Mark Zuckerberg Addresses Your Organic Reach Problem

Chris CrumSocial Media

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If you have a Facebook Page, you're no doubt well aware that the organic reach of posts for many pages has dramatically declined over the past year. It's gotten harder and harder for businesses to reach people in the News Feed with their messages without paying to do so.

Has your News Feed visibility been severely impacted by this? Let us know in the comments.

The company has addressed the concerns of businesses in the past. It hasn't really offered any helpful solutions other than suggesting you buy ads, but they have at least acknowledged that it's getting harder to reach people for free.

The subject inevitably came up again as Facebook held a live Q&A session featuring CEO Mark Zuckerberg and various other executives. Zuckerberg himself actually talked about it this time, so it's interesting to hear his thoughts on the matter, even if they're not incredibly different than what we've heard before.

Specifically, Zuck responded to a question asking when "our Facebook fan pages' reach will be coming back." This, according to the moderator, was a very popular question (no doubt). It's interesting to see the looks on the audience's faces as the topic came up. I sense some frustration.

facebook organic reach

Zuck responded, "So that's another really good question, and it's one that when I was looking through the questions that people asked - this is one that a lot of people asked in different versions, and a lot of people voted on it - so I just want to start off by saying, as the question kind of implies, you know a lot of businesses that have fan pages over time, some of them are getting more distribution, and they're reaching more people, and some of them are reaching less as we make different product changes. Before kind of explaining why this is, I just want to express some empathy in that we understand what it's like to be a business - especially from being a startup and trying to reach your customers, and reach people and communicate, and grow, and we care really deeply about the different changes in our product, and how that affects all the businesses and people who are using fan pages. And we take it really seriously when any product change that we do will change or have an impact on someone's business."

"So, with that said, the...and I think it's also important to kind of keep in mind that Facebook is this huge service, and more than a billion people use it. So even though there are these shifts on a day-to-day or a month-to-month basis, and you'll find that your business might get more or less traffic, it's probably still overall a very good, organic and free way to reach and communicate with your customers overall. So I don't want to lose track of that."

"Now, in terms of what's going on here, there are two primary trends that I think are affecting the organic reach of fan pages. The first is that as time goes on, people are just sharing more things on Facebook, so each person who's consuming content in their News Feed, they might read a hundred stories from their friends and pages that day, and as their friends share more content, and as they follow more pages, and as those pages share more content, there's just more competition. The average person - there are about fifteen hundred stories a day that they could see in News Feed, and they only see about a hundred, so that means that less than ten percent of what people are posting, the person will actually get to in their feed. And that's important in terms of thinking about how we design News Feed and how we give people the best experience, but it's an important thing to keep in mind - just that there are these two trends: one is that the population of the community on Facebook is growing, so you'll reach more people that way, but there's also more competition for what they see, so only the highest quality content is actually going to get through and shown to those people, so you really need to focus on continuing to make sure that you're pushing out good content and communicating effectively with your customers."

That point about people only seeing the highest quality content is certainly debatable, and there is plenty of high quality content that never gets the reach.

Zuckerberg continued, "The other thing is a more philosophical way that we think about the products that we build. So News Feed - our goal is to build the perfect, personalized newspaper for every person in the world. We think about the way the newspaper media industry has evolved over time, and there are lots of different newspaper or media channels that people can plug into, and they tend not to be personalized. You can read your local newspaper or a national newspaper or a TV station, and they're kind of showing the same thing to hundreds of thousands or millions of people. What we're trying to do with Facebook and News Feed in particular is personalize it, and show you the stuff that's going to be the most interesting to you whether that's global news through Pages that you might be following or things that are really personal to you, so updates about your friends. One of my friends just this morning had a baby, and I learned about that the baby is healthy on News Feed, and it made me really happy. And that might be relevant to me, but not relevant to a lot of other people in the world, and that's one thing that we try to deliver through News Feed."

"So there's this inherent conflict in the system though, which is are we trying to optimize News Feed to give each person - all of you guys the best experience when you're reading or are we trying to help businesses just reach as many people as possible? And in every decision that we make, we optimize for the first. We're making it so that for the people who we serve, who use Facebook, and are reading News Feed get the very best experience that they can. And that means that if a business is sharing content that's going to be useful for them, then we'll show that, but that means that if the business is sharing content that isn't going to be useful for them, we may not show that because it's probably more important that they learn about their friend who had a baby and their baby is healthy."

Of course, those two scenarios are pretty much the opposite ends of the spectrum, and there's a lot more that comes into question in the middle.

"So that's an important guiding principle for how we think about this stuff," he continued. "And as the products continue to develop, there's just gonna be more people sharing more things, and we're going to continue to try to do our best at showing the best things that we can, understanding that there's no way that a person will ever take the time to go through every one of the 1,500 things that are shared with them every single day. That's kind of how I think about organic reach, and there are a lot of pages that are doing quite successfully, and their organic reach is growing quite a bit because they're delivering content to people that they really want."

"So if you're a business owner and you're thinking about how to use your free Page on Facebook, I would just focus on trying to publish really good content that's going to be compelling to your customers and the people who are following you."

That's the long answer to a single question, but this topic would probably be better served by a whole discussion dedicated specifically to it. There are a lot of questions businesses and users alike might have for Zuckerberg specifically related to what he said, and how Facebook views "quality". We know based on words from the company in the past that it has a lot of work to do when determining quality.

That's probably the best we're going to get out of Facebook for the time being though. At least there are still plenty of businesses benefiting from the social network.

Last week, Shareaholic put out its quarterly Social Media Traffic report for the third quarter, which found that Facebook is still holding strong in terms of sending referrals to websites. It's sending four times as much traffic to sites as Pinterest, which is in the second place spot.

Another report found that Facebook sent 10% more traffic to publisher websites in August compared to last year.

In September, we looked at everything Facebook has said about News Feed ranking over the past year. You might want to check that out for a refresher.

What do you think about Zuckerberg's words about organic reach? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Facebook, UstreamTV

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.