Facebook organic reach decline – a study

Facebook organic reach has been the topic of heated debates in recent years. Especially, when one Slovak company revealed the impact of Facebook newsfeed experiment on Slovak news pages in October this year. We have decided to analyse how organic reach changed in the past three months, applying similar methodology. The results confirm the common belief – organic reach is declining steadily. However, there’s a twist in this plot, which shows that not all pages are treated equally.

A few years ago we have studied correlation between the number of interactions to a post (comments, shares and reactions) and organic reach. The study confirmed high correlation between the two, which means it is safe to analyse changes in organic reach based on changes in the number of interactions to posts. We followed this approach and analysed Facebook pages of Polish blogs and influencers over the period of 110 days – from August 02 to November 19. Why them? Because those pages do not (yet) spend large amounts of money to boost their posts. They have active and loyal communities, which means most of their interactions are organic. This in turn translates into organic reach.

The analysis covered 2 082 Facebook pages. During the study period they published 109 583 posts, which generated 26 042 127 interactions. Initially we studied top 100 largest pages. They ranged from just above 100 000 fans to almost 2 000 000 fans for the largest page. We decided however to add two more groups of pages (1k to 10k fans and 10k to 100k fans) to see it the same trends apply for pages of all sizes.
Top 100 largest Facebook pages

The largest pages saw a drop of 30 percent in the number of interactions per post over the period of 110 days – from 1 439 during the first seven days of study to 1 009 in the last 7 days. The graph below shows average number of interactions per post day by day and a linear trend line. During this period the total number of fans grew by 1% – from 32.8 to 33.1 million fans for all 100 pages.

Pages from 10k to 100k fans

Mid-size Facebook pages (10k to 100k fans) saw a similar drop of 33% in the average number of interactions per post – from 173 to 113 interactions per post. At the same time their total fan base grew by 3.5% – from 14.6 to 15.1 million fans.

Pages from 1k to 10k fans

To our surprise, the smallest pages (1k to 10k fans) suffered the least. They also noted a slight drop in average number of interactions per post, but it was “only” 7% – from 33 to 31 interactions per post during the first and last seven days of the study period. At the same time however, those pages grew the most rapidly, i.e. by 8.7% – from 3.4 to 3.7 million fans.

The conclusion

The above data illustrate the trend of declining organic reach for content published by Facebook pages. It’s not really surprising if you consider the fact that more and more businesses and publishers become active on Facebook, thus producing high amounts of content. If you add rapidly growing number of advertisers that compete for user attention in their newsfeeds, you’ll realise this trend is inevitable. It is a bit surprising however that small pages suffer to an unproportionally smaller extent, even if you offset the drop in organic reach with the growth of such pages’ communities. This may be explained by the fact that small communities usually consist of much more dedicated members (at first you invite your whole family and friends to like your page) who tend to show above average enthusiasm about anything a page posts. But it very well may be that Facebook’s algorythm promotes smaller pages with higher organic reach to encourage them to grow their roots into the Facebook ecosystem…

Anyway, the sad conclusion is this – if you want to keep your reach on Facebook, you will need to dig deeper in your pockets.

Have you observed similar declines in Engagement Rates and organic reach of your pages? We’ll be happy to hear your stories and analyse interesting cases.

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