You may have heard or personally experienced that Facebook organic reach -- the total number of people who see your posts through unpaid distribution -- is dying a slow, painful death.
If you're new-ish to the social media game, let's put things in perspective for you: In 2012, the average organic reach for Facebook pages was around 16 percent; in April 2015, a study found that the average was less than three percent. In other words, approximately three percent of the people who "like" your Facebook page will see the content that your page publishes, unless you pay Facebook to reach more of those people.
(Here's a post I wrote for Social Media Today about maximizing customer lifetime value with social media advertising, if you're interested.)
The supply and demand of social media content
Certainly, the amount of organic reach has tremendously declined over the past few years, in part because Facebook wants to make us pay money to reach our audiences. (You and I would do the same thing if you were in Mark Zuckerberg's shoes, so let's not complain about it.)
The other, perhaps more precedent, reason that organic reach has declined on Facebook is simply because of supply and demand: More Facebook pages are vying for users time and attention with more and more content, while these users don't necessarily need or want more content.
The average Facebook user has 1,500 new pieces of content at their disposal EVERY TIME they log on to Facebook via desktop or mobile. In other words, low or no extra demand, exponentially high supply. Doesn't bode well for Facebook pages.
Remember, you're not competing for people's money on social media. You're competing for people's time and attention, which is being pulled in a million and one different directions -- not just by other companies and organizations, but by our friends, family, content from countless other sources that gets shared and circulated on social media.
However, for the record, organic reach on Facebook is NOT dead.
I can tell you from personal experience, since one of our clients gets an average of 25 percent organic reach on a Facebook page with 55,000-plus fans. (In general, all our clients' Facebook pages average about 7-15 percent organic reach, and about 7-10 percent engagement.) See for yourself:
The "secret" to our success with this client and our other ones is not that we leverage hacks, tricks or shortcuts -- all of which you already know I'm totally against when it comes to social media.
The reason we've been able to average 25 percent organic reach for this client is because (1) we build followings of people who actually matter to our clients -- their prospective and current customers, and (2) our content is more timely, more topical, more human, more relevant and less gimme gimme than 99 percent of every other Facebook page out there. Therefore, we don't even compete with other pages -- whether they're a "competitor" of our clients or not -- because we're playing in the big leagues, while everyone else is desperately trying to make a minor league roster.
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Our "secret" sauce
So, you want to know how we've been able to sustain such high organic reach on Facebook despite claims that it's dying a slow death?
Ask, and you shall receive:
- Brand socialization. When we started working with this client, we realized that the vast majority of the people who "liked" their Facebook page were not actually relevant to them; in other words, they weren't the client's current and prospective customers. As such, we set out to build a community of real people who are relevant to the client by "socializing" their entire brand. By socializing, I mean that we added social media value propositions and calls-to-action to every possible touch-point that current and prospective customers have with the client.
(Touch-points are points of interaction that people have with your brand -- your website, your offline marketing materials, your advertisements, your business cards, your emails and email marketing, the different departments within your business or organization and how they interact with current and prospective customers, etc. Different touch-points usually require different value propositions. A value proposition is simply the value you are promising people if and when they follow you on social media.)
Way more on how to create the right value propositions and calls-to-action, and how to socialize your brand, in The Social Media MasterCourse.
- Engagement, not reach. Once we created and implemented systems that continuously added more relevant social media followers, we then focused on content engagement -- not reach. It's important to understand that Facebook usually serves organic content to people based on who they've previously engaged with. In other words, the more people engage (like, comment, share, click) with your content, the more Facebook will show your followers (and their friends) your content. Engagement is all about content, which brings me to point number three.
- Increasing engagement. Engagement comes down to one thing and one thing only: incredible content. For this client, that meant re-branding the client's social media content and overall digital marketing strategy to focus on the end of their product, not the means (the product itself). As I've said time and again, unless you're curing cancer or developing life of Mars, no one really cares about what you and I are selling. Our products and services are simply the means to an end.
With that in mind, we primarily focused on creating content that heroes the client's customers, instead of hero-ing the client. We also focused on creating content that speaks to the psychographics of the client's current and prospective customers -- their pleasures, their pain-points, their uncertainties with the end of what the client sells, and their motivations as they pertain to the client and its product.
And we leveraged the power of storytelling by telling real, authentic stories about the client's existing customers, which allowed us to directly tap into the pleasures, pain-points, uncertainties and motivations of their prospective customers.
Ultimately, the client's content became more authentic, relatable, human and emphatic, the combination of which increased engagement and thus reach.
- Micro and macro strategies. After we built out an umbrella strategy that encompassed social media and content marketing as whole, we developed micro strategies for each content distribution channel; in the client's case -- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and their blog. As you probably already know, people use each channel for different reasons, and certain types of content work better on some platforms than on others.
The key is to analyze why your audiences use each channel, what kinds of content they want on them, and then to deliver them value based on your analysis.
For instance, we know that today (at the end of 2015) native videos -- that is, videos which are directly uploaded to each social media channel, not YouTube or Vimeo links -- are the most popular type of content, especially on Facebook. (Videos also work great on Twitter and Instagram, and the last time I checked, they work halfway decent on YouTube ... ha ha)
So, the question becomes: How can you create short-form videos? You don't need an entire production and editing team to create video. Use your existing resources (e.g. your iPhone) and get a little creative. That's how I create videos for my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the actual content in the video is good, the quality of the video won't matter as much.
Use Periscope or Meerkat for live broadcasting, if that ties into your social media value propositions.
Stop pointing the finger at Facebook and claiming that organic reach is dead, and start putting out epic content that will resonate with the people who matter to your business or organization.
Epic content = higher engagement = more reach = new customers and higher lifetime customer value (It really is that simple.)
It doesn't take large sums of time and money to create epic content; it just takes a commitment to putting your existing and prospective customers first, not your product or service.
Questions? Need some more help and guidance? Don't be shy -- email me. I'm not going to sell you anything, I promise :)