How to boost organic reach on Facebook
Posted Jan 30, 2020 by Anastasia Prokofieva

How to Grow a Business on Facebook for Free: Understanding Facebook Organic Reach

“Is Facebook organic reach dying?” — that’s the big question keeping business owners up at night. With each new News Feed algorithm update, brands and publishers seem to get further away from the viral success they long for on social media. And if that’s how you feel, well, you aren’t wrong.

Increasingly, algorithm updates have been found to diminish the power of traditional organic strategies. But just because the game changes doesn’t mean you can’t change with it. Organic reach isn’t doomed — you’ll just have to learn to play by Facebook’s new rules.

Read on to find out what affects your post position in Facebook News Feeds, and learn which tactics are the best for growing your organic reach.

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Understanding Organic Reach on Facebook

Before we explain how to boost organic reach on Facebook, let’s talk about what it is, and what affects it. Once we understand the mechanics of organic reach, we’ll be able to determine what strategies are most effective at growing it.

What does organic reach mean on Facebook?

Let’s start with the basics. Facebook defines organic reach as “how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page.” With that description in mind, it’s easy to see why marketers would be concerned — because a decline in organic reach means a natural increase in the cost to reach their customers.

The ability to get in front of customers using free social media tools positively affects your brand exposure at a minimum cost to your bottom line. So now that we understand the problem, let’s look at why Facebook organic reach is decreasing and what we can do to reverse it.

Why is Facebook organic reach decreasing?

There are two main reasons for the decline in organic reach on Facebook, neither of which has anything to do with Mark Zuckerberg or his secret and deeply closeted contempt for small businesses.

First, the increase in content. There’s just a lot more content to compete with than there was 10 years ago. Consumers post more. Brands post more. And the sheer number of pages Facebook can and do engage with is increasing every day. And on top of all that, new tools and more elegant UX designs have made it easier than ever to create and share new content. All this has resulted in massive competition for your customers’ News Feed. And when we say “massive,” we mean it is MASSIVE. In 2014, the average Facebook user would have a potential 1,500+ stories they could receive in their News Feed at any given time, of which Facebook would only display about 300. And that was six years ago.

The number of daily active Facebook users grows with every passing year, and so does the number of posts shared on the platform

If Facebook actually showed its users 100% of the content available to them, the News Feed function would become virtually unusable for most regular consumers, likely causing many to leave the platform entirely. A lose-lose-lose for everyone.

Second, much of the content being produced is only relevant to small segments of Facebook’s users. In the early days of social media when content was in short supply, any piece of content produced with a reasonable level of skill could be relatively successful. But these days, with Facebook users up to their eyeballs in amazing content, it’s not enough to create and share content that’s good. In order to be successful on Facebook in 2020, you need to share content that’s both amazing and relevant. Today’s Facebook users want content that’s targeted to their interests, and they want it in moderation without blocking stories from their friends and family (as branded content is disposed to do in such huge supply). Facebook, understanding the behavior of its users, turned its efforts toward cleaning spam from its feeds and improving the way News Feed targets content for relevance.

How Facebook News Feed algorithm works

What a user sees in their News Feed depends on four main factors:

  • Inventory: the total content available from friends and publishers that can be displayed to a user.
  • Signals: data tied to a specific post — for example, the type of content; when it was posted; who posted it; and how many likes, shares and comments it has. These are the only factor brands can control and use to signal (pun intended) to Facebook that their content is relevant to their target audience.
  • Predictions: a prediction about how likely a user is to be interested in a post based on an analysis of what content that user prefers.
  • Relevancy Score: a number assigned to a post based on the likelihood that a particular user will enjoy it.

These are the probabilities (predictions) the News Feed algorithm takes into account when calculating a Relevancy Score:

  • likelihood to click
  • likelihood to spend time with a post
  • likelihood to like, comment, and share
  • likelihood a user will find a post informative
  • likelihood a post is clickbait
  • likelihood a post links to a low-quality web page

Once the algorithm’s worked its magic, it orders the available content by score. The higher the score, the more likely that post is to be displayed in users’ feeds. So that random cat video you watched on your lunch break wasn’t really so random after all.

Now that you have a better understanding of the News Feed algorithm, let’s find out which of its updates affect organic reach the most.

What Affects Facebook Organic Reach in 2020

Over the last couple years, there’ve been some big changes in how Facebook’s News Feed algorithm positions content for brands and users.

In January 2018, Facebook announced that its News Feed would “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” This major change marked a turning point in the algorithm, marking Facebook’s renewed commitment to personal interactions between users and the people they care about. This change included priority placement for:

  • Posts from friends and family
  • Posts that “inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments” and/or that users would be interested in sharing and reacting to

A slide from the Facebook News Feed webinar that addressed algorithm changes and the importance of meaningful interactions

Another important update came in November 2018 that improved the AI’s ability to remove violating content and demote sensational, misleading, or controversial content.

The most recent major update was announced in 2019 when Facebook updated the way it measured organic Page impressions. Historically, reach was calculated based on how many times a post was delivered in the News Feed. This recent update imposed stricter reporting, only counting reach once a post enters a user’s screen (the same approach Facebook uses to calculate ads performance). While this change was only intended to change the way reach is measured and not News Feed distribution, some pages have still reported seeing lower reach than expected.

What kind of content is best for your Facebook page

As we discussed in the previous section, Facebook emphasizes posts from family and friends over branded content. But public content that provides “meaningful interactions” also has a good chance of appearing in a feed. Here are some examples of content that’s likely to be prioritized:

  • Content that’s shared over Facebook Messenger
  • Content that’s liked or commented on
  • Content that receives multiple replies

These are generally posts that provide real value to users by entertaining, inspiring, or teaching something new. They’re the kinds of posts that when you see them, you instinctively want to share them with someone else. According to Facebook’s private News Feed webinar, “Content driving meaningful interactions will perform better than content driving only consumption.”

If a page is creating posts that users aren’t reacting to or commenting on, it’s only natural for that page to see a decrease in distribution. So does that mean that thoughtlessly collecting interactions and comments with messages like “Like for Like” and “Comment if…” is an appropriate solution? Also no. In fact, tactics like these will find your posts earning even less reach. Keep reading to find out why.

What kind of content demotes your Facebook page

If you’re looking to get more views on Facebook, you’ll need to be aware of what activities are the most likely to decrease your reach as well.

When Facebook says it values content that provides “meaningful interactions,” that’s not just a figure of speech. News Feed demotes posts that bait users into clicking on a link or interacting in some way to increase organic reach.

There are several types of content that are regularly penalized by Facebook’s algorithm to reduce reach.

Engagement bait

Although News Feed prioritizes posts with greater interaction (for example, comments, likes, and shares), it also recognizes content which was created exclusively to goad users into said interaction and will penalize those posts accordingly. Can you guess why? It’s because the interactions received from engagement baiting aren’t meaningful. Remember, Facebook’s goal is to create meaningful interactions between users, but engagement bait isn’t designed to provide anything meaningful or valuable — it’s simply trying to trick the algorithm with low-effort post engagements. And needless to say… Facebook is onto the trick.

Here are some examples of posts using engagement bait:

  • Vote baiting: “Vote on your plans for 2020! Click ‘Wow’ if you want to go on vacation, click ‘Love’ if you want to find your love, …”
  • React baiting: “Like this if you can relate”
  • Share baiting: “Share with 15 friends for a chance to win a new iPhone!”
  • Tag baiting: “Tag a friend who’s always late”
  • Comment baiting: “Comment ‘+’ if you want to see more posts like this!”

Examples of engagement bait posts from Facebook

Keep in mind that Facebook doesn’t just downgrade the specific posts that are using engagement bait, they also apply stricter demotions for pages that repeatedly use these tactics.

The only exception to this rule is posts that ask for help, advice, or recommendations. For example, missing persons reports, requests to support a charity, or asking for wedding planning advice.

Clickbait headlines

One of Facebook’s core values is creating an informed community, so the platform is super strict when it comes to misleading, sensational, or spammy content.

Clickbait headlines present information in a way that forces users to click to find out the answer. For example, “You’ll never guess what this guy did to his best friend’s toaster!”

What makes a headline clickbait:

  • Headlines that leave out critical details or intentionally withhold information: “This tactic will bring you 50 followers a day”
  • Headlines that exaggerate information with sensational language: “You’ve GOT to see this! Lemons cure EVERYTHING!”
  • Headlines that create misleading expectations: “Research could suggest that dogs can’t look up.”

Just like with engagement bait, pages that rely on clickbait headlines will see a decrease in reach.

Links to low-quality webpage experiences

In their effort to show more informative posts, Facebook pays close attention to links that lead to low-quality webpage experiences, including pages that contain:

  • A disproportionate volume of ads relative to content
  • Malicious or deceptive ads
  • Sexually suggestive or sensational content (shocking, disrespectful, or excessively violent content)
  • Pop-up ads or interstitial ads, which disrupt the user experience

A post that links to these types of web pages is displayed lower in feeds. Facebook also shows fewer posts linking out to low-quality sites that “copy and republish content from other sites without providing unique value.” So if you want to share someone else’s content with your audience, make sure you’re linking to a reliable source with original content.

How to Boost Organic Reach on Facebook

Just because organic reach is getting harder to come by on Facebook doesn’t mean you can’t still have a strong presence on the platform.

Here’s how to work with the latest News Feed algorithm to reach your audience.

Make sure you’re in your followers’ feeds

Even if you’re following all the rules, sometimes your content will still get lost in competitive feeds. That’s why it’s important to educate your audience about how to keep in touch with your page:

  • Remind your followers that if they want to see more posts from you, they can update their feed settings to allow for it. To do that, they’ll need to go to your page, click Following, and choose See First:

  • Here’s how users can update their preferences to see more posts from you

  • And remind your followers that they can also open the Pages Feed on the left sidebar of their News Feed to see content from pages like yours that they’ve liked.

Choose quality over quantity

Facebook is determined to provide the best possible content that’s unique, valuable, personalized, and relevant to the user.

When creating content, keep in mind that your goal is to get as much interaction from that piece as possible. The production of genuinely engaging content is time-consuming, but quick fixes like engagement bait also don’t help. So it makes sense to post less to ensure each of your posts is high-quality and relevant to your followers.

See also: What to Post on Facebook: 20 Post Ideas for Your Facebook Business Page

Humanize your brand

According to a report from Accenture Strategy, 63% of US consumers prefer to buy from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs. What’s more, they’ll actively avoid brands that don’t.

So it’s important to show followers that your brand is mission-driven and shares their values. To do that, you’ll need to understand who your customers are. Are they eco-conscious? Do they prefer to support local businesses? What are the issues that get them up and engaging?

Posts like this show customers that brands can do more than sell

Create emotional content

Emotion is a powerful tool for encouraging interaction and discussion. But, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review, not all emotions are created equal: some emotions are seen more often in connection with viral content. Here are some of the most common emotions used to create successful social posts:

  • curiosity
  • amazement
  • interest
  • astonishment
  • uncertainty
  • admiration

Contrary to what some may believe, negative emotions are actually less common in successful viral content.

Create video content

Creating video content takes more effort than posting an image with text, but it’s definitely worth the time if you’ve got it. Not only does Facebook’s News Feed prioritize video, but posts with video also gain at least 59% more engagement than other post types.

Practical how-to videos are some of the most popular video types on Facebook

In the same way a person might spin a sign to catch a passing driver’s attention, the motion of a video has the ability to catch a Facebook user’s attention as they’re scrolling through their News Feed. Short videos and even simple gifs can help to increase your presence in a News Feed. However, for best results, Facebook suggests posting videos that are between 3-5 minutes long, as longer videos tend to offer more value for viewers. And don’t forget to add subtitles; according to recent reports, a whopping 85% of Facebook videos are now watched without sound.

Have a video you already posted to YouTube? Refrain from sharing the YouTube link on your Page, and upload the video directly to Facebook instead. Sure, it won’t help your numbers on YouTube, but it’s also far more likely to get picked up by Facebook’s algorithm. As one of Facebook’s biggest competitors, YouTube content isn’t something Facebook is overly anxious to prioritize in its News Feeds. But video content from Facebook’s own platform? You betcha.

And give Facebook Live a try too. According to reports, live videos average 6x as many interactions as regular videos. And because you’re limited to what you can do in a live recording, live videos are also easier to create. That means live video could be a great way to kickstart your video strategy and create some interesting content on a short timeline.

Embrace user-generated content

What’s better than making content for your audience? Letting your audience make it for you. User-generated content is content created by your audience about your brand that you can share on your own page. Asking your followers to post a review of your products or share photos for a chance to win a prize are great ways to encourage user-generated content.

Hey It’s Oh So Pretty reposts pictures of customers who use their ribbons in wedding bouquets

Running user-generated content campaigns may also help you identify devoted customers who could be recruited as “brand ambassadors” to promote your brand to their networks (for a few freebies, of course).

Create Facebook Groups

Based on the latest version of the News Feed algorithm, Facebook Group content receives higher reach than regular Page content. Take advantage of that change by creating a closed group for your most engaged customers.

Groups can also help to build a community of brand loyalists and creates an easy channel to communicate with your ambassadors. And if you organize or promote events, groups can be used to quickly share and receive the best photos and videos from around the group.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that a group is about the members, not the brand. Communicate with your fans, answer their questions, share helpful content, and make sure they continue to have memorable interactions with your brand and its ambassadors. Make your customers feel appreciated, and they’ll take care of the rest.

Ecwid merchant Selena Robinson sells educational products for children with ADHD and manages a Facebook group for parents who align with her target audience

Reply to comments and promote conversations

Always reply to comments on your page quickly, and keep the conversation going if you can (but don’t force it). Start discussions, like asking what your followers think of your new product or what they think about the latest industry news.

To make staying in touch with your customers easier, add Facebook Messenger live chat to your website. Customers will be able to ask questions and have a conversation right from your website’s product pages, and you can even slide in an invite to follow your Facebook page.

Link to fewer outside websites

We’ve talked about not linking to low-quality webpages, but you should also be careful with links in general. Facebook naturally wants users to stay on its platform, so posts with links to outside pages aren’t at the top of its list to promote. Of course, you can’t always avoid linking to outside sources, and sometimes that’s really the best course of action. But if you can go without links to other websites, your posts are that much more likely to be rewarded in your followers’ News Feeds.

Bright Side engages followers into conversation in the comments to the post

Track how your content performs

When you experiment with new formats and types of content, you may see that some get more engagement than others. Decide what metrics align best with the goals of your content, track your content based on those metrics, and use that knowledge to adjust your content strategy. Skip posts your audience seems indifferent to and redouble efforts on post types that perform highest based on your chosen metrics.

You can also use Audience Insights to learn more about your followers and other users you’d like to reach. Use Audience Insights to view data like demographics, hobbies, interests, lifestyles, and more.

And test different posting times for better engagement. For example, CoSchedule found that the best times for healthcare companies to post on Facebook are between 6 am and 7 am, at 9 am, and between 11 am and noon. As for media companies, their “show time” is either at 7 am, 11 am, or 6 pm.

When You Should Turn to Ads Instead of Growing Organic Reach

Facebook rewards informative, authentic and meaningful content, so if that’s the kind of content you’re creating for your audience, you can expect your organic reach to grow.

Having said that, growing organic reach takes time. No matter how perfect your content is, you won’t see dramatic returns overnight. If quick wins is what you’re looking for (and you’re willing to throw a few bucks toward your business), consider running a few Facebook ads as well. As Josh Sample, Founder and Operating Partner of digital marketing agency Drive Social Media states: “Based on our experience of helping clients with paid social, the capabilities brands have access to with paid Facebook ads are extensive, and the benefits far exceed anything you would normally receive with organic content.”

If you run an Ecwid store, advertising and selling on Facebook is easy with our Facebook Shop and Facebook Product Catalog tools.

Tip: Use organic posts to test content that you’d like to promote via ads, then use your advertising budget to promote those content pieces that performed best organically.

For example, if your followers favor a particular post, use the content from that post to create an ad targeted to other users who are similar to your followers. To do this, you’ll need to install your Facebook pixel first. And good news for Ecwid merchants, the Facebook Pixel is available free on all Ecwid plans, including our Forever Free plan.

Let’s Review: How to Increase Facebook Reach

The best way to grow Facebook Page reach organically is to understand how Facebook’s News Feed algorithm prioritizes posts and create content catered to the goals of the platform — namely to encourage meaningful interactions between Facebook’s users.

  1. Ditch engagement-bait and click-bait, avoid linking to websites with poor webpage experiences, and limit linking away from Facebook whenever possible.
  2. Create content that’s unique, engaging, and relevant to your followers and their values.
  3. Ask your followers to update their feed preferences by choosing “See First” from the “Following” tab on your page.
  4. Post less, but optimize each post to get as many interactions as possible (again, avoiding click-bait and engagement-bait).
  5. Create emotional content that inspires curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment, uncertainty, and/or admiration.
  6. Post more videos (Facebook Live is a great place to start). But avoid links to YouTube videos which would drive users to a competitor site and deprioritize your posts.
  7. Create a Facebook Group for your customers that provides additional value and shows that they’re appreciated by your brand.
  8. Keep conversations going on your page by answering questions and starting discussions.
  9. Encourage your followers to create posts mentioning your brand that you can repost as user-generated content.
  10. Track how your posts perform and adjust your content when needed.
  11. Try paid Facebook advertising to increase your reach in the short-term.

What do you think about Facebook’s News Feed algorithm? Have you experienced a decrease in your Facebook organic reach over the last few years? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About the author
Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.
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