Coming clean on Facebook reach

facebook reach

Is there any greater source of emotional debate and mis-information on the web today than Facebook reach?

I recently had a little debate on this subject with a person who wrote a glowing article on the promise of Facebook reach — despite what appears to be pretty bad news in this corner of the web.

I challenged him — Why write an article that seems to be so counter to the facts? “I’m tired of so much negativity about Facebook,” he said. “I wanted spin the facts in a more positive way.”

With so much at stake and so much mythology out there, it is certainly difficult to know who to believe or what to believe any more …. and we certainly do not need to be “spinning the facts.”

Part of the reason for so much confusion is that the truth is hard to come by. The real numbers are hidden behind company administrative accounts. There are only a few companies in the world with access to enough of these Facebook pages to make a meaningful statement about the true nature of Facebook reach.

The truth about Facebook reach

One of these rare companies is AgoraPulse, and my friend Emeric Ernoult The company’s founder) was kind enough to share his raw data with Tom Webster and I to dissect on our latest episode of The Marketing Companion podcast. We were able to dive into the numbers behind 8,000 Facebook pages over the past 12 months and we found some surprising facts:

  • More than 70 percent of all companies across 104 industry designations had a decline in organic reach of 30 percent or more in the past year. I think it is accurate to say the decline in Facebook reach has been incredibly steep and rapid.
  • While Facebook brand pages reach an average of 6 percent of their fans, there is wide variation by company and industry. The declines ranged as low as 1 percent to as high as 65 percent
  • Only 6 percent of the industry categories have seen Facebook organic reach grow or remain steady in the past 12 months.
  • There is definitely a “hierarchy of conversation” among brands that leads to higher Facebook reach. Certain types of companies are just more conversational, leading to better reach. For example, nearly 550 pages consistently still have organic reach of 40 percent or more. Media companies and sports-related brands top the list.

This last point was especially interesting to Tom and I and one of the things we discussed on the podcast was the concept of using the data as a predictive model — Could you guide a Facebook strategy based on a number that indicates potential engagement level?  Let’s look at some of the numbers:

high facebook reach


low facebook reach

The decline in organic reach was steeper and more rapid than I expected. No wonder marketing strategies are in turmoil if organic reach has declined 30 percent or more for some companies in such a short period of time:

facebook reach 3

What’s the recipe for higher organic reach?

AgoraPulse gets to see more Facebook success stories than almost any company out there. So what is the key to success? The company’s founder Emeric Ernoult shared these tips:

“As with everything in the online world, there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe. But to help focus on some success themes, I’ve hand-picked four Facebook pages that are doing extremely well and enjoying an average post reach above 50 percent of their fan base. Let’s learn from them.”

Animals Australia

OK, granted, this non-profit is about protecting animals and people love visuals of animals (and love their pets!). But they don’t only post good looking puppies, they also post a lot of very interesting content relating to their cause. You’re in the animals business? Facebook will make you happy.

The Daily Muse

Career advice? Yes, the Muse is a real business with a real business model (selling job postings to employers) but they also have so much content (very helpful and insightful content!) that their fans are engaged way above average.

Super Chevy Mag

Car lovers love to share their passion. And they usually love to read magazines that focus on that passion. Having a Facebook page for such a magazine cannot be a bad idea.


Maxxess is a French e-commerce site selling motorbike accessories. There is no doubt that motorbike owners are very passionate about their bike and the biking lifestyle. If you sell stuff to people who have a passion, Facebook is a must.Episode 31

What do these 4 pages have in common:

  • They target an audience with a strong passion
  • They publish very good content (at least, very good for their target audience)
  • They publish very consistently (at least once a day, often more)
  • They get a LOT of shares (thanks to the 3 points above), and shares are what offers the highest level of “viral” visibility for a page’s content.

I’m sure you’ll agree this is pretty interesting stuff but to get the inside scoop, you’ll want to check out our new podcast, which also covers a hilarious new social media app called “Get a Room!”  Check it out:

Or Click on this link to listen to Episode 31

Other Ways to Listen to this Podcast:

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  • Unique data set on reach by industry and able to draw some insightful implications. Perhaps there is a follow up marketing discussion on how you create a passionate following, especially through using social media so you can have high reach on FB.

  • For me and some of the Facebook pages I manage and run, I’ve found that it really does help on the type of post you put out there for your fans/followers.

    For my entertainment page it can be really hit or miss on the reach with posts. We seem to notice however, when we hit on fresh new topics earlier on in the news timeline then we have more people share, like and comment on it.

    I run a couple of other business pages and it seems according to the numbers that the fans seem to like posts more that have information or fun facts, either about the business or even totally random things.

    With Facebook it’s a constant hit and miss with what is and is not working at any given time. Trail and error. You just need to keep up to date on what is going on and then use it to your advantage.

  • Justin Lawhead

    The Daily Muse content is strong and use it for a class, presentations and to share with students via social meida.

  • Brooke Ballard

    Hey, Mark! Thanks for the shout out during the podcast. 🙂

    I think I heard you guys say “conversation” 20+ times. And to me, that’s a BIG part of what it’s all about. Ask questions. Tell stories (that elicit a response). Include emotion as a way to get emotion back. Basically it’s the opposite of what many brands do online (and off) – which is to say they’re constantly slinging a robotic push of useless information or sales pitches.

  • Seems to me so much has been written about that already. I usually like to go to new places on this blog but maybe I need to get into that. Thanks Jason.

  • Very true. What I like about this data set is that it tracks pages for an entire year so you can start to see some trends instead of short-term lifts from certain content or seasonality. Thanks for commenting Barry!

  • Very true Brooke. Glad you enjoyed the podcast!

  • Is this where I sign up for the “Get a Room!” app? 🙂
    Just looked at my Facebook feed and need one now!

    The Marketing Companion is one of very few podcasts that I wish I could listen to every day. If you and Tom weren’t such slackers, I could.

    It’s the perfect mix of high value content delivered in a highly entertaining way. (This is not surprising having seen you give a presentation.)
    Big take-away this week:
    Target your content to people who are passionate about your product niche and give them “something to talk about.”

  • That’s kind of you, Ray! Mark and I often talk about whether we could, or even should, do the show more frequently. I guess for us it’s not only about our time constraints, but also the fact that we both look forward to doing the show so much that it’s a joy. I think the gap between shows helps to maintain that joy 🙂

    Anyway, if you compare how much content Mark creates with how much I create, it’s pretty clear who the slacker is in this mix 😉

  • It’s like Christmas, Tom. Wouldn’t be the same if it happened every month. 😉

  • SimplySocialMedia

    I can guarantee my 2nd amendment retail clients have even worse reach.

  • No question. Get a room! Still laughing about the guest appearance from Plankton.

  • Thanks for the very kind words Ray. Thank you for listening!

  • Never seen SpongeBob. Will have to close the blinds, turn off the lights and catch up on episodes. 😉

  • Really interesting. We handle a fair amount of Facebook pages and we’ve had the chance to visit a ton of their statistics over the last few months, and we saw a steady decline in most pages – both in terms of content and engagement. It’s fairly unfortunate, but I think for anyone coming into the industry at this stage, setting up a page in 2014, the biggest piece of advice I can give them is to not run Facebook Page Like Ads.

    i’ve noticed that while they will get your numbers up, you’ll grow to a community of 10,000 or more based on how much you spend, your reach will… stay horribly low. People organically liking your page, people liking the page because a friend shared some content from it, because you saw a post – those are indicators to Facebook’s algorithm that this page has good content. I’ve noticed with a ton of pages that have not paid for like ads have got a very healthy engagement rate as well as reach.

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  • Joyce

    I agree with the assessment of Facebook Ads. My unscientific observations are based solely on being the administrator of two pages – one for a small business and one for a community based non-profit. To increase followers for the non-profit, we ran ads and boosted posts. The ads and boosts were very successful, but I noticed after the algorithm changed, unboosted posts reached a smaller percentage of followers than on the business page. Recently I boosted some posts on the business page and I’ve now noticed a drop in the percentage of followers reached.

    I think once you demonstrate to FB you’re willing to spend money, they decrease the percentage of followers reached to motivate you to spend more.

  • It’s Really intresting to know that. The Facebook shows what people wants to see or know about. There is nothing much we can do about Organic reach. As long as you have good content and a good audience for the content. It goes viral and the rest categories ” tyaann tyaann Fish “.
    So anyone got any suggestion for that ??

    Cause I’ve been working for a Medical Center Facebook marketing. Every time I post something related to Health. There are no much reach or response. So what i started to do is sharing some Australia Animals posts and surprisingly the post reached like Zebra to The Top of the Tree.

  • Had the same even worse experience.

    I’d suggest try to reach as many as people by posting some content that have good reach. Get the followers as much as you can.

  • Emeric

    Thanks @markwilliamschaefer:disqus, your article is very clear and balanced. The podcast is loaded on my iPhone and scheduled for my subway ride tonight 🙂 And yes, my vacation in Greece was a blast, but I’m back to work and will respond to comments now 😉

  • Emeric

    Thanks for that feedback @beta21:disqus, we’ve seen good results on page like ads, and our friend Jon Loomer did too, as long as you stick with website retargeting. Were your page like ads based on a website retargeting list?

  • Emeric

    Thanks for commenting Ray! I am a huge fan of the podcast as well, I’ve never missed an episode. I think @markwilliamschaefer:disqus and @tomwebster:disqus are the best podcast couple out there 😉
    However, I’m still waiting for my Google pants…

  • Emeric

    Thanks for commenting @barryricks:disqus! You’re absolutely right, like with anything online marketing, trial and errors, and more trials is the key. No one has the answer to everybody, or every type of business. There are some general rules, like “don’t sell”, “be consistent”, etc., but beyond that, what works and what doesn’t is something we all need to uncover for ourselves.
    I would humbly admit that we’re trialing and testing our own social media strategy all the time and do not consider “we’ve nailed it” yet…

  • Emeric

    That’s a great point @jasonjue:disqus! One example I like to use is the one of Groove, a support ticket management app. This company came late in a market already crowded with competitors. From the outside, one would have thought that they didn’t stand a chance to emerge and succeed. But they started a very smart content strategy by launching a blog about their journey as a saas startup and focused all their content around their trials, errors, successes, problems, how they made thing happen, etc. Über transparent, like Buffer. After little more than a year, they have a highly engaged community on their blog and people read each of their blog post religiously. It has nothing to do with what they sell (support app) but a lot to do with what their target audience care about (how to make my online business more succesful).
    It’s not Facebook related, it’s content related, but the rationale is the same.

  • Emeric, thanks. this is a good idea which we thought about trying. Gives me more motivations to execute it. How did they get noticeable quick wins? Any other companies who did something similar?

  • Keep on, Keeping on!

  • We are back-ordered. Or something like that.

  • That makes sense but it is kind of disturbing at the same time, isn’t it?

  • Bit late to this discussion but curious why “Building Materials” and “Farming/Agriculture” are industry categories with high Facebook reach. I can see why sports and the other categories might attract organic attention but those 2 sectors don’t seem obvious – perhaps there was a very small number of companies sampled in those categories?

  • Thanks so much for reading my blog and taking the time to comment sir.

  • Farming/ag was 6 companies. Building materials = 4. Not huge populations but not insignificant either. I had wondered the same thing so thanks for asking the question Martin.

  • I’m obviously very far behind for the week, but had to listen and LOL. Loved the “get a room” app and am grateful for so much solid advice. As someone who interacts on FB as an author, I have observed the fall of engagement for my book-type posts. I try to be careful about not over-promoting, but I do have some brand engagement. Very frustrating.

  • Joyce

    Yes – it’s very disturbing. It would be interesting if someone could design a study to test this hypothesis.

  • Hey @disqus_a6LgXoOOIo:disqus, it was a mixture. Some was targeted to fans of other pages, some were targeted using custom audiences. 🙂

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  • @jasonjue:disqus, Buffer is the one that comes to mind immediately. About their quick wins, I remember that they wrote a blog post about that, you should definitely check their blog:

  • Emeric

    In my experience, targeting fans of other pages with a “page like” ad does very poorly. Retargeting your website audience is what works best.

  • Emeric

    Hmmm @businessesgrow:disqus, maybe I’ll wait until you release the new Google thong…

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  • Lindsay

    Hi there – reading these comments and guessing you guys haven’t seen the hypothesis formed by Veritasium?

    I think he is very on the mark with possible issues that arise from buying your likes on Facebook.

    You may be buying people from click farms. But I think what is even more likely is that you may also be buying people who aren’t genuinely interested in your content. You end up generating a fan base of people who didn’t like your page because they saw a great post they liked and clicked to become a fan, but instead just a bunch of people who clicked a like ad.

    When your content comes up in their Newsfeed after they’ve liked the page, it might not be of interest to them and they never engage, reducing the odds they’ll ever see a post from you again…and from there, your organic reach % tanks

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  • Annalise Kaylor

    I’m coming into this a bit late, having just seen Mark’s tweet re-promoting this post. One of the most effective techniques I’ve found for increasing Page Likes is to not focus on them at all in ads. I work in travel and entertainment, undoubtedly two highly competitive and saturated verticals.

    Instead of focusing on likes, I’ve found tremendous results in running page post engagement ads. When the ad is engaging and served up to a highly qualified (read: typically under 10k audience size, but the core of our target market) group, I get the “likes, shares, comments” I want, but our Page likes jump considerably alongside – and even better, I’m only paying for the one action (not engagement AND a like).

    Further, I can usually see results for under .09 per click (FB click, or less than .18 to a website). For our niches, it’s almost impossible to get people to various websites for that cheap; it’s simply too competitive.

    All of that said, I think a lot of businesses fail to understand that writing a post is not the same as writing an ad. It’s a subtly different art, and our team usually writes no fewer than three different pieces of copy to go with three images. Then we test them, and funnel the spend to the highest performing ads as a whole.

    You don’t need to “beat” an algorithm – you need to impress it.

  • Emeric

    Thanks for that feedback @annalise_kaylor:disqus, very interesting! Good tactic, definitely worth trying. I hope you’re doing great 🙂

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  • I would think that the category of Building Materials features a lot of DIY tips, and possible nice photos of aspirational homes.

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