It’s hardly news anymore, but Facebook organic reach statistics are declining for most businesses. From 2012 to 2015 average organic reach dropped as Facebook limited brand page content; in 2012 organic reach of business pages was only about 16 percent, and now it’s only six percent. And maybe this shouldn’t surprise us given Facebook’s financial stake in paid boosts.
Watch a Video On Facebook Marketing
John Lincoln, Ignite Visibility CEO, covers Facebook.
So how can you maximize your organic reach without paying for boosts? Here are my best tips and how to implement them.
To really crack this problem you first have to know how Facebook engagement actually works. Engagement matters because as your engagement level rises, Facebook puts your posts into the news feed more. So we know Facebook monitors brand pages for engagement when putting items into the news feed—but what does that mean?
To Facebook it means a few different things:
- Your fans liking, sharing, commenting on, and/or clicking on links in your posts means engagement;
- Your fans doing none of those things means Facebook thinks no one cares about your posts;
- Posts that get hidden by users and/or reported as spam count against your engagement level;
- Newer posts are more likely to see engagement, so Facebook is more likely to put them into the news feed; and
- Facebook prioritizes posts with photos and videos above other kinds of posts.
With these basic facts in mind, here are some hacks for maximizing your organic reach on Facebook.
The Right, High Quality Images
We already know that Facebook prefers posts with visual content, so that’s a given. But you need to use the right kinds of photos to really make this work. The ideal Facebook photo size is 470 x 470 pixels, and you should only share photos that are high-quality.
Although stock photos sometimes work well, if you have original, behind-the-scenes images of your business, your work or you, use them. This is a fantastic way to let your personality or business philosophy speak for itself in pictures. And remember, don’t share photos that a viewer can’t understand fairly well without a long explanation; most of the people seeing it will only click on it if they know what it is.
As popular as great photographs are on Facebook, videos are at least as popular. Short, interesting or useful videos get shared on Facebook and placed into the news feed.
Hashtags can be a real boon to Facebook engagement, but only if you use them correctly. In fact, piling on hashtags is a bad idea which can cause a drop in engagement. Stick to one or two per post that are relevant, and focus the “conversation” you’re starting with the post. Hashtags are most powerful when they connect people with similar interests or needs, so don’t just make up hashtags without a purpose.
Great Local Content
Unless your business is truly national, consider posting some excellent, interesting local content for the customers you most hope to reach. If you’re in the food and beverage industry, your reviews of locally-sourced produce outlets, for example, are going to be interesting to the kind of fans you want to attract. You’re adding value to your local customers by creating this kind of content.
To reach some people that might not otherwise see your post, tag other pages when the post is really on point for them. Don’t do it too often and keep it relevant and these kinds of posts will be well-received.
Short and Sweet
No matter how interesting you think the idea is, keep it short. The longer a post gets, the less likely it is to be read. Learn to edit and distill what you mean into a short, powerful verbal burst for posting.
Publish Evergreen Content
The “decay” principle on social media simply states that as more time passes and a post gets older it becomes less relevant to users and is less likely to appear in the news feed. One exception to this is really valuable evergreen content. These kinds of posts are always useful to new readers, so they stay in the feed as new people like and share them. Have a great hack that will save people time? This is evergreen content that may get passed around, so post it. And remember, intersperse your evergreen posts with time-sensitive posts to support a healthy mix.
Interact with your fans on Facebook. Sounds obvious, right? But many businesses fail in this department, letting complaints and positive comments alike sit unnoticed on their pages. Respond to comments as quickly as you can, every day. When you do your followers will know you’re really there, and that your posts are likely to be interactive—in other words, it’s worth their time to bother with your posts.
Follow the Big Business Example
In 2014 a research study explored how Fortune 500 companies build Facebook engagement. It found that there are several strategies that these big businesses use to boost their reach, and three in particular were the most popular: openness, access, and positivity. “Openness” refers to showing Facebook users the inside story about what goes on inside the company; “access” refers to being responsive and interactive with users on the page; and “positivity” refers to making sure customers have a great experience.
What does this suggest? What I’ve already mentioned: be responsive on your Facebook page to boost engagement, and visuals that give people insight into your business will get more response from users.
Host a Facebook Contest, Event or Party
This strategy is working for many small businesses. You can use a contest to increase engagement and reward your followers who are active. If your contest motivates users to keep checking back on the page or share, better still. A virtual Facebook event or party is another option to try, especially if your business targets a particular niche of people who like to discuss your product or service.
Call To Action
Sometimes if you just ask for engagement, you’ll get it. What do you want people who see your post to do? Are likes what you’re after, or do you really need clicks or shares? Ask your followers and be specific about what you’d like them to do. Posting a photo of your in-house team at work? You can direct your followers to “like this post if you support a local workforce” as you introduce your team.
Timing and Frequency
So, what is the best time to post on Facebook? The short answer is that even researchers don’t agree on this. Your best move is to keep a few factors in mind to start with, test how posts at different times do for your business, and then tweak your strategy until it performs best.
Start with times that your users are likely to be online such as lunch hour on the East Coast (the beginning of the day on the West Coast) and again during the West Coast lunch hour (and you’ll catch East Coast users taking a break or getting ready to leave). Don’t be afraid to try off-peak hours too; during the late night stretch there is far less content being shared, especially by businesses. This may work for you.
As for how often to post, you’re looking for the sweet spot. Obviously if you don’t post often enough no one will notice your page, but if you over-post people ignore your content. For business pages, one or two times per day works best overall, and more than three times a day can actually cause a drop in engagement.
Questions and Answers
Another great way to boost Facebook engagement is to ask your followers questions and crowdsource answers and other information. Don’t sneak in a pitch with this kind of post. Just ask your viewers to weigh in. If your business deals with travel, ask your followers about which app is the best for travelers or what their top destination for 2016 is. In this way you can boost engagement, answer customer questions, and provide real value even to daily visitors.
The bottom line is that although organic reach on Facebook is declining, there are still ways to improve your engagement. These tips are all part of a great overall social media strategy for your business, and this is something you need in order to succeed anyway. See how far you can push your organic reach using this kind of smart strategy before paying for boosts!