How Facebook Calculates What Appears In Your News Feed

The problem with Facebook organic reach can be summed up in one single graphic: Only 6 percent of your fans are seeing your content in their news feed. The other 94 percent are not.

Facebook Organic Reach six percent

Some sources indicate that organic reach may drop to 1-2 percent in the near future. Others say it’s destined to hit zero; it’s only a matter of time.

These stats are a big drop from the already low 16 percent that Facebook indicated back in April 2012.

What is causing the decline in organic reach?

The simplest answer is there is a significantly greater amount of potential content flooding into our news feeds on a daily basis. This bigger firehose of content is caused by several factors, including:

  • The average number of Facebook friends users have is 338 (that’s a big increase compared to 130 back in 2008).
  • 15 percent of Facebook users have more than 500 friends.
  • There are between 1500 and 15,000 pieces of content that Facebook could potentially show in your news feed each time you log on to the site!
  • The Facebook news feed ranking algorithm (some folks call this formula ‘EdgeRank’) uses more than 100,000 weights* to determine what you’ll see.
  • Ultimately, out of the 1,500 – 15,000 potential stories, Facebook passes them through the mega algorithm and displays approximately 300 stories in your feed.

*Examples of weights: how many mutual friends like the person/page/content, how often you interact with the person/page, when the post was published, when the last comment was made, what types of content you typically interact with: watch more videos and Facebook will show you more videos, like more links and Facebook will show you more links. 

Embrace pay-to-play

Up until around mid 2013, business users had a wonderful free ride on Facebook for about six years. Now, Facebook is definitely pay-to-play. Thing is, let’s compare getting into the news feed of more of your Facebook fans to getting on page one of Google.

If you were to set your sights on being among the TOP organic search results on Google for your best keywords, do you think that would cost you money to do so? Absolutely!

You’d need to hire an experienced SEO company and invest quite a bit of time to see results. Sure, you might get lucky and get instant indexing for a top keyword… but can you sustain that over time? Likely not. Good organic search engine results takes time…and money. It’s the same with good Facebook news feed visibility now.  It takes time to find the right style, topics, cadence and interaction with your audience. You’ll pay to boost/promote some content and sometimes it can be hit or miss. Keep persisting, though.

Can you still get a spike in organic reach?

On my own Facebook page (currently with over 134,000 fans/likes), I used to regularly see organic reach in the 50,000 range.

Then, that started dropping in the fall of 2013; my average reach in Q4 was down to 33,000. And by the end of Q1, 2014, I was seeing an average organic reach of just 8,500. :( Ouch, I know. Fortunately, I’ve seen it bounce back up a bit over the past few months with the additional changes to the news feed algorithm (reduction of spam, memes, etc).

And, ever-determined to persist with creative organic methods (hey, I’m Scottish and have frugal genes, lol!), I recently published my most popular post, reaching a whopping 129,000 organically. It’s been well over a year since I last saw reach that high.

I simply shared a great piece of “OPC” (other people’s content): an excellent blog post by the good peeps at Buffer! See: The Complete Guide To Growing Your Organic Reach.

Key factors that caused this spike

  • Publish time: I shared the post at 7:30AM Pacific time on a Sunday morning. TIP: Experiment with posting outside business hours.
  • Gap in posts: I usually post once a day, sometimes twice. This time, I hadn’t posted anything for three days (I was off the grid at an event and hadn’t pre-scheduled any posts). TIP: It may help boost your reach at times by leaving a bigger space between posts. It seems counter-intuitive, but give it a try! Fans don’t necessarily want to see content every day from business pages.
  • Short narrative: I often tend to be really verbose. But my fans are used to that. TIP: Mix up your post length; try long and short.
  • Photo post: Even though there is a link with the narrative, Facebook reads this as a photo post which tends to get greater news feed visibility over links. Although links are on the increase. Status updates without the link preview can get good reach, too. TIP: Publish a variety of post types. Try roughly 50% photos, 25% status updates and 25% links.
  • Hashtags: These may or may not make a difference, but I typically like to include 2-3.
  • No CTA (call to action): I’m normally a huge fan of always including a question or invitation to comment, click, like, share. But I don’t recommend doing so with every single post. TIP: Keep it simple. Trust that your fans will naturally want to share/engage with really good, relevant, timely content. This post has over 850 shares and counting.
  • Stay on topic: FOCUS = Follow One Course Until Successful. I rarely deviate from the topic of Facebook marketing (and other social media marketing) content on my page. I’ve tried in the past and my fans just do not engage as much. TIP: Go an inch wide and a mile deep with your subject expertise. Don’t try to be all things to all people.

Don’t break up with Facebook over organic reach

Here’s another great example of a helpful post on organic reach that I shared on my Facebook page, using many of the same parameters mentioned above: photo post with a link, published at 8:30PM Pacific Time on a Monday evening. This one got just under 53,000 reach in April 2014.

12 practical Facebook reach tips

Let’s round up some further practical tips that have been working well for me and can hopefully benefit your page, too. These tips originally appeared on this Facebook post.

  1. Post more often – at least three times a day.* (However, you may find your page works better with less – you have to experiment).
  2. Experiment with posting at different times of the day, including outside business hours.
  3. Post a mix of your own content (short tips + links to your longer blog posts) + OPC (other people’s content that you curate from a variety of sources). e.g. for Facebook-related content, follow this Interest List with 36.5k+ subscribers!
  4. Post directly on your Page and also share posts from other relevant Pages.
  5. Include @ tags of related Pages in your posts. This may help create more visibility in the news feed of the fans who have liked the tagged pages. Don’t over do the @ tags, though, and always remember your etiquette.
  6. Repost your own evergreen content.
  7. Mix up the post types: status updates, links, photos, videos, offers, events, milestones and cover image changes.
  8. Test post length from super short (<120 characters) to much longer (63k is the max!).
  9. Check your Insights for when your fans are online and be sure to post during these times (as well as outside, per tip #2).
  10. Consider coming up with a theme for each day of the week and publish posts pertaining to that day’s theme. Also, look for ways to crowd source content and featured input from your fans.
  11. Compare your reach performance against the average at: http://barometer.agorapulse.com/
  12. And, of course PAY for more reach on posts that impact your bottom-line, using the Boost post option or go into your Ads Manager/Power Editor.**

*Emeric Ernoult of AgoraPulse says, “Pages that post at least three times a day get very high page reach metrics and much more brand awareness than pages that only post once a day or fewer.”

**Emeric says, “…if you’re announcing a new product, new features, an ebook or webinar or other content you’ve spent hours on, isn’t it worth it to pay $30 or $50 to make sure your hard work is seen by 9,000 people instead of 1,000? Yes! Your time and specialized content are worth it. Why waste those efforts to save $30 or $50? That’s nonsense.”

Data sources:

Please share and comment

I trust you’ve found many valuable nuggets here! Is so, please do share this post with your peeps. And leave me a comment below.

P.S. After a one-year hiatus from publishing blog posts, I’m delighted to launch my brand new website design this week, and get back on track with a regular blogging schedule. Yay! Stay tuned for more posts from myself and guest bloggers. :) We currently have a waiting list of guest bloggers. However, if you’d like to write for MariSmith.com, please do submit your request here and my team will be in touch.

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Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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Posted in Facebook for Business, Facebook Marketing, Facebook Tips
  • Great post!!!!!!

    Love the 12 practical tips. Organic reach or not, still one of the best places to connect with new people and ridiculously inexpensive.

  • Mike Macey

    Strong factors and practical tips. Thanks Mari for sharing your insights and data resources – from beautiful Colorado!

  • Ever since my drunk post at 2am a few ago weeks ago garnered a single post reach of about 2,000,000 in about 96 hours, I’ve stopped over thinking Facebook

  • Great post ! I totally agree with the OPC (other people’s content) part. If all you do if talk about yourself, no one will come back.

    I wrote this a few months ago:

    Why Nobody Cares About Your Facebook Page (and why you shouldn’t either).

    http://www.dakinassociates.com/nobody-cares-about-your-facebook-page/

  • My company manages Facebook pages for a variety of businesses, and we use all these tips consistently. We’ve discovered that what works for one company’s page absolutely flops for another company — even in terms of the ratio of posting 50% photos, 25% status, 25% links. The most critical thing is knowing your audience and giving them the type of content they find most useful. Varying posting times also seems to work well across all our clients’ pages. Trying to find that “magic” combination is always a challenge. Thanks for your post; it’s helpful to know the latest algorithm data and what you predict for the future so we can plan ahead.

  • Joey Ambrose

    Really? Posting on a Sunday? Skeptical…but hey, I’ll try anything once :) Great post Mari. My biggest takeaway was test, re-test, and re-test some more. Then measure!

  • Cindy Cook Ballaro

    Great post! I’m just a little confused about the number of times p/day to post on our business page. In one place you suggest once a day, but then later you site someone who says 3 times a day is optimal. Can you please clarify this point? Thanks!

  • A wealth of great strategies! Love your new site design, too!

  • Prem Singh

    From last 1 month i watching :- How Facebook news feed works in my timeline
    Results = News feed show more post which one i like more than 3-5 times or show stories of my friends which is more engage with me
    Mari your post give me good tips in extra

  • Hey @mybizpresence:disqus – thanks a billion!! :)

  • @cindycookballaro:disqus — Indeed, as I point out in tip #1 of the 12 practical tips, “However, you may find your page works better with less – you have to experiment.” For me, 1-2 posts a day works well. But, I have clients and students who literally post once an hour and do really well. :)

  • Sahweet, @joeyambrose:disqus – glad to hear you got value and some takeaways!! :)

  • @laurachristianson:disqus – many thanks for reading and for your valuable input! You’re right on about the ratios varying for each page. Another consideration is the more someone likes a particular post type, the more Facebook displays that type. So, if a page posts mostly photos and there are fans who previously mostly only interacted with status updates, then that group of fans may not be seeing the photo posts at all. It’s crazymaking at times!! :)

  • Hi @shimane:disqus – oh that’s awesome, I’ll take a look. Thanks a mil for sharing!! :)

  • Omg, @mitchrezman:disqus – seriously? That is hilarious. Love it!!! Yep, as one of my mantras for success on Facebook goes, “Be a member first, then a marketer.” Clearly, your fanbase resonates with your relaxed style! 😉

  • My pleasure, @mikemacey:disqus – glad you got value!

  • AMEN, @MichaelKawula:disqus!!! Preach it!! hehee. I ought to have emphasized those factors… will do in a future post. Plenty more in the hopper! :)

  • Awesome! Thanks for stopping by, @PremSingh1:disqus!

  • ps. LOVE the new design :) Enjoy the weekend. Mike

  • Melinda Crow

    Great tips! Maybe I’ll quit whining quite so much about FB and test a few more things.

  • Congrats on the relaunch of your site @MariSmith:disqus! Looks great. And your article is awesome too! :-). Glad to see you’re blogging again.

  • nathanlatka1

    Love these tactics and the research to back it up Mari! Thanks!

  • @nathanlatka1:disqus Hey thanks heaps, Nathan!! You rock!! (Loved your post on Facebook about Walt Disney and his brother, btw. Amen for BUILDING your vision!)

  • Yippeee, @blogsquad:disqus!! Thanks for stopping by. Ha, I remember way back at BlogWorld 2008 I believe it was, that I committed to blogging more. Good to be back!!

  • LOL, I hear you, @melindacrow:disqus! I still passionately love Facebook after over seven years of immersing myself in the platform for business use. The site has changed dramatically in that time, but it is still helping create a quantum leap in how we connect with the world and, as a result, how we do business.

  • Thank you kindly – you too!!! ?

  • Great insight, thanks for sharing

  • Nancy VanReece

    Wonderful synopsis of the current tactics that build result on Facebook

  • JB Glossinger

    Love ya Mari – As always HOME RUN – you rock!!!!! Thank you for all you do! Sharing :)

  • GregSmithCPF

    As usual, lots of great info. I like the way you made an acronym for FOCUS.

  • Mari – these are some really constructive tips on overcoming the lack of Facebook love for page posts. At B2Bento, we recently wrote about the “Death of organic reach” in Facebook (http://www.b2bento.com/2014/06/the-death-of-facebooks-organic-reach-its-official/) and the need for quitting over-reliance on Facebook as one’s content outpost. But your tips here will offer some solace to those disheartened by our post :) Thanks, as always.

  • @asuthosh:disqus – thank you kindly for adding your input!! I’ll be sure to check out your post, too. Together, we can all help so many people out there. The key component is to test, test, test! :)

  • Thanks!

  • woot, thanks a billion, dear @jb_glossinger:disqus!! You rock!

  • Scott Wasserman

    Great article Mari! I’m going to ask you what a client asked me when I shared this: Narrow it down to 140 characters. :) hmmmm

  • yongxinquaini22

    Every year, the company was invested to advertise Coach Outlet COACH brand and its products worldwide. In the English version of “ELLE” (World Court of fashion), “URBANITES” (city Coach Outlet Online people), “NEXT MAGAZINE” (One Week), “ZIP MAGAZINE”, “VOGUE”, “LUCKY” and other famous fashion magazine, Japanese edition , Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese version on invested heavily About COACH products. Meanwhile, in the Chinese-speaking world, but Coach Bags also as the “Apple Daily”, “Hong Kong Economic Times”, “Ming Pao Coach Wallets Weekly” and other famous Chinese media put a lot of Chinese advertising to study the Chinese market. These well-known newspapers and magazines are further introduced a special article written Coach Baby Bags COACH brand and give a high evaluation.

  • great article…you surely a research person :)

  • Melinda Gray Jordan

    Good and timely information, as always, Mari! It’s encouraging to see that things are leveling out and that consistency does pay off in the end. Thank you once more for the valuable insight you provide!

  • Lots of good nuggets here from the data sources and from your examples!! I’ll be sharing this and referring to it!! I think it’s so interesting that your post that went wild was OPC. So many times people hang on and only share their own content and this shows the value of sharing simply good stuff!

  • Peggy McAloon

    Great tips Mari! I’m going to have to figure out how to schedule posts on Facebook because I’m taking a couple months off to finish a book and can’t be on social media for awhile! Hoping I can figure it out quickly!!

  • Marsea

    Another article you have recommended said not to use hashtags on Facebook. I’m confused!

  • Pingback: Facebook Engagement Psychology: Increase Your Reach and Engagement | SociaNews Online()

  • Mari – great tips – I have just reached 500,000 LIKES on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/forbesrileyFANpage

  • Karen – I agree wonderful info! http://www.facebook.com/ForbesRileyFANPage

  • ank you for sharing I of course will share and try different things. Even when I ask questions etc people don’t respond and I don’t know why? And I have tried many different questions and articles etc. Sometimes I get a few responses but not many and do not know how else to bring people to my page. If people like your pag and you are not friends with them do they still see your posts??? Thank you

  • Emeric

    I can’t believe I missed this one! Thanks a lot for mentioning both the Barometer and my post on Social Media Examiner, you’ve made my day :-) I hope you had a relaxing Labor Day :-)

  • Aww, truly my pleasure, @disqus_a6LgXoOOIo:disqus!! You rock, my friend. :)

  • Omg, @forbesriley:disqus – that is FANTASTICO!! You go, girl. :) xxx

  • Emeric

    @MariSmith:disqus You rock much better than I do :-) Thanks for being you!

  • Thank you for the tips!
    I have reach 4000 likes on Facebook!
    http://www.facebook.com/honrice

  • otomatik kapilar

    This is a really good read for me. Must agree
    that you are one of the coolest blogger I ever
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  • arezoo

    Great tips! Maybe I’ll quit whining quite so much about FB and test a few more things.
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  • Verity Kennard

    Packed post full of useful tips, Facebook Ads are definitely the way to go in terms of driving brand identity and expanding customer reach. We’ve blogged about a similar topic here https://stitcherads.com/top-tips-social-advertising-success/ and would love to hear your thoughts.

    Verity
    StitcherAds

  • That was before they beat me to the ground and reduced my organic reach 90% over 9 days.

    Now my voice is silent to the majority of 300,000 fans we spent 4 years acquiring.

    I’m advertising on FB but I did the math on pay to play – need a $60,000 month ad send to replace the organic reach we enjoyed till the end of summer.

    I wonder if Facebook realizes how much money they’re pushing to Google (in spite of the recent profits) where at least for eCommerce PLA’s CPA’s can be 50% less on Google

    So with all due respect to Mari Smith and company, Facebook marketing is at the bottom of the heap for ROI in the real world of digital marketing

    mitchr

  • shirzad

    Another article you have recommended said not to use hashtags on Facebook. I’m confused!

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  • mona

    I would love Shmarv site
    Interesting things to do

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  • mona
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