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Kevin Dean
by Kevin Dean
on March 31, 2014

Are you managing your own or clients’ brand pages on Facebook? Have you noticed that these pages are not generating the level of engagement they once did?
You’re not imagining things, and you’re far from alone. Facebook has made changes to its algorithm, negatively affecting the organic reach of brand pages. Organic reach refers to those pages that come up naturally when people use Facebook, as opposed to the paid ads on the page that accompany the organic content. Remember the debacle that was unleashed when Google’s Panda was released, changing the SEO game forever? Something akin to that is happening with Facebook, albeit more gradually. With the changes Facebook is making, organic reach keeps falling. Some even speculate that it’s only a matter of time before organic reach on Facebook hits zero.

Organic Reach Continues to Plummet
In the past, organic content plus engaged followers were the holy grail of success in social media marketing. However, Ignite Social Media reports that of 689 posts reviewed since Dec. 21, 2013 in 21 substantial brand pages across a variety of industries, organic reach has declined by 44% on average. Some pages have fallen as much as 88%. Brand page reach is now under 3% compared to around 16% a year ago as reported by Facebook. The average post on a popular brand page now only reaches about 2.5% of fans. Needless to say, this is disturbing news for brands who have invested a lot of time, effort and resources in building their Facebook audience.
Why the Changes?
When asked about these shifts, Facebook cited increased competition for News Feed stories leading to a need for more quality control. Since News Feed content is ever changing, and more and more people are sharing content, changes in distribution were necessary to keep the competition and quality strong. For many pages, this means a decline in organic social media reaches, a trend that’s expected to continue.
What are the broader implications for brands? In the past, the posts with the most likes, shares and comments received a higher position in the News Feed. In addition, brands supported their organic results with paid promoted posts. Now, brands will have to rethink their strategy.
Time to Pay Up
With well over a billion users, clearly, marketers cannot afford to be excluded from the world’s most popular social network. The policy at Facebook seems to be that since more and more users are sharing more information, an algorithm is needed to sift through it all and make sure the cream rises to the top. There is no longer any guarantee a brand page will come up high in organic results just because it has a lot of Likes. Because like it or not, the only way for a brand or business to have a guarantee of being seen on Facebook is to pay for Facebook ads.
Not surprisingly, many businesses and marketers are experiencing the growing pains of these changes. What used to be free or highly affordable is now going to use part of their advertising budget. However, Facebook maintains that these changes are not a ploy to make more money; instead, they are an effort to keep the Facebook News Feed’s quality high and truly relevant. The algorithm changes are controversial, but the fact remains: the only guarantee of being seen on Facebook going forward is through paid ads.