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The truth about Facebook Organic Reach in 2018

Having recently spent time trawling the web for up to date information on Facebook’s organic reach in 2018, the team and I came away with very little to show for our efforts.

The web is rife with theory, opinion and even conspiracy on where ‘organic’ is headed. But one distinct thing we didn’t stumble across was solid data.

Back in 2014 the online debate was hot. There was a rapid and well-documented downward trend, and brands & businesses were understandably getting quite worried.

Digital planners had no choice but to start moulding their plans around a ‘pay to play’ model. And it seemed like everyone’s favourite ‘king’ aka Content, was about to have his throne auctioned off to the highest CPM bidder.

But as the dust settled the conversation also went quiet, and there really hasn’t been much said about it since.

As a digital agency managing many social media accounts, paid media campaigns and analytics for a diverse pool of clients over the past 5 years, one thing we have no shortage of is data. All kinds of juicy numbers from our work on campaigns with FMCG clients, reality TV shows, e-commerce stores, and much more.

So we decided to make the most of this, and see what kind of insights we could find by looking within. Extracting a collection of Facebook data from one of our longstanding FMCG clients spanning APAC, we analysed over 1,500 organic (ie non-boosted) posts from 2015 through to Q1 of 2018.

All with the intention of answering one important question – does organic reach still exist in 2018?

And here is what the data replied:

What is abundantly clear is that organic reach has continued its steady decline on Facebook over the years – dropping from an average of 5.4% per post down to 1.2% in 2018 across all pages. That’s a total decrease of 450% in 3 years.

But considering the global average in 2014 was as low as 2.11% for brands, and 4 years later several of our best performing pages still remain above 3%, I would hardly consider this catastrophic.

When it came to organic engagement on Facebook, we saw a similar downturn in performance:

Organic post engagement evened out at around 0.6% in 2017. Several of the better performing pages averaged 1% or above, while the poorest performers were at just 0.3%.

One engagement trend that did emerge was in the performance of video vs non-video content – with engagement on videos being 50% higher over the past two years.

OK, so moving along – what comes next?

This is really just the tip of a much bigger iceberg (and something to explore more in future blogs), but there are a few things which are clear from this exercise:

1. Organic Reach on Facebook is NOT dead – Has it dropped significantly over the years? Absolutely. Will it continue to drop in times to come, in the name of User Experience, Newsfeed improvement, and maximised advertising revenues? Quite possibly.

But does organic still exist and carry a value for your brand on Facebook today? Yes, without a doubt.

Paid media is fundamental to the successful execution of a brand strategy, and amplification of the content you develop remains key. But remember, with 1-3% of your most engaged fans still consuming your content irrespective, there is hope for organic content yet.

2. Content is important as ever. But to keep winning, your approach must evolve – Your page and content may not be getting the same kind of organic mileage as it once did on Facebook. But simply cutting the budget, halting the process, and leaving your page to gather dust is unlikely to do you any favours either.

The quantity game on Facebook has come and gone. Saturating the Newsfeed with a continuous stream of content just won’t bring any return for your brand. It may even turn the great Algorithm gods against you. But putting together a few well-thought-out pieces of content with a clear message and purpose makes as much sense as ever.

Spend your efforts developing quality content, with a focus on the formats that we know Facebook favours – video, animation, and other more interactive and immersive formats. Be clear about what message your audience should receive, and what action you want them to take next.

The time has come for Quantity to bow down to Quality.

3. Clearly aligned business & digital objectives are your starting point – A brand’s digital strategy was never meant to exist in isolation from the business plan, and the goals & mission of the brand itself. Before worrying about whether or not organic reach is dead, take a moment to consider why you are even putting content on Facebook to begin with.

Each digital action and investment you make must (directly or indirectly) tie back to a tangible and measurable objective for the business – whether to win customers, sell products, or cultivate market share. By identifying the key drivers and factors for each goal, you should find a clearer understanding of the purpose of digital for your brand.

Once you have this, your digital KPIs and the decisions you make around your Facebook page and content become far more meaningful. It’s no longer about playing the quantity game just to hold people’s attention slightly longer than the rest – each post must be deliver impact, value, and most importantly – inspire action, leading to tangible business results.

Let me wrap things up here.

In 2018, the role of content for the brand will be as great as it’s ever been. As digital platforms and the technology powering them evolve, brands will have little choice but to adapt or become invisible.

As the largest and most all-encompassing communication platform we have, Facebook will remain one of strongest allies your brand has for reaching, engaging and securing customers.

It’s certainly not the only tool in the marketers’ shed, but you can be sure we at Bonsey Jaden will religiously continue seeking out new ways and means of maximising our clients’ investments with a focus on Facebook content and paid advertising.