A Growing Problem with Facebook Reach

A Growing Problem with Facebook Reach
By Michael Stahl

Facebook Reach got you down? You’re probably aware of the vaunted Facebook algorithms that are fast becoming the bane of every social media manager’s existence. Sometime in June I suspect they really tightened up, then again right after Labor Day, and, I presume, yet again just after this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend. (As if we wouldn’t notice!) Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this, but the Reach on my posts has plummeted since last summer when I was having them seen by upwards of 50% of some of my clients’ followers. Now, I’m feeling good if even 10% of followers are giving views.

I’ve written before that Reach stats shouldn’t be regarded that highly (who knows how they’re even calculated?), but this is an obvious trend. I wish this could be chalked up to poor content being generated on my end because then all I’d have to do is step up my game and find better, funnier memes or something. However, just about everyone in the game knows that the now publicly traded Facebook is doing their best to force businesses (as I suppose is their right) to dish out dough for paid ads to pop up all over their site. I for one am worried this spells a degree of doom to the burgeoning social media marketing industry. For now, there is (kind of) a way around Facebook’s protective algorithm moats.

I ran tests this week and found that if one posts statuses that are text only, the reach jumps, as high as ten-fold in some of my findings. I figured this out accidentally—I am the village idiot after all. Generally, Facebook posting strategies by businesses call for photos to be used just about all the time. In many cases, links back to the business’ home website might be in order as well, like with a journalism site I work for that tries to get people to read their articles, or my restaurant client that’s hopeful users will discover more menu items. A small (exceptionally small, I swear) handful of hiccups on my end, or technological failures via Hootsuite, led to past posts unwittingly going up on my clients’ pages without photos and/or links attached. As unsatisfying as they were to look at and as inconvenient as they were without links, they performed better in terms of Reach than virtually all other posts. I do have some clients who are very reluctant to go the route of paid ads, and understandably so. Therefore, I thought I’d try to use this knowledge to my advantage, thus the testing.

There are, of course, tremendously obvious downsides to using the tactic of mixing in Facebook posts consisting of strictly text. The posts are not very aesthetically pleasing without photos that, hopefully, would stand out in peoples’ feeds. Plus, a link to the clients’ website is not immediately present to the user in a text only status update, so one would have to instruct their followers to go to the main website to see other desired content. What makes this pill extra hard to swallow is that at the top of a Facebook business homepage, in the “About” section on the lower left hand corner below the cover photo, there is no Facebook-designated space for a company’s website. That link only shows up after a user clicks on “About.” This means that the social media manager has to take a leap of faith that users will actually open a new tab on their browser and type in the web address to the business themselves (so much work!), instead of simply clicking on a readily available, conspicuously blue link.

With all that said, it is possible that the website traffic a business might normally get from Facebook could still rise if text only posts are utilized sporadically. Unfortunately for the social media manager, the data to support that point would not be present, as there would be no existing direct link between Facebook and the business’ main page. The social media manager would then be telling their client, in essence: “Well, the reach is huge, so I’d suppose users are going to the site…” But if one posts pictures with links that score a Reach of, say, 100, with 30 clicks, how many users could conceivably venture over to the site if a well-written text post gets a reach of 1,000?

Michael Stahl is a journalist, social media manager & strategist. Hailing from Astoria, New York, his articles and essays have appeared in several online and print publications. He is currently accepting new social media clients, so if you’d like to procure his services, contact him at mrstahl7@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter too @MichaelRStahl.

Photo Credit via PCG Digital Marketing