What Happened to Organic Reach on Facebook

11th May 2018, author: Nick Holstein

More Ad Content Competing for News Feed Space

The observed decline in organic Facebook reach began in 2014. Facebook was simply managing more ad content than it used to, and the News Feed space is thus more competitive among marketers.

It’s true, there’s simply too much content being published on Facebook, making visibility in the News Feed increasingly competitive. And Facebook strives to show people the content that is most relevant to them, as opposed to surfacing all the content available.

Facebook’s 2018 News Feed Change

More recently, you might’ve noticed a greater dip in the organic reach of your Facebook content because of an important change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm.

In January 2018, according to Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri, Facebook began to “shift ranking to make News Feed more about connecting with people and less about consuming media in isolation.”

As a result, marketing efforts effectively was destined to take a backseat to content by friends and family; a value that Facebook says it originally held, and that it’s trying to return to.

The good news in all of this is that there’s a lot you can do to counteract these changes, like being more selective about what you publish, paying attention to when you publish, and putting money behind your posts (a.k.a. “boosting” them).

 

How Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm Works

When Facebook first launched News Feed all the way back in 2006, the algorithm was pretty basic, and also vastly ignored by marketers; it didn’t really rank content by publishers, so there was no need to pay attention to it. Post factors were assigned different point values — so a post with just text might be worth one point, while a post with a link in it might be worth two points, and so on. By multiplying the post format point value by the number of people interacting with a given post, Facebook could generate a ranking system for determining the order in which posts would appear.

As the years rolled on, the News Feed algorithm evolved to factor in the recency of posts, as well as the relationship between the person doing the posting and the person interacting with each post accordingly. This iteration of the algorithm was known as EdgeRank. But in 2011, Facebook abandoned EdgeRank for a more complex algorithm that incorporates machine learning.

That machine learning-based algorithm is what’s responsible for surfacing content on your News Feed today. Unlike its predecessors, which assigned generic point values to post formats, the current algorithm adapts to individual user preferences — and as such has vastly affected how marketing content is seen. So, for example, if you never, ever, interact with photos in your News Feed, Facebook’s algorithm will pick up on that and show you fewer photos over time.

On the other hand, Facebook has identified for marketers the content formats that drive engagement and sharing — native and live videos. Facebook ranks live videos higher in the News Feed, as well as videos with higher watch and completion rates and videos that are clicked on or unmuted as signals of viewer interest.

Ultimately, there are thousands of factors that inform Facebook’s algorithm of a meaningful interaction. These factors range from using trigger words that indicate important events (e.g., “congratulations”) to whether or not you’ve actually clicked a link in a post before liking it. It’s likely that as Facebook continues to change in the wake of the Cambridge data scandal we’ll see more changes to the algorithm that’ll affect organic reach for businesses.