The short answer: no, organic reach isn’t dead. But it has been declining for some time – and it may get more complicated.
For marketers trying to get their content seen for free on Facebook, outwitting the News Feed algorithm is a constant challenge. Before 2012, organic reach for Facebook Pages was significantly higher than it is now.
According to a study from Edgerank Checker, organic reach for the average Page dropped from 16% to 6.5% between February 2012 and March 2014. Research from Social@Ogilvy found that for Pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach could be as low as 2%. And an August 2017 study from BuzzSumo reported that the average number of engagements with Facebook posts from brands and publishers dropped more than 20% the first six months of the year.
Last month, Facebook officially rolled out a new feature called the Explore feed. For most users, this feed features a selection of content related to their interests, including posts, photos and videos from Pages and publishers they don’t yet follow.
However, Facebook has been running tests in six countries, moving non-promoted Page posts over to Explore, and leaving only sponsored posts and content from friends in the regular News Feed. This test – which is limited to Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka – has reportedly caused dramatic declines in organic reach for Pages.
An article in The Guardian reported:
The change has seen users’ engagement with Facebook pages drop precipitously, with publications reporting a 60% to 80% fall. If replicated more broadly, such a change would destroy many smaller publishers, as well as larger ones with an outsized reliance on social media referrals for visitors….
Overnight, from Wednesday to Thursday, a broad cross-section of the 60 largest Facebook pages in Slovakia saw two-thirds to three-quarters of their Facebook reach disappear, according to stats from Facebook-owned analytics service CrowdTangle.
Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s Head of News Feed, released a statement saying the company has no plans to implement this test globally. In other words: don’t freak out just yet:
We always listen to our community about ways we might improve News Feed. People tell us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family. We are testing having one dedicated space for people to keep up with their friends and family, and another separate space, called Explore, with posts from pages.
The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further. There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore.
But Mosseri’s statement does leave the door open for Facebook to make more universal changes down the line. Facebook could still decide to create a greater separation between personal and branded content – and establish “pay to play” rules for Pages to get back in the regular feed.
Keeping up with the News Feed has never been an easy task; any changes to the Explore feed will keep marketers on high alert.
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