Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

How to Increase Facebook Organic Reach: 2021

facebook page mobile and desktop view
Hemant Sharma

Hemant Sharma

Facebook organic reach is declining. 

When I started in 2016 – my posts on a Facebook business page with a few hundred likes used to get a good exposure.

Fast forward to 2021 – the same Facebook business page now with even double likes cannot bring a decent level of engagement.

So what changed in the last few years? And what now we should be doing to increase the organic reach? 

I got curious enough to dig in to find out the answers. 

And this article is a result of that. 

So let’s get started. 

What is Facebook Organic Reach

Organic reach on Facebook refers to how many people you can reach for free by posting to your business page. 

Paid reach on Facebook refers to how many people you can reach as a result of paid promotions. It can also help organic reach. 

Your post’s reach depends on its engagement rate. 

Engagement means how many people like, react, comment, or share your post. 

The more engaging a post is, the higher is the reach. 

The fact is engagement rate on Facebook is going upward – monthly active users have increased to 2.85 billion in 2021 Q1 from 2.65 billion in 2020 Q1.

Line Chart for Number of Facebook monthly active users growth in millions from year 2008 till 2021

Then why is your post’s reach declining? On Facebook, the average reach of an organic page post is down to 5.2% in 2020 from 5.5% at the end of 2019. And it’s further going down. Let’s look at some historical data. 

Chart showing declining Facebook page organic reach on Y axis and the year on X axis in blue color bars

Based on the figures above, that means a Page with 10,000 fans could expect just around 651 of them to see that Page’s posts in their News Feed in Mar 2014. 

And for the pages with more than 500k fans, organic reach plummeted to just 2% in 2014. That means posts from a Page with 5,00,000 fans could only reach just 10,000.  

Let’s find out the reasons behind this.  

Why Facebook Organic Reach is Declining

There are two main reasons:

Reason 1. More Commercial Content Competing for News Feed Space

According to Brian Boland, Facebook VP of Advertising Technology (at that time) – the decline began in 2014.  

More and more content is being created and shared every day. As a result, competition in News Feed – the place on Facebook where people view content from their family and friends and business – is increasing, and it’s getting harder for any post to gain exposure in News Feed. 

In addition to the growth in content, people also like more Pages. So with each new Page like competition in News Feed increases even further. 

Reason 2. Change in Facebook’s News Feed Algorithm

Brands observed even a deeper dip in Facebook’s Organic Reach in the year 2018. 

In January 2018, Facebook announced that they would shift ranking to make News Feed more about connecting with people and less about consuming media in isolation. It means you will see more posts from people you care about than brands. 

As a result, marketing content is taking a back seat to content by family and friends – a value that Facebook says it originally had and trying to return to. 

The good news is you can still do many things to resist these changes and enjoy the free reach. 

Before getting into the highly actionable tips of boosting organic reach on Facebook – let’s explore how Facebook’s news feed algorithm works. 

The Facebook algorithm decides which posts people see every time they check their Facebook feed and how these posts will show up.  

Facebook’s algorithm isn’t static; its engineers are constantly changing it. 

The algorithm uses thousands of data points to make its predictions, a.k.a. ranking signals such as like, react, comment, or share but not limited to this. Since 2006, ranking signals have been added, removed, and importance adjusted, depending on what Facebook thinks users want to see. 

Here are some of the important changes.

Key moments in the history of Facebook algorithm change

2004-2009

When Facebook started in 2004, its algorithm was pretty basic. 

In 2006, Facebook Newsfeed was introduced.

“Fan Pages” with the Like button were launched in 2007

When 2012 rolled around, Pages managers learned that only a fraction of their Facebook fans (16% on average) saw their Facebook Page posts in their News Feeds. 

By 2014 that reach got significantly smaller.

2015

Facebook started downranking the Pages that posted a high volume of overly commercial content. And also gave users the “See First” feature to indicate a Page’s posts to be prioritized in their feed. 

2016

Facebook adjusted its News Feed algorithm further to prioritize content from friends and family over business pages. Also, Facebook prioritized the content with a higher amount of time spent. 

In the blog post announcing the algorithm change, Facebook Engineering Director Lars Backstrom warned the Pages could anticipate a dip in organic reach – which could leave reach lower than that earlier 2% estimate, in some cases. 

2017 

Facebook made some of the major changes in the News Feed. 

It started giving more advantages to the posts with Reactions (i.e., hearts or the sad face) over classic Likes. 

Facebook also added completion rate as a ranking signal. As a result, videos that keep people watching to the end are shown to more people. 

2018

Facebook faced its toughest test – a data-privacy crisis that has angered users. 

In January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook algorithm would prioritize “posts that encourage conversations and meaningful interactions.” 

Posts from family and friends were given more weightage over posts from brands. 

2019

On April 1st, 2019, Facebook announced that users will now be able to see why a certain post is appearing on their News Feed and if their profile lines up with what a specific advertiser is targeting. 

Facebook will do this through a “Why am I seeing this?” button at the top right of every post. 

Posts from “close friends” (i.e., those who engage with the most, whether by tagging each other or messaging in Messenger) were prioritised in the News Feed. 

“High quality and original video” that keep users watching longer than 1-minute prioritized. 

2020

Facebook announced that it was helping users understand the algorithm and take control of their data to give the algorithm better feedback.

Facebook made efforts to keep the platform transparent and to protect user privacy as much as possible. However, people have been increasingly concerned about their privacy, and for many, “more relevant ads” does not seem like a worthwhile trade-off. 

Facebook also announced that its algorithm will now also evaluate the credibility and quality of news articles to curb misinformation and promote genuine news. 

So, where do we go from here?

How the Facebook algorithm works in 2021

Facebook algorithm 2021 details

Source: Facebook

2021

Facebook has introduced 4 algorithm News Feed ranking factors

The News Feed ranking factors are divided into four groups: inventory, signals, predictions, and relevancy score. 

1. Inventory

Inventory is the total number of posts available to show. For example, posts from friends and family, groups you join, and pages you like all together make an example for the total number of posts. 

2. Signals

Signals are the only part of the algorithm you can control as a marketer. They’re divided into two categories: passive and active. 

Passive signals are non-active metrics like view time, story type, and time posted.

Active signals are actions to promote engagement, including likes, reactions, shares, and comments. 

The recent Facebook algorithm changes focus more on meaningful interactions. Therefore, the algorithm attributes more weight to active signals because they drive meaningful interactions, for example: like, react, comment, or share. 

Here are the major ranking signals to consider:

 

4 major Facebook ranking algorithm - Relationships, Popularity, Content Type, and Recency
  • Relationships

Is the post from a person, business, news source or public figure that the user often engages with? (i.e., messages, tags, engages with, follows, etc.)

Interactions between people and pages carry less weight. 

  • Popularity

How are people who have already seen the post reacting to it? Are they sharing it, commenting on it, ignoring it, liking it or reacting to it?

  • Content-Type

What types of posts (i.e., video, link, image) do users interact with most? How informative is the post? And how much time users spend on the post?

  • Recency

Newer posts get shown first. When was it posted, and what time is it now? 

3. Predictions

With the Predictions, Facebook assesses your profile and behaviours to decide what to show you in your Facebook News Feed. Predictions aim to understand your likes and dislikes so that they only show you content you’re likely to engage with. 

4. Relevancy score

Facebook gives every post a relevancy score. Relevancy score means how much the content is relevant to a specific user. Needless to say, every user will get a different score for a particular post. Facebook will likely display the posts with the higher scores for a specific user on the feed.  

Most of these signals require Facebook to track its users’ behaviour. And that again bumps up the debate of privacy vs personalization. 

However, Facebook is making efforts to be transparent with the users about their information. For example, the Access Your Information tool is supposed to help users figure out why they keep seeing specific ads.

Apple’s impact on ads

Apple’s iOS 14 update allows users to opt-in or opt-out from data sharing. 

If users elect to opt out of Facebook’s tracking, then Facebook won’t be able to track users behaviour; the change will diminish the effectiveness of the tracking pixel. In addition, this will result in inaccurate reporting for conversions down to ineffective remarketing efforts. 

Ineffective remarketing efforts will weaken targeting options. And less targeting options means more wasted spending and less personalization of ad copy. 

According to Statista.com, 79.9% of users on Facebook only use the application on their phone compared to 1.7% only using it on computers. Out of that 79.9%, a large portion of users will be using an iOS device with the iOS 14 update. 

It’ll be interesting to see where the privacy vs personalization debate goes.  

In the meantime, we have a bigger issue of organic reach to tackle. 

Let’s see how brands can still take advantage of Facebook organic reach by tweaking their marketing strategies. 

Before proceeding further, make sure to check your page organic reach in simple 2 steps.

How to Check Your Facebook Page Organic Reach

Step 1. Head over to the “Insights” tab

Click on the “Insights” tab on the left-hand side of the desktop and look for the “Export Data” button at the top of the page.

You will get 3 different options for your insights.

Select the most appropriate one for you and click “Export Data”. Then, you can open the data with excel.

Facebook page Insights shows three important metrics and export button in the highlighted part

Step 2. Gather post level metrics

Post level metrics are more important than page-level metrics since they exactly tell you how users behave on your posts.

For example, with the data you collect, you can easily tell: which posts have the highest organic reach?

Hence when clubbed with page-level metrics can provide a more detailed look. 

Facebook Organic posts Insights, highlighted part is Reach and Engagement

Pay close attention to these metrics in the downloaded reports:

Organic reach

Engagement

Link Clicks

Number of people who gave negative feedback 

Now you have analyzed your page organic reach; finally, the time is to learn tips to improve it.

15 Tips to Improve Facebook Organic Reach

1. Be more specific about what you publish

As we have understood – how meaningful interaction is important. That means we need to change the way we post. 

Always think of specific users your post is about. And only publish selective posts (you think users will likely find them more interesting and relevant) for the targeted users.   

This is how you can target each of your posts published on your business page to a specific audience regardless of whether or not it’s sponsored.

2. Control the posting frequency

It’s a million-dollar question how often to post on your Facebook page. 

The short answer is, “As often as you can post quality content.” 

Maintaining your Facebook page health is important. You have to be active so that it continues to grow and flourish. 

Don’t post too much that your posts start creating a nuisance. And don’t post too less that your audience literally forgets about you. 

Hubspot analyzed Facebook data from their 13,500+ customers to see if posting more frequently would help businesses reach more people. 

They found that pages under 10,000 fans experienced a 50% drop in engagement per post if they posted more than once per day. 

That means for each additional post; your organic reach drops drastically. 

My suggestion: Stick to 1 post per day or 5 posts per week.

3. Reply to your audience

Don’t just stop after posting on Facebook. An important step after posting is to spend time engaging with your audience. 

Reply to their comments and messages because the algorithm prioritizes posts from the Pages that a user interacted with in the past. 

Suppose a person has taken out time to talk to your brand. Don’t lose the opportunity. Make them heard, help them find what they’re looking for and make them smile.

4. Get your audience to reply to each other

Post content that encourages conversations amongst your audience. 

According to Facebook, if a post has triggered a lot of conversation among a user’s friends, the algorithm applies “action-bumping logic” to push that post to the user again. 

The algorithm values content that people want to share and discuss with their friends. 

5. Get reactions over like

Facebook Reaction Emojis

Reactions carry more weight than likes alone. To trigger reactions from your audience, try to inspire emotion with your content. 

If you’re not sure what emotion will find an echo amongst your audience, you can take help from this social media sentiment analysis guide.

6. Post when your audience is online

As we learned above – Recency is a key signal. The newest posts go to the top of the news feed. 

Your audience has the best chance of seeing and engaging with your post if it hits the top of their Facebook timeline when they’re online. 

According to Coschedule, the best time to post on Facebook is between 1-4 PM. 

They even broke it down further according to each weekday:

  • 12-1 PM on Saturday and Sunday
  • 1-4 PM Thursday and Friday
  • 3 PM Wednesday 
 

To get your post in front of the maximum possible people, they have cited 1 PM, 3 PM and 9 AM as the best times. 

You should also check your analytics to see when your fans are online. 

Head over to the “Insights” tab and scroll down to “Posts.”

Graph shows when Facebook page fans are online

7. Bypass the algorithm using Facebook Stories

Strange? Stories aren’t part of the Facebook News Feed algorithm. Hence, algorithm rules don’t really apply to them. 

According to Facebook, they’re also effective at driving traffic: 58% of people say they’ve visited a brand’s website for more information after watching a Story.

Facebook stories on a Mobile device- A woman wearing blue color top and in a helmet

Strange? Stories aren’t part of the Facebook News Feed algorithm. Hence, algorithm rules don’t really apply to them. 

According to Facebook, they’re also effective at driving traffic: 58% of people say they’ve visited a brand’s website for more information after watching a Story. 

8. Create Facebook Groups

The benefit of running a Facebook Group business is that, while it does take some care and nutrition, it opens up another channel to connect with your customers, fans and community. 

Groups promote community and connections, which is exactly what you need to develop with your audience to drive those all-important meaningful reactions in the news feed.

The Facebook algorithm pushes messages from groups with which users interact the most; therefore, posting valuable conversation starters within your company’s Facebook group is another way to get more eyes on your content. 

YouTube Impact Challenge Group does this by doing their live videos within a branded Facebook group to drive post engagement and start conversations amongst group members. 

As of 2021, 1.8 billion people use Facebook groups every month.

Facebook private group- YouTube Impact Challenge also shows one Facebook Live video post

9. Go live on Facebook

Facebook live example on mobile where people are engaging with sending messages to each other

Live video gets 6 times more engagement than regular video; the Facebook algorithm really loves it. Live video is one of the most authentic and intimate ways to connect with your videos. 

Facebook shows live videos with many viewers and engagement to users with similar interests and behaviour. This hack makes going live on Facebook a quick way to increase your range organically. 

10. Post longer videos

The Facebook algorithm scores videos based on watch time and completion rate, which is why you should prioritize videos people watch till the end. 

The longer (longer than 3 minutes) your video helps keep users on Facebook, the more organic reach it will bring. In addition, directly searched videos get an extra boost provided they’re original and posted natively to the platform.

For example, check out my Facebook video on how to start a career in digital marketing. 

11. Get on the favourite list

Every user gets 30 slots for their favourite Facebook pages as another way to let users control what they see on their news feed. 

As a brand, you want your page in those 30 slots. 

There is a good chance that members of your audience are not familiar with this feature and that their favourite list looks like this:

Let your followers know that they can prioritize your content in their timelines if they want to. 

Disclaimer: Asking your users to add you to their favourite list could be a little too close to engagement-baiting. And the Facebook algorithm doesn’t like it. So approach with sensitivity.

12. Broaden your reach with your top defenders

Facebook boosts posts from person to person more than from page to person. So nothing could you do better than asking your employees to post about your brand to get around this. 

Your employees have more credibility and authority with the Facebook algorithm than your brand page does. It is because they have greater credibility and authority with their own followers and friends. 

Other than asking your employees, you can also share your page posts to your personal Facebook timeline. Remember, the Facebook algorithm pushes posts from person to person. 

Hootsuite has a calculator that can tell you the numbers on your employee’s potential reach when sharing your brand’s content to their own circles. 

13. Use Hashtags but carefully to drive Facebook organic reach

Buzzsumo analyzed more than 1 billion Facebook posts from over 30 million pages.  

And they found posts without hashtags get more interaction than posts with hashtags. 

Does that mean we shouldn’t use hashtags on Facebook at all? Not exactly. 

There are best ways to use hashtags in your Facebook marketing strategy, and you can see great results. 

According to Post Planner, too many hashtags lowers engagement – but can boost interactions if 1-2 hashtags are used. 

Posts with 1 or 2 hashtags averaged 593 interactions

Posts with 3 to 5 hashtags averaged 416 interactions

Posts with 6 to 10 hashtags averaged 307 interactions

Posts with more than 10 hashtags averaged 188 interactions 

So going from 2 to 3 hashtags caused a significant drop in engagement!

Then how to use hashtags on Facebook:

  • Hashtags must be written as a single word and no spaces.
  • Use hashtags (1 or 2 only) when they make sense and use something relevant that people can filter or find more relevant conversation.
  • Use industry-specific hashtags and create your own hashtags unique to your brand and relevant to your audience.
  • Use hashtags to make your evergreen content easily findable. Facebook creates a unique URL for each hashtag used. This means you can use them to search for content. 
  • Use hashtags using trending topics if they’re relevant to your brand. 
  • Use tools like Hashtagify.me to find other trending hashtags related to your specific tag.
  • You can include numbers within a hashtag, but you should not include punctuation and special characters (like $ and %).

In a nutshell, use them with caution. Otherwise, they’ll do more harm than good. 

14. Avoid these mistakes

Do not post engagement bait. 

Engagement bait is a tactic to create Facebook posts that lure people into interacting through likes, shares, comments, and other actions to artificially boost engagement and get greater reach on News Feed. 

People don’t like spammy posts. So Facebook demotes posts that use engagement bait. 

Examples are:

Facebook engagement bait examples: vote baiting, react baiting, share baiting, tag baiting, and comment baiting

Source: Twitter

React baiting: Asking people to react to the post (includes like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry).

Comment baiting: Asking people to comment with specific answers (words, numbers, phrases, or emojis).

Share baiting: Asking people to share the post with their friends.

Tag baiting: Asking people to tag their friends. 

Vote baiting: Asking people to vote using reactions, comments, sharing, or other means of representing a vote.  

15. Support organic reach with ad spend

You may be thinking this post was all about how to increase Facebook reach organically. So why I’m talking about Facebook paid reach. 

Because paid reach can funnel into your organic reach and extend the life cycle of your posts.  

This means it’ll be shown to more people, and users will be able to interact with your content for a longer period. 

Here are the steps to implement this strategy effectively:

Step 1. Share your post organically on your page 

Organic and paid reach work hand in hand. 

This is an effective way to ensure that your ads reach more people at a cheaper cost. 

Step 2. Analyze the performance of the posts

Check out how your posts are performing in the “Insights.” 

Keep an eye out for important metrics like Reach and Engagement. 

Facebook Organic posts Insights, highlighted part is Reach and Engagement

Step 3. Boost the best performing posts

After promoting your posts organically, and analyzing the performance data – boost the posts done well with your audience. Of course, you will want to spend money on posts that can bring a better engagement.

Boosting the post will expand your reach even beyond your own audience. 

Facebook best performing post is highlighted in yellow color rectangular box and red arrow shows the boost button

Takeaway

Facebook is a great social media platform.

With a current user base of 2.85 billion and still continuously increasing, it has to be part of your business marketing channel. 

More and more content is available for the users, and it can be hard for any algorithm to choose some piece of content to showcase in a limited time. 

The biggest challenge over here is rising competition for News Feed space. 

Hence, organic reach is hard. 

Will it get significantly harder or easier in the future?  No one can really tell.

Focus your energy on creating valuable content for your audience that caters to their wants and needs. 

And, if you implement the tips discussed in this article can really help boost Facebook organic reach. 

So it’s your turn now. What’s your Facebook page’s average organic reach? And what strategies are you using to improve it?  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are You Ready to Test Your SEO Expertise?

You are in the right place.