Providing Stats & Metrics to the Eat24 Facebook Discussion

There are many competing opinions about Facebook’s news feed and business tactics. We wanted to provide an updated look into some metrics to help guide these discussions with data.

For the typical Page on Facebook in March 2014:

  • Organic Reach per Fan = 6.51%
  • Fan Reach per Fan = 6.46%
  • Viral Reach per Fan = 0.99%

Where were we before this?

Organic Reach per Fan (Median):

  • Feb 2012 = 16%
  • Sep 2013 = 12.60%
  • Nov 2013 = 10.15%
  • Dec 2013 = 7.83%
  • Mar 2014 = 6.51%

Organic-Reach-Fan-Feb12-Mar14

Brands with “Social DNA” are now outperforming peers

Many different types of businesses are still doing very well on Facebook, even in terms of Reach. We’re starting to see that brands who naturally do well in social media are performing stronger than brands that traditionally struggle.

For example, artists/musicians/entertainers/movies are experiencing average Organic Reach well above their news feed competitors like retail/clothing/bank/appliances.

Part of the recent discussion around Facebook has been focused on local businesses against the larger “viral content creators.”

Organic-Reach-Fan-Viral-Content-Local-Business

We pulled data from different sized Pages, and broke them out by a few key categories. As you can see in the breakdown, media/news/publishing is still performing quite strong compared to their peers. The typical large 1M+ Pages are experiencing Organic Reach around 4%.

An interesting observation: Fan Reach/Fan and Organic Reach/Fan are nearly identical.

In the past we tended to study Organic Reach/Fan. This was because we felt this was the most helpful metric due to Facebook presenting this number as often as possible in Insights. When Facebook discussed negative changes to brands they would rely on the (almost always) better looking metric of Fan Reach/Fan. However, these two numbers in our latest study are now nearly identical (~98% accuracy).

Conclusion

Organic Reach has decreased over the past few years. What we’re beginning to see is brands with “Social DNA” are now pulling away from the rest of the pack. Brands that struggle to engage their audience, when measured against brands like the NBA, are being urged by Facebook to use ads to “make up the difference.” There are still brands that are leveraging Facebook quite effectively, especially by leveraging things like Shares, and encouraging people to Organically discuss/promote their content (think Old Spice).

Interestingly, Viral Reach per Fan is up to 1.10% (0.60% in Feb 2013). Facebook is giving additional exposure to content that it deems “Viral.” If this number had significantly decreased, or approached 0—we would be concerned that Facebook was even further squeezing brands. However, this does not seem to be the case.

How did we study the data?

We looked at data for the month of March. We examined both Organic Reach as well as Fan Reach, although these two metrics were nearly the same over this time period. We examined just under 1,000 Pages that posted nearly 50,000 times. Most metrics reported are the Median of each Page’s average over this time period, unless stated otherwise.

Average Facebook Page Reaches 12.6%

Facebook doesn’t often reveal baseline statistics for their platform. The typical number floating around regarding Reach is about 16%. Last Fall, there was some disagreement on this number as Facebook had made significant changes to the news feed algorithm.

Interestingly enough, when Facebook had studied Reach, they had examined Reach of Fans (which is included in Insights). This number was higher than some 3rd Party Analytical providers (including us) were seeing. Ironically, Facebook shows Organic Reach (including non-fans) in Insights, as the default view. In order to find this subtle difference, you must navigate to the Posts tabs, drill down Reach from Organic/Paid to Fans/Non-Fans. Facebook likes to show the user the higher number of the two in Insights, but tends to use a different number in their studies. To clarify, we’re using Organic Reach / Number of Fans on Day of Post.

Most Page Admins focus on Organic Reach as it relates to the size of their fan base to keep things relative. From time to time, we examine these impacts to see any changes across the board. We found that the average Facebook page reaches 12.6% of their audience.

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Hashtags on Facebook Do Nothing To Help Additional Exposure

Significant time has passed since Facebook fully rolled out their hashtag implementation. We decided to dig into the data to see the impact of hashtags on the news feed. To our surprise, the answer was…nothing. Wow, we didn’t expect to find that!

The assumption is that if people see an object in the news feed with a hashtag they’re interested in, they will click the hashtag to discover more interesting content related to the particular hashtag. Brands that talk about trending hashtags may receive additional exposure due to other Pages using hashtags because their Page may show up unexpectedly. Continue reading

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.

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Did Facebook Decrease Pages’ Reach?

[Updated: 10/04/12] // We’ve received a lot of feedback regarding this data. A Facebook Ad Rep had emailed the following:

  • We’re continually optimizing newsfeed to ensure the most relevant experience for our users
  • One of the key factors in our optimization is engagement: the amount of clicks, likes, comments, shares etc. generated by a piece of content
  • While overall engagement should remain relatively consistent as a result of our most recent optimization, your organic reach may be impacted
  • The more engaging your content, the lower the impact this optimization should have on your reach going forward
  • Feed is optimized to show users the posts they are most likely to engage with, where engagement is defined as clicking, liking, commenting, or sharing the post – or in the case of offers, claiming the offer.
  • Posts that are more likely to be engaging tend to appear higher in feed. Some of the strongest factors that influence this are how engaging an individual post has been for other users who have seen it, and how engaged a user has historically been with other posts they’ve seen from that page. Feed also takes negative feedback into account, which is the number of people who have hidden a post or reported it as spam.
  • Finally, if a page has a piece of content that it feels will be very engaging e.g. A good offer, a great photo, an announcement, etc. then using paid media to “boost” that post to fans in newsfeed can be an effective tool to increase engagement with fans.

Matt, from another agency, also dropped a great insight into the issue along with their Facebook Ad Rep’s statement. //

Since Ogilvy reported that Facebook announced a drastic change to the EdgeRank algorithm on September 20th, we’ve heard widespread complaints that Page Admins are experiencing a decrease in Reach. We decided to look into the data ourselves to see if this is, in fact, a widespread issue.

Over time we’ve seen Reach slowly decrease as more Pages, and more users, create content. The more content that is posted to the news feed, the less likely your Page’s content will reach your fans. Facebook has also been rumored to provide 80% organic content, and “20% paid content in the form of sponsored stories” for Pages. So, tweaks in EdgeRank can cause fluctuations in metrics for brands on Facebook.

What Did We Find?
The typical Facebook Page in our data set was experiencing 26% Organic Reach the week before the 20th. The week after the 20th, these same Pages were experiencing 19.5%. These Pages lost approximately 6.5% of their Reach after the 20th.

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