Recently, while researching Facebook’s new issues with organic reach, I discovered that many organizations have experienced a drastic drop in their organic reach. “According to a Social@Ogilvy report that analyzed over 100 brand pages, Facebook organic reach was around 6% in February, 2014 — a decline of 49% from October. For brands with more than 500,000 likes, the fall-off was much steeper, with reach dropping to about 2%. Facebook has told marketers that they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery” of their messages in news feed. Translation: You must pay to play” (Dryer, n.d.).
In short, Facebook is looking to organizations to pay for content distribution if they wish to remain seen on the walls of their fan base. However, Facebook isn’t completely blind to the importance of great content. By their own admittance, Facebook’s ultimate responsibility is in keeping their billion plus members happy and, in order to keep them happy, Facebook relies on engaging content, created by the millions of brand pages, to be shared by their users.
With that being said, I firmly believe that paying for reach is not the only way that organizations can continue to reach new and existing Facebook fans. Facebook still measures engaging content as a factor in whether or not your organizations content is shown on a Facebook users wall/news feed. Since organic reach relies, mainly, on word-of-mouth marketing, the more content likes, comments, and shares an organizations status, story, or picture receives, the more chances that an organizations content will appear on a Facebook users news feed.
It’s not enough that an organization create content. It’s not enough that some readers like reading your content. The key to attracting users to your page is to keep the readers so engaged that they not only want to spend the majority of their social networking time on Facebook, but that they want to spend their precious social media free time on your site and sharing what they see with others. This is how you begin to build organic reach.
#1. Boost Engagement
Engagement is the most important factor in building and maintaining a successful social media relationship with fans and, if an organization is not interacting with their fans, someone else will. So, how can your organization be more engaging? Don’t just share content, ask your fans questions, post fan polls, respond to comments and messages, and encourage fans to share your content and share content with you.
Creating an ongoing dialog between the organization and your current fan base. “How you interact with your targeted audience is at the heart of social media engagement. The higher the frequency and quality of these interactions will not only develop a better relationship between brand and consumer, but will also get you higher visibility on search results as will be explained later. The key principle to remember here is that social media engagement is interaction, and interaction signifies a two-way communication – a fact traditional advertising is not capable of” (Gregorio, n.d.).
#2. Online Chat Event
Although Facebook now frowns upon sending out mass messages to users, Facebook does provide users with chatroom services and event postings that can be directed at your fan base. Schedule an online chat event, wherein; your organization can invite your sites entire fan base to a chat forum on a specified date and time. This will allow your organization to reach a majority of their fans in real-time and in one central location. Fans can express what they would like to see on your Facebook page and it offers your organization the chance to build a stronger relationship with your fans.
#3 Optimal Posting Times
Another surefire way to make sure your content is being read by your audience is to post at the most optimal times so that your content is seen by the most people. “A Facebook brand post will get half of its reach in the 30 minutes after it is published, according to updated data provided to MarketingCharts by Socialbakers. Socialbakers analyzed a select group of brand posts published on October 31st, finding that an average of one-third of post reach was obtained in just the first 10 minutes after publication” (Marketing Charts, 2012). Check your own Facebook Analytics to see when your current fan base is most active on your page and post content accordingly.
#4 Reduce Frequency of Posts
A recent 32 page report by Buddy Media analyzed engagement on over 1,800 top brand Facebook pages and found that posting too many post during the week could actually lower your engagement factor. “Think posting often is the key to gaining Facebook engagement? As long as you don’t exceed more than 7 posts a week and 1-2 times a day. “Brands that post one or two times per day see 19% higher interaction rates than those who post 3x per day. The key is not to bombard fans with too many posts, as Facebook News Feed Optimization often penalizes for this.” Additionally, brands posting more than seven times a week on Facebook saw a 25% decrease in interaction rates” (Vertical Response , 2013). My advice? Reduce the amount of posts to no more than 3 times a day and utilize the 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. window for optimal viewership.
#5 Use More Photos or More Links?
One great suggestion comes from Social Media Examiner (2013). They advise organizations to post pictures on Facebook and ask fans to caption the pictures. They point out that a photo caption combines the appeal of photos with people’s love of interacting with the brands they identify with. “Think about the emotion you want to trigger and choose an image that makes participating irresistible. Upload your image and write a short description that invites fans to provide a caption” (Bunskoek, 2013).
According to Social Bakers, engagement correlates with reach and 85% of the most engaging posts on Facebook, in 2013, were photos. “Most brands on Facebook choose to publish photos (they constitute 53% of all posted unpaid content), links (21%) and updates (15%), which has proven to be an effective practice to generate the most interactions (Likes, Comments and Shares) and reflects the most engaging content. When gathering the most engaging (unpaid) posts during Q3, we found that 85% of them were photos, 7% links, 5% status updates and 3% were videos” (Socialbakers, 2013).
If your organizations use of Facebook is to bring attention to your website, using links seems to be the best way to go about driving clicks to your website. However, if your organizations goal is to grow their Facebook followers through organic search/reach, then posting photo’s seems like the ideal way to realize this goal.
#6 Utilize Fan Mentions
Another important engagement tool on social media is mentioning ones fans. Think about how great it makes you feel when someone shares your content. Each and every one of us likes to be recognized for contributing something positive. Thank your fans for following your page, create a fan-of-the-week post, and/or highlight a great comment a fan may have made on a recent post. The fans who are mentioned will most likely share the mention on their own page which will then be seen by their own friends and family and ultimately lead to greater reach.
#7 Utilize Hashtags
Another suggestion for expanding an organizations organic reach is utilizing hashtags whenever possible. Facebook has recently started highlighting trending stories on the wall of Facebook users. These stories highlight topics and the hashtags connected to these trends and, if your content contains one of these trending hashtags, most likely the story will be highlighted in the trending menu. “As hashtags gain momentum on Facebook (they’ve been in use on other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+), they’ll help you expand your reach to people who are looking at posts in your topic. Hashtags have been a great way to help people interested in niche topics find each other and find the conversation. By including a hashtag in your post, you can possibly get in front of people who may not have seen your post otherwise. But you’ll have to monitor this in your Facebook Insights. Make sure you watch your Reach and Engagement Numbers to see if your hashtags are making a difference in your posts” (Vahl, 2013).
It’s no secret that Facebook is leaning more towards paid search over organic search/reach. But the thing to remember is that Facebook does place importance on organic reach when the content is engaging. Engaging fans is the most important factor in boosting the popularity of any organizations organic reach. Cultivating organic reach means that you must create a more engaged fan which, in turn, will lead to shared content and additional fan growth. If your content is being read and shared by the Facebook community, Facebook algorithms will pick up on this and boost your organizations posts through organic reach without the need for paid advertising.
Gloria Husk, M.S., Integrated Marketing Communications
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