Reach for the skies

Unlocking the secrets of Facebook reach

Recently Facebook redesigned its brand pages to prominently show two metrics at the bottom of every post.

If you’re an admin, you’ll see something like this:

Clicks are (fairly) self-explanatory, but we’ll delve more into that in a future post.

For now, we’ll focus on reach. What does it mean and of all the metrics, why did Facebook elevate it to this prominent position on pages?

First, reach basically means how many people saw your post. Another way to put it is how many newsfeeds it appeared in.

If you dig into Facebook insights, they define reach as “the number of people this post was served to.”

This doesn’t exactly mean you paid attention to the post, because you could have scrolled right past it without giving it a second glance. But reach is a necessary first step toward getting any other kind of engagement.

You may think, OK, so reach is simply how many fans are online when I post something on Facebook. Right?

Wrong.

Reach has little to do with how many fans you actually have. If that was the case, reach would be a straightforward measure of a certain percentage of your fans. It would be stable and predictable.

But in fact, reach can fluctuate dramatically and be far lower or higher than your total of fans. Take a look at the post reach for Marquette University over time across our 41,000 fans:

So what impacts the rise and fall of reach? Here are the three main factors:

Engagement

You may have heard of the famous Facebook algorithm that decides what shows up in your newsfeed. No one outside Facebook knows the exactly the secret sauce, but it works something like this:

Facebook first sends out your post to a small percentage of your fans. If their reaction is “meh,” Facebook quickly buries that post and it’s never to be seen again. Sorry.

But if the reaction is to stop and read, click through, like or comment, Facebook’s algorithm decides that this must be a quality post. It starts to show it in more newsfeeds. And the process starts all over again in the next wave of newsfeeds.

Shares

If fans share the post with their friends, it will show up in more of their friends’ newsfeeds. Shares are good. Duh.

If you get enough shares and engagement, MORE than the total number of your fans can see a post. This one, for instance, reached more than DOUBLE our number of fans.

Boost

Finally, an advertised or a “boosted post” will show your post in more feeds. You can boost posts to fans of your page, friends of your fans, or design your own demographic.

Remember, a “boost” doesn’t guaranty engagement or any other kind of action — only the reach. So that’s why it’s a best practice to boost your best posts to be seen by more people. Like this:

Some people think that if something isn’t getting attention, you should throw money at it get it seen by more people. Those people are dumb, I mean, unfortunately misguided.

Think about it this way: Would you want to promote work that people don’t actually care about, or proven winner?

Facebook nudges people in the direction of promoting a proven winner by showing you which posts are getting the most engagement. Like this:

So there you have it. Reach is a necessary (if not sufficient) foundation to measure success on Facebook.

May your reach exceed your grasp.

Remember you can find my analytics book here and share the love on Twitter! And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to my free social media analytics newsletter.

Written by

Educator. Podcast addict. Wrote a book about creativity: http://bit.ly/thecreativejourney

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