and you’ll be sick of hearing this from me, please don’t throw money at it without knowing what it is achieving. We are now advising startups or businesses making their first moves into social that to achieve real impact with Facebook, they have to be willing to spend some money. If they can’t do that, then a realistic outlook of likely Facebook success is required. It may be the case that maintaining simple presence (and monitoring it) is the best approach, without putting blood, sweat and tears into it.

Concluding thought

All is not lost when it comes to Facebook, but people need to be more clear than ever on what they’re trying to achieve with it and be realistic about success and likely growth. Don’t be scared about not being on Facebook, its not a prerequisite.

How is your Facebook Page performing in an organic sense? 

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Images via https://www.flickr.com/photos/eneas/ used under CC and @dshirlaw on Twitter.

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