Increasing your Facebook reach can be a challenging and time-consuming task. In many ways, it’s both the starting point and the end goal of Facebook marketing.
Your brand’s Facebook reach is the foundation upon which many of your other Facebook metrics — such as comments, likes and impressions — are built upon. Without any reach, your content will exist without purpose or visibility on Facebook.
But at the same time, if you want to improve your reach and get more likes and comments, you need to ensure that your content is already racking up likes and comments, the very thing you need reach to get.
If this whirlwind of paradoxes makes your head spin, you’re not alone. Facebook reach is a strange but powerful beast: it’s hard to tame and get under control, but it can prove to be a mighty companion.
Here, we’re going to try to make sense of Facebook reach and how it can help grow your brand.
What is Facebook reach?
The concept of reach itself is fairly easy to understand, but it is quite nuanced. In short, your Facebook reach is simply the number of unique users who see your post or page, regardless of whether they engaged with it. So, if you make a post and 100 people look at it, your reach is 100 people.
Facebook reach is always measured within a specified period. That means you can’t simply get a metric for your overall reach. Instead, you need to look at your daily, weekly or monthly reach.
Obviously, Facebook has no way of actually tracking how many literal eyes see your posts while scrolling through their newsfeed. So Facebook simply tracks how many unique screens your post displays on.
In the past, a post’s reach was based on how many unique users loaded the post in their newsfeed, even if it never displayed on their screen. However, this changed in February 2018, so marketers who are familiar with the old way of measuring reach should be readjusted to the updated method by now.
Reach vs. impressions
Now, it’s important to make a distinction between reach and impressions. Unlike reach, which measures how many unique viewers your post has, impressions measures how many times your content was displayed. It does not measure unique viewers. So if your post was served up to the same person three times, your impression count will increase by three. Theoretically, you could have a post with a reach of 1 and with 100 impressions.
With the definition of impressions in hand, we can now revisit the definition of Facebook reach with more clarity as the number of unique users viewing your post within a specified period versus the total number of views (including repeat views).
Reach vs. engagement
Anyone marketing their business on Facebook must be aware that reach is not a form of engagement. Rather, reach is a precursor to engagement: as your reach increases, so does the probability of engagements, simply because your content is appearing in front of more users. Thanks to the Facebook algorithm, more engagement can actually boost your reach, so while they are connected in some ways, they are two separate metrics.
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Types of Reach
Page reach vs. post reach
Facebook divides reach into two main categories: page reach and post reach.
- Post reach is a measure of any individual post’s unique impressions within a specified time period.
- Page reach is a measure of how many unique users saw any of a page’s posts within a specified time period.
It’s possible to have a high page reach and a low post reach or vice versa. If you post very often, you may have a high page reach and a low post reach, but if you post less frequently you might have a low page reach and a high post reach.
You’ll need to take your overarching brand strategy into account to determine whether you should be focusing on increasing your post or page reach. If brand awareness is your goal, increasing your page reach is usually the better target.
Organic, paid and viral reach
Page and post reach can each be divided into three further categories.
- Organic reach is the number of unique users who saw your content after you posted it for free on your page.
- Paid reach is the number of unique users who saw your paid Facebook content, such as a Facebook ad or a boosted post.
- Viral reach is the number of unique users who saw your Facebook content because one of their friends engaged with it by liking, commenting, or sharing it.
Each of these terms can be applied to both page and post reach, so you can refer to a post’s organic reach, a page’s paid reach and so on.
Other types of reach
Facebook provides a few other less common metrics that brands can use to measure their reach.
- Reach by city tells you how many unique users in a specific city saw your content within a specified time period.
- Reach by country tells you how many unique users in a specific country saw your content within a specified time period.
- Reach by demographics tells you how many unique users of a specific demographic, such as men between 18-24 or women 40-59, saw your content within a specified time period.
Although these measures of reach are less common than organic, paid and viral reach, they can still be incredibly useful.
For example, if a small bakery owner in Denver is trying to attract customers, they should keep an eye on their reach by city. But if their viral reach is off the charts, and mostly in Krakow, Poland, it’s not going to drive the results the brand is looking for.
The state of organic vs. paid reach on Facebook
From 2012 to 2014, the organic reach of branded Facebook posts decreased by approximately 90%.
The reason for this downtrend is twofold. First, the sheer amount of branded content popping up on Facebook has increased dramatically since the platform’s birth. More brands fighting for attention means more competition, and there’s only so much of the organic-reach pie to go around.
Secondly, Facebook began implementing changes to its News Feed algorithm in 2018 that prioritizes content from friends and family, especially by favoring content that promotes engagement. Clearly, this could put branded content at an immediate disadvantage.
More generally, Facebook is making an effort to promote content that encourages user-to-user interaction, primarily with other users who are close to them.
According to Lauren Scissors, Head of News Feed Research at Facebook, the driving philosophy behind the changes is that “interacting with people, like having a conversation or reminiscing about things you’ve shared, is associated with a greater sense of well-being, and the benefits are even stronger when you’re close to the person, and when the interaction requires some effort.”
Because of this, it’s generally easier to increase paid reach on Facebook than it is to increase organic or viral reach.
How to boost Facebook reach in 2020
While it may seem that the cards are definitely stacked against Facebook Pages, there are still ways to improve your reach organically on Facebook — it just takes a little creativity.
Build relationships and trust with your audience
Lauren Scissors dropped a hint as to what type of branded content will still perform well when she mentioned interactions that require some effort. She provides an example: “typing out a long and thoughtful reply to a friend’s post.”
So, what can we gather from this? The type of paid and organic content that will continue to perform well on Facebook is content that provokes thoughtful responses and creates meaningful experiences for users. Your content should ideally encourage discussion without partaking in engagement baiting — Facebook has been against that practice since 2017.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of brands that do this.
By asking users to choose between a traditional burger and a vegan burger, Bareburger creates a place for debate and discussion on the benefits of each diet.
Similarly, Dove’s post about changing beauty stereotypes invites users to share their personal experiences. Indeed, the post garnered 234 comments, and quite a few were over 79 words. In fact, Dove joined in the conversation and responded to comments with words of support and encouragement. Showing interest and responding to your followers further builds trust with them.
Create engaging content
Facebook users tend to lean toward content that is image-based rather than text-only. Create visually appealing posts that draw visitors in and capture their attention. Also note, video content on Facebook is on the rise, and curating enjoyable videos is a good way to get followers to engage with your posts.
Know when your audience is most active
No matter what type of content you post, it’s important that you post it at the right time. When is your audience most active on Facebook and engaging with your content? You can test this on your own and schedule based on your results. Or, with a feature like Sprout Social’s ViralPost, you can find the optimal time to post your content for the biggest reach.
Knowing how Facebook defines reach on its platform is crucial when gauging your page’s or posts’ performance. Once you understand how Facebook reach is measured, you can plan your Facebook marketing strategy with clearer goals in mind.
If you’d like to learn more strategies to build meaningful connections with your followers and increase your reach, download our free guide on using social listening to create deeper connections.
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