At some point, a company’s organic reach on Facebook may hit zero

Back in March 2012, Facebook told brand managers that the organic reach of one of their posts would be about 16 percent of their total audience; if they paid for a post, that could get up to 75 percent. In reality, around October 2013 the organic reach was 12 percent or so; around February 2014 (just a few months later), the organic reach was around six percent. It’s only logical that Facebook would urge marketers to buy ads, because, well, they want to make some money. But it’s also logical that the amount of content out there that could be eligible for a NewsFeed is increasing, and the physical space — i.e. your NewsFeed — is still essentially the same. Are brands screwed?

They’re not screwed, per se. They certainly have challenges. Here’s what Facebook itself says about cleaning up NewsFeed “spam.” Essentially, Facebook is trying to do away with link-baiting (“Like this if you enjoy pizza!”), re-circulated content (i.e. memes), and spammy links (that lead to sub-par content or products).

The guy who wrote the study about the drop in organic reach, Marshall Manson of EAME, has noted this:

Eventually, there may be no space left for brands who haven’t paid to promote their posts. According to Mr. Manson, Facebook representatives have told members of his team and clients to think about what a social strategy would look like if there were no organic reach.

“Increasingly Facebook is saying that you should assume a day will come when the organic reach is zero,” he said.

So what’s this all going to lead to? In all likelihood, the short-term result (and maybe the intermediate-term result) will be people buying more sponsored ads to increase reach. The longer-term result might be people shifting to other social brands, i.e. Twitter or Instagram, in order to get their message across; of course, Twitter has its own issues too.

Ted Bauer