Like it or not, Reach is still king on Facebook…

Find out why reach is the most important metric on Facebook and see the seven key elements needed to achieve it.

I was talking to a client recently about the reliability of social media metrics, against the backdrop of recent controversy over Facebook’s methodology for counting video views. Really? Let’s face it, anyone who has put a Facebook vs say a Youtube video campaign onto the same spreadsheet/PowerPoint without copious notes about the limitations and different ways of measuring, has either been desperately naïve or deliberately duplicitous.


Facebook Effectiveness

Despite its foibles, Facebook remains one of the most effective and, yes, increasingly measurable Social media platforms as it evolves, alongside of course, Youtube. It was, after all, the first really successful social platform for brands to engage on – and remember, I said successful, Myspace fans. There’s now a staggering 1.7 billion active Facebook users worldwide, yet it also has the ability to target specific interests, right down to incredibly detailed relevant audiences and localities. It is a content marketing platform par excellence.

I’ve been working with Facebook brand pages for nearly a decade and have watched this evolution live. Yes, I’ll admit it: I was there before monetisation. When Page Likes were liked. When a brand’s post reach was approximately the same as its’ Page Like base (which is why page Likes were trumpeted and chased in the first place – a virtual extension of your CRM database. For the 10 minutes or so that idyll lasted). When reporting was sparse and largely DIY. And when, frankly, brands were treated with suspicion, as contaminating a utopian social experiment.

And did someone mention video? You’d want a video platform for that, mate, not a social platform…


Paid Media

Times have moved on and the inverse graph of Facebook share price increase vs Brand organic reach decrease is well documented. To the point that many believe that Facebook has become an advertising medium rather than a “social” medium for businesses.

And yes, a lot of work has gone into making Facebook’s advertising offering more attractive and easier to manage, or self-serve. And now, if you’re spending money at least, there’s someone to talk to – usually someone very helpful. Gosh, it’s nice to feel wanted.

This advertising platform view misses the point though – because organic is definitely still alive and well; it’s just that it goes hand in hand with paid nowadays. Paid is a valid way of recharging awareness and harvesting new potential interest – you don’t set up shop and put nothing in the window. But it isn’t a substitute for planned engagement via the sort of content your customer, especially your loyal customers or fans will enjoy.

Get your content strategy and you content calendar right on Facebook and even if just a small subset of your total potential audience engages with you, it’s something you should be proud of. Because you’ve inserted yourself into their circle of friends and interests, and they’ve chosen to welcome you.

The content which gives you this permission, which cuts through organically, is also the foundation of good, well targeted paid campaigns. Like Google PPC, relevancy, likes and shares will deliver a lower cost per thousand and cost per engagement. But let’s go back to measurement.


Fast Facebook Metrics

Unless you specialise in digital and want to get down and dirty with comparative daily performance and analysis, you’ll want to look at headline stats as an indicator of success – fast metrics that give you an overview with easy comparison over time.

There is good reason why total Page Likes has fallen out of favour. Like an old CRM database, that total figure is likely full of junk, people who liked you once, but some – perhaps many – of whom have moved on. While CRM professionals can purge a database, you can’t delete Page Likes. So yes, total Page Likes are poor currency – but new ones are good, a useful, fast and easily measurable metric.

The other fast metric for me, and the one I use most often is simple: organic reach. Many people will talk about engagement metrics: video views, Likes, Shares, and there have been some pretty complex formulas worked out, occasionally to my mind greased by snake oil.

But the way Facebook’s algorithms work, organic reach is a function of all of the above. Post something average, uninteresting or run of the mill and you won’t get reach because no-one likes or shares your post. It’s no coincidence that the posts with the highest reach have the highest amount of likes, and especially shares. Organic reach (and Likes and Shares) is also of course affected by time of day, quality, frequency and topicality – all things a good social content strategy addresses and all easily compared using reach. It can be compared to other posts and as a % of total Page Likes or even potential audience (easily found using Facebook’s advertising tools).


The Right Formula

Finding the right formula for organic reach then pays dividends in paid too – allowing you to scale up with boosted posts, using careful targeting and testing. Experience has also shown that paid campaigns can also significantly increase organic as well, and create both a long tail of increased reach and new page likes.

These fast Facebook metrics allow marketers to make sense of their businesses’ Facebook strategy – and will also give you a basis to comparatively interrogate other Social media initiatives.

For thoughts on putting content first – before you even start using channels like Facebook see this post on how to focus on content. And check out my seven key components of reach on Facebook below.