Viral Reach Skyrockets Due to Facebook’s Major Insights Fix

[Updated: 03/01/13] // An example of a massive increase new Viral Reach added //

Facebook announced an “Important Update to Page Insights Reporting” last week. Facebook blamed bugs as the cause of Reach and Impressions being under-reported. In the post they suggested the following possible outcomes for Pages:

Overall, we expect most Pages to see:

  • Total reach to  stay the same or increase for most Pages
  • An increase in paid reach if you ran News Feed ads
  • An increase or decrease in organic reach, depending on many factors such as the composition of your fan base, when and how often you post and your spending patterns
  • A change in metrics computed from reach and impressions, such as engagement rate and virality
  • We know that accurate data is fundamental to building and improving your Facebook presence. We are taking this very seriously.  We have already put a number of additional quality and verification measures in place to prevent future bugs and resolve them quickly if they arise.

In the post, they specifically mention monitoring the overall impact “starting on Monday, February 25.” We decided to dive deeper into the numbers to see how Page owners are being affected.

What Did We Study?

We took a look at Monday, February 18th vs Monday, February 25th. We looked at Pages that posted on both days. Our sample size was roughly 1,000 Pages. Facebook specifically mentioned the following metrics to be impacted: Total Reach, Paid Reach, and Organic Reach. We opted to include engagement (Likes, Comments, and Shares) along with Viral Reach into the study. We averaged each day by post for each Page, then looked at the median when comparing Pages.

What Did We Find?

To our surprise, Viral Reach skyrocketed. Before the change, Viral Reach was achieving about 0.16% per fan. After the change, Viral Reach was at nearly 0.60% or a 275% increase.

Facebook Viral Reach Fix ChangeThe change was massive. We looked at the other forms of Reach to see the net effect:

Facebook Reach Effect After FixTotal Reach had increased from 12.43% to 16.24% (per fan). Organic Reach had increased from 10.09% to 14.25%. All three forms of Reach had increased significantly from the two time periods. [Note: We opted not to include Paid Reach due to the high variability in Ad Campaigns.]

What About Engagement?

We wanted to make sure that engagement had maintained relatively consistent levels to accurately compare the two time periods. Engagement had actually decreased from 0.34% to 0.29% which suggests that the increase in Total, Organic, and Viral Reach is legitimate.

Obviously, a huge component of Viral Reach is contingent on Shares. We also checked the amount of Shares received over the two time periods. Shares per fan had also decreased from 0.04% to 0.03%. These fluctuations in engagement are within normal deviations.

How Did This Change Impact Different Sized Pages?

We broke down our data into size segments to take a look at how different sized Pages were impacted.

Facebook Reach Per Segment Size

Total Reach increased for all size segments. The 500k-1M segment had a drastic increase; however, this was more likely due to an abnormal fluctuation in our sample size. The true number for that segment is probably between 6-10%.

Facebook Organic Reach After FixWhen looking at Organic Reach we also saw almost all of the segments experience an increase. True to Facebook’s word, some size segments experienced an “increase or decrease” to their Organic Reach. It looks like the smallest Pages did experience a slight decrease in their Reach.

Facebook Viral Reach Fix

What Did Facebook Actually Do?

After looking at the data, our hypothesis quickly arose: Facebook has always reported Viral Reach oddly. Viral Reach seems to not include Shared post’s Reach. Many industry experts were unsure of why Viral Reach seemed to be underreported as it related to an increase in Shares. Perhaps Facebook realized Shares weren’t being reported as Viral Reach and fixed that issue. We did a quick test to find out.

We asked our Facebook audience to Share a new post this morning. We went through our old posts to find a post that had roughly the same amount of Shares:

Facebook November 16th Viral ReachThe post above picked up 16 Shares and had just over 100 Viral Reach. These numbers don’t quite add up. We’ve even been sent examples of cases where the total number of Shares exceeded the number of Viral Reach, which should be technically impossible.

We grabbed a quick snapshot of our post as it picked up 24 Shares:

Facebook February Viral Reach Fix

This post picked up about 2x the Shares, yet nearly 16x the amount of Viral Impressions. Our preliminary hypothesis is that Facebook has addressed this “bug”. We are expecting Page Admins to have much higher Viral Reach numbers, as they relate to total Shares.

Drop us a note in the comments if you see something similar!

[Updated: 03/01/13] // Ryan Cohn shared with us some metrics he’s seeing:

Ryan had posted a two posts with roughly the same amount of Shares. Post A had 2,805 Shares while Post B had 2,638 Shares. Post A is before the bug fix, and Post B is after the bug fix. These two posts were about 2 weeks apart.

Post A (before bug fix) breaks down as 59,510 total impressions (36,395 organic, 37,955 fans, 21,297 viral and 1,818 paid) and 29,674 total reach (18,583 organic, ~18k fans, 10,972 viral, 1,758 paid)

Post B (after bug fix) breaks down as 78,131 total impressions (24,111 organic, 24,275 fans, 54,020 viral) and 42,263 total (13,779 organic, ~14k fans, 28,586 viral)

//

Conclusion

It’s clear that most Pages experienced an increase in Total Reach, Organic Reach, and Viral Reach. However, it seems that Viral Reach experienced drastic and significant increases. We believe that this may be related to fixing a bug as it relates to Shares and Viral Reach. It should also be noted that the sample size for this study was two different days. This is an incredibly small window to be fully understood, but we felt the results were significant enough to share with the community.

We will be analyzing this further in the future to better understand the impact of the fixes that Facebook delivered to Insights.

12 Comments on “Viral Reach Skyrockets Due to Facebook’s Major Insights Fix

  1. Great stuff, Chad! I was pleasantly surprised when I read that Viral Reach was impacted. I was one of the people who noted a sudden drop in Viral Reach beginning August 28, so it sounds like it’s now back to normal.

    I don’t really care about Reach numbers in general, but they should at least make sense. It sounds like they will now.

    Are you able to confirm whether the numbers are back in line with pre-August 28 numbers for Viral Reach?

    • Chad Wittman

      Haven’t been able to study that directly, but my gut is saying they’ll be higher.

  2. Jeremy

    AMAZING. My average post has going up from 9000 reach to 40000. :D

  3. Great info here, thanks for sharing. I did not think things were adding up – now it makes sense. Is it worth reporting the bug to clients?

  4. JB

    Thanks, I think I had asked about this a while ago. We had more than 50 shares on a post but less than 20 viral reach, which made no sense at all.

  5. What I want to know is, if viral exposure was being counted as paid exposure, was Facebook forcing people to pay for something they should not have had to pay for? And if so, will Facebook be reimbursing or crediting users for this discrepancy in their ad system?

  6. andrew

    awesome article. I noticed a huge jump in viral reach for my page too.

  7. dany

    they are doing this because they want to encourage their advertising business (investors are pushink on the back of tzuckerberg to do so…)

  8. Batavus

    Nice analyses!

    Total Post Reach includes Paid Post Reach – so you should take average ad spending before/after into account. Also, Viral Reach often (always) shows better results – when using Page Post Ads.

    Any information on frequency – impressions / reach?

    cheers,

    Batavus

  9. I think the difference between the viral reach is dependent on how many friends the user has who shares your post. (Ex. if 10 people share your post and they each have 100 friends it would be less than if 5 people with 1,000 friends shared your post).

    • Chad Wittman

      This is true in general, but incorrect in the particular context of this blog post. Thanks for the input!

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