Why Facebook Reach Is Bad For Measurement, How You Should Use It

If you’ve participated in Facebook page marketing, you’ve probably given some thought to the Reach of individual posts, as well as their value.

In many cases Reach seems to be the metric to strive for, whether it’s for your personal use, business, or on behalf of a client.

The issue is that Reach is a single, peripheral metric that does little to define strategy. The way that most people are interpreting it is fundamentally wrong.

How Reach Dominates Facebook Metrics


Facebook Page Post Reach - Marketaire.com

If you ask a typical Facebook marketer about important social metrics, Reach is more than likely near the top of the list. Why?

Facebook has chosen an in your face approach when it comes to Reach, it’s displayed on every post!

It’s not a metric you need to dig into Insights to see, nor is it something that requires a download and export. You see it in real time, and it’s hard to ignore.

In fact, the Reach discussion is usually something like:

“I’ve achieved X Reach on this post” or “I typically reach X% of my Fans.”

But what are these numbers really saying?

Most Reach Conclusions Are Unreasonable

First and foremost, it’s important to understand how Facebook works. For instance, an average user might receive 1,500 stories per day, but Facebook is selective, and may only show 300.

The 300 stories are determined by a user’s friends and brands that a user interacts with the most.

Therefore, brand stories become preferred based on some sort of user interaction. This adds a level of difficulty to breaking into that top 300 – your content has to be spectacular and alluring to the user.

As Facebook continues to grow (now at 1.19 billion) with a user base that is more active than ever, it’s natural that Page competition is also increasing daily. More brands are signing up for Facebook pages, posting more content, and investing more in advertising on a daily basis.

If you consider the News Feed from Facebook’s perspective, it makes sense to provide a good user experience to increase engagement. They’re certainly doing something right considering how active it is!

If you’ve been marketing on Facebook for awhile (or even use it personally), you’ll probably be aware of the numerous tests Facebook has done with a filtered Feed vs. a non-filtered Feed, and their present iteration is the most engaged.

Facebook Reach Is Limited

Moving beyond the way Facebook filters content, it’s impossible to reach everyone.

In fact, only about half of your page’s Fans are online every day. If you’re posting once a day, your post is only going to reach the small percentage that were on Facebook over a two hour (or so) window.

For context, consider the percentage of followers you’re reaching on Twitter with a single tweet. Probably not too many. So it makes sense that a Page Like will not result in a user seeing everything posted.

This is particularly clear when you consider the number of pages an average user likes, most of which likely wouldn’t care if they ever saw a single post from a Liked page. Pages surrounding TV shows, movies, or musicians, for example.

This type of liking behaviour is much more representative of how the average user approaches Facebook pages.

With the exception of Breaking Bad, of course.

Facebook Reach - Breaking Bad - Marketaire.com

Why Facebook Is At Fault

This is an issue because Facebook has chosen to include Reach as a metric to begin with. It’s entirely unnecessary to make this type of data so prominent, and Facebook is pushing its importance in basically every chart and graph.

Facebook Reach - Total Reach - Marketaire.com

Facebook Post Reach - Marketaire.com

Facebook Insights - Post Reach - Marketaire.com

From Facebook’s perspective, sure, it works as a motivation for advertising, however the questions surrounding Reach are those of confusion, accompanied by unrealistic expectations.

Twitter doesn’t even report on Reach, and I can’t think of any social networks that do.

What matters are metrics that affect business goals, metrics such as post shares, links clicked and on-site conversions.

Facebook Reach - Analytics Social Value - Marketaire.com

Reach Doesn’t Mean Revenue

If Facebook is showing your posts organically, it means you are being exposed to those who care most about your content. This is a measure of efficiency, cutting out those users who probably ignore you.

For a Reach example, let’s say you spend $200 to reach 9,000 Fans and the result is $2,000 in direct revenue.

On the other hand, you also spend $30 to reach more than 85,000 non-Fans, resulting in zero sales.

It’s easy to see the limitations of Reach here, which re-enforces the value of complete measurement: if your business goals are down, something needs to be tweaked or funds need to be invested in something more measurable.

I’ll talk more about Facebook advertising and segmentation in another post.

How You Should Use Reach

Despite all the Reach bashing, there is some value in Reach.

Remember when it was recommended to not post more than once a day? It wasn’t even that long ago when posting a couple of times per week would have sufficed.

Reach does tell us that it is effective to post multiple times per day without risk of flooding a user’s feed. Take the time to create a strategic time of day approach to posting, particularly if you have an audience spanning multiple time zones.

Reach measurement has shifted from the exposure of a single post to reaching as many relevant people per day or per week.

Individual post Reach may not be ideal over a certain hourly period, and you can use Insights to look at the days and times your Fans are active (Insights -> Posts -> When Your Fans Are Online).

Facebook - When Your Fans Are Online - Marketaire.com

Be sure to analyze the effectiveness of times posted throughout the day and the reach over a day or week.

Daily Organic Reach (located in the Page Level Export) will give you the total number of people reached by day, which you can then use to calculate the percentage of your total Fan base reached.

Facebook - Daily Organic Reach Export - Marketaire.com

Facebook - Daily Organic Reach - Marketaire.com

By moving away from analyzing and reporting Reach on a post-by-post basis, you may discover that your Reach is actually far higher than you initially thought.

If you have a great content marketing strategy and are realistic about the frequency in which you can post, these numbers make a lot more sense. Daily data provided by Facebook is helpful for segmentation and trending, so be sure to take a look to compliment your measurement.

Consider the bigger picture: it’s clear that there is more weight by reporting on X number of people reached in a day or week over an individual post.

Keep It Tactical

  • Make sure you’re looking at your complete set of numbers, well beyond Reach
  • Take the time to test and study the Facebook ecosystem to create an effective strategy
  • Consider the competition that kept you out of the News Feed: are they really that competitive?

Fully understand your metrics. Reach is only the beginning.

– Brett Prince

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