“If you don’t pay for Facebook advertising then your updates reach will only reach 16% of your fans.” [Insert here some vague-ities about Edgerank, a graph, an algorithm and a sprinkling of ‘blimey, this is complicated’]
It’s a conversation that I’ve had many times. That 16% stat has appeared on many blogs, and Facebook even admitted to it itself back in 2012… it’s become so ingrained in the lore of Facebook administration it’s now considered to be cold hard fact by most Page Managers.
But the thing is, a Facebook update could reach 16% of page fans, but it could just as easily only reach 2% or as many as 43% – the 16% is simply an average across all the 1000s of pages out there, and it should certainly not be taken as gospel. There’s a gulf of possibilities.
This got me thinking – how many people look at Facebook analytics and really understand what they mean? Are we just looking at the data and pulling out stats that simply sound good, or sound measurable without actively taking the time to consider what this actually means in the big wide world? If we don’t fully understand these metrics how can we effectively report on our pages?
How many Fans has your post reached?
At post level the number of fans that your post has reached can be quite easy to work out if you are a page admin as it is displayed clearly in the bottom left corner of your posts. However, working out how many of your fans your page is reaching in total can be quite tricky. Fan reach is only available in the Excel file export which is available for download in your Insights dashboard. You’ll find it under the label “Lifetime Post reach by people who like your Page”. But for anyone who has ventured into the realm of the Page Data export they’ll know that this document is far from user friendly!
What does Organic Reach mean?
Organic reach translates into the number of people, fans and non-fans, who have seen a post from your page. It ignores any views that have been generated through the result of an action but counts the views of people who are not fans of the page but have directly accessed your page or seen its content, for example, a “like box” on your site or blog.
Viral Reach – What is that?
You know you sometimes see things that your friends have done on a brands wall (like, share, comment) in your Timeline or on The Ticker? That’s viral reach. When you, as a non-fan, come face-to-face with a page’s content (or a link to that content).
It’s reaching these non-fans that most Facebook pages want to achieve. Going back a few years the number of fans a page had was considered a good enough yard stick for success. If page number went up, then something must be going right. Right? Well, no. Any Facebook page manager worth his salt knows that the number of likes a page has is only the tip of the iceberg. But this does go right back to Facebook’s mantra, and the reason that many companies use it as a brand awareness too – the viral reach of the platform allows for companies to: “recruit and engage in conversation with your fans so they talk about you with their friends.”
How is paid-for reach captured?
Facebook filters out the reach achieved via paid-for means. This can be sponsored stories, promoted posts or just plain old Facebook advertising. It can be both fans and non-fans. Pretty much does what it says on the tin.
How reliable are Facebook Insights?
It’s fantastic for reporting purposes that Facebook allows Page Mangers so much access to data (“Insights”) however it’s important that these are interpreted appropriately and are reported in a meaningful manner. Otherwise the success (or failure) of a page could get lost in translation.
Alsoback in February Facebook admitted to identifying a bug on their insights that has led to a misrepresentation of Organic and Viral reach for most pages. According to data, the way pages have been affected by this bug varies significantly from one page to another. Apparently, Organic reach has been slightly affected (between 5 and 10% more reach starting February 23) but viral reach has been much more affected with more than 300% increase in some instances – so it’s best to be doubly sure when reporting.
Each Facebook page is different, its community profile is unique, and the content posted is honed to match it. So if we’re investing so much time and energy in our content why are we satisfied with cookie-cutter statistics to benchmark our pages? Page owners, I urge you – take the time to know your page. Learn what works, and what doesn’t. Get a steer on what success looks like for you, and then strive towards it. After all, what works for someone else may not work for you.