In the latter half of 2013, Facebook’s organic reach began to decrease resulting in fewer users being exposed to updates from pages they had expressed interest in. The increasing number of business pages and content shared every minute has fuelled Facebook’s recent algorithm change which has come under much criticism. So, what’s changed, why and how might it affect you? We explore in today’s blog.

This update to the algorithm has led to increasing levels of competition for visibility amongst business account users and a decrease in organic reach, much to users’ disappointment. The modification has also caused uproar amongst organisations operating on Facebook branding it “monetisation of the site” with the general consensus being “you’ve got to pay to play”.

However, new research has shown the top 1% of pages still reach 82% of their fans with emphasis now placed on the quality of the content created. The more interactive and engaging the content, the better the user experience – Facebook reaps the rewards too of course!

Facebook speak out...

After thousands of questions regarding the decline in organic reach, Brian Boland, Head of Facebook’s Ads Product Marketing Team, has spoken out to provide educational knowledge and reasoning behind the recent changes.

Why is organic reach declining?

According to Boland, Facebook has seen a decline in organic reach for two reasons. Firstly, as Facebook has grown, smartphones and tablet usage have increased alongside an associated increase in content shared every day. The byproduct of this growth has been less attention from users as a result of limits imposed by Facebook. Secondly, Facebook has made further changes to the ranking algorithm with the aim of exposing users to high quality content and cleaning up spam. The idea behind this change is not to “hide posts” (a common misconception amongst business account users), rather, expose users to content they are likely to engage with regularly. Additionally, in return for delivering well thought out, creative, unique content, Facebook will reward the business with increased levels of organic reach - only fair for putting in so much effort we think.

Real-time content

Facebook has recently come under criticism regarding their ignorance of real-time content considering a number of other social networks operate on real-time content. However, during tests conducted by Facebook, it has been stated that real-time content would actually cause organic reach to decrease further. Boland has stated the main goal of Facebook has remained to provide the best experience to their users, not to monetise the social network, despite the view of many critics.

Value of page Likes and Fans

A few years ago, the main focus of Facebook was to build fans and likes. However, with the algorithm changes, pages with high numbers of likes are irrelevant if investment isn’t made in a clearly defined content strategy. Boland has also stated that nowadays, although fans can help to achieve business objectives, huge numbers of fans should not be the be all and end all.

How should Facebook be used?

A Facebook account which creates great content, i.e. entertains, educates or adds value has the potential to reach high numbers of users in the news feed. However, a key aim should be to reach potential fans and achieve additional business goals through the social network.

Many organisations both large and small have had success on Facebook despite the recent algorithm changes including Secret Escapes, Free the Children and of course the infamous brand that is Coca Cola. For more success stories see here.

Top tips to increase organic reach

It’s not all about “paying to play” and business accounts can be successful on Facebook by following some top tips. Facebook is steering towards a content first strategy therefore high quality, well considered, unique and relevant content will help to increase organic reach by exposing content to those who are interested.

Everything you do should be tied to your brand values/company ethos: it doesn’t matter if the communication does not always directly sell your product/service; the key is to underline an identity. Trying to become the first organisation of reference can often be enough to encourage additional posts to be viewed by interested users.

Develop a content strategy that is engaging and interactive: those with clearly developed social media content strategies are likely to see desired results. Creativity and uniqueness shine through and Facebook will ensure your content stands out above the competition.

Track reach and engagement in real-time: tracking performance afterwards is critical for identifying the type of posts that are engaging your audience however real-time monitoring offers even more insight. If a post is seen to be working well, this can be viewed and actioned in real-time giving an incredible opportunity to promote it further to targeted, interested Facebook users.

Next steps...

After coming under fire from both users and organisations alike, Facebook has justified the recent algorithm change in line with a shift in marketing towards high quality content. Firstly, carry out an analysis into the activities that are welcomed by your desired audience. Secondly, consider where you want to be in the next 3, 6 or 9 months developing a strategy of creative, engaging, unique content relevant to your audience. Third, be ready to adapt - digital provides you with the luxury of being able to be reactive and flexible. Finally, continual measurement is key to discover the most popular and effective content for future success.