I know you’ve noticed it…
Over time, your Facebook page’s reach has continuously gone down.
It’s not just in your head.
In just a few years, the organic reach of Facebook pages has plummeted:
And the stock price of Facebook just continues to go up.
Is it a conspiracy?
Decrease the organic reach in order to force businesses to pay for exposure?
Maybe a little bit, but there’s more to it than you might first think.
And while it’s obviously a bad thing to lose some of the reach, it’s not as bad as the numbers might make you think.
The current situation: Right now, the average page has an organic reach of about 6%.
The key word there is average.
Some pages get much more, some get much less.
Obviously, you want to reach as many of your fans as possible, so you want your page to be on the upper end.
And I can show you how to do that.
There are five main ways that you can improve your Facebook page’s reach.
I’m going to simplify them and walk you through the ways you can implement them to drive more traffic to your website and sales through Facebook.
What is your Facebook page’s reach based on?
Before you can attempt to increase your page’s reach, you need to understand what your organic reach is based on.
First, why do you think Facebook limits the organic reach of pages? Why not allow all users who have liked a page to see every single post?
There are two main reasons why Facebook limits organic reach.
The first we already looked at: it can help Facebook make more money because businesses with poor page reach will spend more on promoting posts through Facebook ads.
The second one is much more interesting to you and me.
Facebook wants to create a good user experience for everyone using the network.
What this means is every user needs just the right amount of new content in their feeds— not too much and not too little.
Too much, and they’ll miss important things. Too little, and they have less of a reason to return to Facebook.
As more and more brands hopped on Facebook, feeds started to get crowded.
By reducing the reach of pages, Facebook made sure feeds stayed within an optimal range.
This is going to be important throughout this article, so keep it in mind.
How reach is determined: Back in 2010, Facebook revealed the primary components of “Edgerank.”
- Affinity Score
- Edge Weight
- Time Decay
At the time, Facebook used these three factors to determine whether a post should be shown to a user or not.
The higher the score, the more likely it was to be shown.
Say, 100 posts competed to be shown to a user who just loaded their news feed.
The posts with the highest scores would be displayed first. This means that if your page’s post isn’t in the top 20% or so, it’s unlikely to be seen.
Since then, the algorithm has grown to be much more complicated. It includes hundreds of factors now.
However, those main parts of the algorithm remain the same, with a few tweaks and additions.
All in all, the organic reach of one of your posts (calculated on a post-by-post basis) is determined by five main factors.
Factor #1 – A user’s previous interactions with page: If a user likes, comments, or clicks on every link each time you post on your page, it’s safe to say that this user loves seeing your content.
Therefore, Facebook needs to consider how a user has interacted with your posts in the past.
If they haven’t interacted with them often, your posts’ scores will suffer.
This isn’t perfect, but Facebook considers it a good indication of content worth.
Factor #2 – A user’s previous interactions with post type: In addition to preferring content from certain pages, users might also prefer certain types of posts.
If someone prefers videos, based on their past behavior on Facebook, videos that you post will get a higher score.
Factor #3 – The interactions from other users who saw the post: When you post something new on your page, Facebook shows it to a small group of people (maybe 25-100).
Then, if those users like the post (overall), it will give your post a higher score and show it to more of your audience.
Many businesses complain about having a poor reach while posting boring things. So even though they reach a small initial following, it never goes any farther because of this factor.
This feature can actually be really good for you.
If you see that certain types of posts or topics get a wide reach, you can post more of them.
Factor #4 – Any complaints or negative feedback: This ties into factor #3. When Facebook shows a user a post, the user always has the option to report the post (for inappropriate content) or say that they don’t want to see it.
For that particular user, Facebook will remember that in the future. They likely won’t see much more from your page.
In addition, if a new post gets a significant amount of overall negative feedback, its score is going to be lowered, and its reach will be low.
Factor #5 – When it was posted: Finally, this simple factor comes from the “time decay” component of the algorithm.
When a post is brand new, it’s likely going to be the most interesting that it’s ever going to be. Over time, the score of a post goes down as it gets older.
There’s no way to manipulate this factor; just be aware of it.
1. The best time to post probably isn’t what you thought…
Picking the right time to post on your page isn’t going to take your reach from low to high, but it can boost your reach by a few percent in some cases.
On most social networks, it makes sense to post when most of your followers are active on the site.
For Facebook, this is often not the case. Posting at peak times usually results in a lower organic reach.
Why does this happen?
During peak times, the largest number of your followers are likely online (it differs for some pages).
All the other pages that those followers “like” are also posting around that time, meaning that there is a lot of competition for news feed real estate.
If your content is consistently amazing and you’re beating all your competitors, this isn’t an issue. But that’s extremely rare and not even always possible depending on what niche you’re in.
So, when should you post? The first thing I recommend is checking your page’s analytics to see when your fans are online:
Facebook is nice enough to provide this data for all page owners.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to pinpoint which time will be the best without experimenting.
So for now, note down a few times:
- the peak time(s)
- the valley time (lowest point)
- the time in-between the valley and peak
This will leave you with 4 to 5 different times.
For the 40 to 50 posts you make (a few weeks to a month), post at different times (randomly) until you have at least 10 for each of these time periods.
At the end, average the reach you get from each time, and then post at the best time on a regular basis.
You can also continue to test times around your winning time to see if there’s an even better option (but the difference will usually be small).
Why non-peak times are usually the best: If you really want to save time on testing, it’s pretty safe to skip the peak times.
There are two main factors for this.
First is the competition. Fewer pages post during off-peak times, so you have fewer posts to compete against.
I’d rather reach a large portion of a small audience than a small portion of a large audience.
Secondly, just because you’re not posting during the peak time doesn’t mean your post won’t be visible at that time.
In fact, it can do better.
Posting before the peak time gives your initial small audience the chance to interact with your post. This gives your post the chance to get a higher score in the algorithm.
With this momentum, it’s more likely that your post will have a high enough score to top news feeds of users during the peak time.
2. Followers love one type of content in particular
I’ve said it loudly before:
people love transparency.
Yes, there are a few rules to using transparency effectively, but overall, showing your audience what’s going on behind the scenes is incredibly useful.
It’s more interesting and often more educating than regular content, which is why transparency is powerful.
But how can you be transparent on Facebook to increase your organic reach?
Here’s the general plan:
- post something personal, real, and interesting (transparent)
- get more likes, comments, shares (engagement) than usual
- that specific post will have a large reach
- that score will contribute to the scores of future posts, giving future content a larger reach than normal
This is why you should be regularly sharing transparent content since it has the most reach by far.
Buffer shared a great data-driven case study on this. They shared several pictures over the course of a few weeks from a trip to South Africa:
This is definitely transparent content. They’re sharing with their followers something personal about the people behind their business.
But it’s not even about social media—their main topic!
So, did this content have a good reach?
You bet. Buffer shared their results over that two-week period. As you can see, five of their top seven posts (in terms of reach) were about their trip (marked in orange):
This data shows you that reach is not always just about clicks and other forms of engagement although they are big factors. The second best performing post, for example, had a fraction of the clicks of the best post.
Transparent posts tend to perform better on all those other factors that determine your post’s overall score.
Example #2 – Don’t be afraid to show your face: Your followers want to know who the people behind your brand are.
The days of hiding behind a business name are gone as information about people behind companies can be sourced from a simple Google search.
But instead of making your followers hunt you down, give them what they’re looking for. It helps to build trust and relationships.
The best marketers today know this.
They share photos and videos that feature them so that followers can really connect with them.
A great example is Marie Forleo, who often shares videos on her page:
No surprise, these posts get hundreds of likes and shares and tons of comments.
Example #3 – Go behind the scenes at an event: Another way transparent content can be useful is if it reveals something exclusive.
Followers value unique content above all else, so when you reveal your personal processes or results of experiments, you give them something that no one can offer (because it’s specific to you).
As you can see, it got 11 likes.
And while that’s not particularly impressive, it is when you consider that the page usually gets 2-3 likes on a post.
As I mentioned earlier, improving the organic reach of individual posts on a regular basis (through transparency) can lead to long-term results. The key is being consistent with posting transparent content.
3. Use these 3 ways to encourage more interaction on your posts
Several factors that determine the reach of your posts are based on engagement.
To Facebook, if people like a post, they will interact with it in some way, whether that’s a “like,” share, or comment (or link click if an option).
It follows that if you increase the amount of engagement you get on your posts, you’ll increase your reach.
Ideally, you want to increase engagement on all posts, but even if it’s just every other post, it will still have a large overall effect on your organic reach.
There are three fairly easy ways to instantly start getting more interaction on posts.
Way #1 – Ask questions: One of the main reasons why people don’t contribute themselves, whether it’s on Facebook, your blog, or any other site, is because they don’t think their voices matter.
There’s a disconnect between what you think and what a huge portion of your fans think.
You love when you get comments and questions. It gives you a chance to interact with your followers on a more personal level and provide more value.
But the average follower thinks that you are some guru behind a business who doesn’t care about them.
Show that you care. One way to do that is to ask for their opinions.
Buffer regularly does this on their Facebook page, always generating several comments:
According to numbers published by Buffer, questions always reach an above average portion of their audience:
The key is to ask the right kinds of questions.
Don’t ask a general question like:
What’s the best social media tool?
It doesn’t work well because it addresses a crowd in general.
Additionally, it’s hard to answer. Who really knows what the best tool is? No one wants to look wrong on social media.
Instead, focus the question on something personal that only each user can answer. For example:
What’s your favorite social media tool?
Here, you’re asking for a personal opinion. Opinions can’t be wrong, so people are more likely to comment.
Also, you’re asking a personal question. Always include the words “you” or “your.” You want your readers to know that you care about what they think.
Bonus tip: Do this in any content even if it’s not on social media. I’ve written “you” or “your” over 100 times so far in this post.
Way #2 – Respond to comments: There’s something I often see that drives me absolutely nuts…
A business or marketer goes to all the trouble of creating good content and building a following on social media.
After a lot of consistent hard work, they start to get a comment on their posts here and there.
They don’t even bother to respond to the comment.
That commenter was probably one of your most loyal fans just trying to connect with you. By not replying, you’re basically telling them that they’re not worth your time.
They won’t be commenting again in most cases.
Not only that, but if other users see that you don’t respond to comments, why would they bother spending time and energy to leave one?
You can’t wait until you start getting several comments to start interacting.
Take any chance you get, and do your best to reply to every single comment:
I get it, you’re busy. But so am I, and I find the time to reply to hundreds of comments a day.
They may not all be lengthy, in-depth responses, but they’re something to show that I care about those who read my content and try to contribute.
Bonus tip: Try to tag people in your comments, which will give them a notification. They will be more likely to come back and continue the conversation.
Way #3 – Fill in the _____ (blank): Don’t be afraid to get creative with your posts to encourage engagement.
Instead of just asking questions, ask people to fill in the blank, for example.
For instance, you could post:
This Christmas, I want to get _______
Holiday-themed fill-in-the-blanks posts often perform best because there are a lot of emotions associated with holidays.
4. Organic post targeting can take your engagement to a new level
I understand that it’s frustrating to see your organic reach dropping.
It’s easy to say “screw Facebook” and move on.
However, I think that’s a waste of a great opportunity, at least for now.
And while the changes may have hurt some businesses, Facebook has also released a few tools that can help you combat the negative results.
The most important of which is organic post targeting.
What organic post targeting allows you to do is choose to what part of your audience you want to show your post.
This is incredibly useful, especially if you have a fairly large audience.
When you can target a post to the most interested segment of your followers, it will naturally get a higher engagement reach. This leads to a higher overall organic reach immediately—and later, for future posts.
You target audiences when you run paid advertising because you don’t want to show offers to people who aren’t interested in them.
It’s a similar thing here.
If I’m promoting a post on the topic of social media, not everyone in my audience might care. But those who have demonstrated an interest in social media in some way (on Facebook) likely will.
The bigger your audience, the more it’s divided.
How to do it: Organic post targeting is really easy to do although it’ll take a bit of practice to figure out which targeting settings work best.
Start by going into your general page settings, and check the box to allow “targeting and privacy for posts.”
Now, when you go to post something on your page, you’ll see a little target icon on the bottom row of icons:
Click it, and it will let you pick from several different targeting options.
Depending on your pick, it should bring up a pop-up where you can enter your preferences:
Notice that as you add more targeting preferences, the “Targeted to” number changes.
Be careful not to target too obscure of an audience, or not enough people will see it. Keep your target audience as large as possible, as long as it’s composed of people you think will be highly interested in your post.
Let’s go through a few examples of targeting…
- Example post: “7 Ways to put on makeup better”
- Good targeting settings: Gender: Female; Age: Under 60
- Example post: “7 Ways get more shares on Facebook”
- Good targeting settings: Interests: Social Media Examiner, Amy Porterfield, Buffer
- Example post: “7 Ways to get more dates”
- Good targeting settings: Relationship status: Single
5. Go beyond basic images with these two types of highly shareable content
It’s not a secret that images and videos get the most attention on social media.
It’s important to stand out from the 20+ other things trying to get the user’s attention, and you just can’t do that with text.
But the type of image you use matters. You can’t just post a low quality picture of a lamp and get tons of shares.
There are two general types of media that work better than the rest.
Type #1 – Informational images: The problem with most social media advice is that it starts and stops with “use images.”
But news feeds are filled with images now, which makes it tougher for one to stand out.
One of the most effective ways to combat this is by posting informational images.
I’m referring to images that are more than pictures.
Here’s an example from Buffer, where the image clearly shows that the article involves social media and that it will lead to more social shares.
Having a relevant picture goes a long way.
But compare this picture with just a single Facebook logo that you could have used in its place.
It wouldn’t be nearly as attractive as the above example because it wouldn’t communicate extra information: that the post is going to be about using multiple social media tools together.
You get that just from a quick glance at the image, no reading necessary.
Here’s another example from the nutrition niche (from our case study’s Facebook page).
This post utilized two different tactics for increasing post reach at the same time.
First, it asked a question.
But beyond that, it added extra information to the question in an attractive image:
It shares an interesting tidbit about GMO products: they are restricted or banned in many countries but not Canada and the US—information that is highly related to the actual question.
This post received a ton of engagement and had a much larger organic reach than the average post on the page.
Type #2 – Videos usually get more shares: Those images are great, but videos can still crush them (if high quality).
The downside is that videos take longer to create in most cases and are often several times more expensive.
There are three main reasons why videos perform better than images in most cases:
The first is that they are less common. Look at your Facebook feed. Most posts consist of images, but only a small percentage have videos.
The rarer something is, the more it stands out. That’s why you should do the opposite of the masses.
The second thing is that people are lazy. You might already know this. You pour hours into creating content, and most can’t spend the time to read it.
But videos eliminate a lot of this problem.
With videos, the viewer doesn’t need to interpret what an image is saying—the narrator does that for them. All they have to do is click “play” and listen.
Finally, videos convey complex information as quickly as possible. Even though images are usually better than text, videos beat them by a large margin.
A short tutorial would take several images and still probably leave a few steps out. A video shows absolutely everything and takes a fraction of the time.
How you should use videos: I encourage you to, at the very least, test out videos. You don’t have to share them all the time, but start working them into your regular mix.
Videos are great in many situations, but in particular these three:
- connecting with your audience
- doing a quick tutorial
- educating (in niches like cooking)
There are certain posts that can help you build your relationship with your followers better than others.
Try to speak to your audience on topics that are especially important, controversial, or emotional on video:
As I showed you earlier, Marie Forleo excels at this.
The second option is to record a quick tutorial. This is great if you work in a niche that involves doing something on computers.
You can record yourself performing a task and creating a video in just a few minutes.
Finally, videos are a really effective way to teach people about complicated or boring subjects:
Everyone hates reading long pages of text, and infographics only work for simple topics.
With videos, you eliminate both of those problems. Videos are stimulating and entertaining, plus the visual imagery eliminates the boredom of having to read long technical content.
Your Facebook page’s reach is one of the most important metrics on your Facebook account.
The higher it is, the more of your following you can reach with your posts. This means more traffic, engagement, and ultimately sales.
I’ve shown you five different ways to increase your organic page reach.
Test and implement as many of them as you can. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, start with just one or two.
There’s one last final important lesson I need to leave you with:
Numbers are useful, but care more about the connections you make.
Having deep connections with a small audience is much more important than having a large reach with shallow connections.
So while you should track your organic reach and try to improve it, don’t obsess over it. Pay more attention to whether you get positive and thoughtful comments.
Additionally, for those of you who prefer something visual I’ve created an infographic that you can quickly follow as well to improve you organic reach on Facebook.