Facebook changed its Reach metric – will it impact your business page?

Posted on July 20, 2012 • Written by Jeff Williams

By Sara Villegas

Condescending Wonka - Facebook Insights

If you use Facebook to market your business (and who doesn’t these days?) you might have noticed a little change when you viewed the Insights for your business page in the past couple of weeks.

According to Marketing Pilgrim, some users were greeted with a pop-up telling them there were changes to how Facebook calculates reach for posts. Some users (myself included) never got the popup, but noticed that some of their Reach numbers had gone a bit…wonky.

For some, this meant that Reach increased for most posts. For others Reach significantly decreased, as I noticed with a few of Fruition’s clients.

So what happened? 

Short answer: Facebook changed how its reach metrics were calculated. According to Facebook, Reach is now defined and measured as:

…the number of people who have seen your post. Figures are for the first 28 days after a post’s publication and include people viewing your post on both desktop and mobile. Your post counts as having reached someone when it is loaded and shown in news feed. Note that data from before July 2, 2012 only includes people viewing your post on desktop.

This may not seem like a big change, but it is. Prior to July 2, 2012, mobile users were not included in calculating a post’s reach – the metric was based exclusively on people who had viewed a post from your page on their news feed via desktop. This was nothing short of a huge, glaring omission, since nearly half of Facebook’s users access its services via mobile. The other change involves how a post is counted as having reached a viewer. Before this change was made, Facebook counted a post as viewed by a user if it made it on to a user’s news feed.

Not so any more – users have to have loaded your post in their news feed in order for it to have “reached” them. What does this mean? Facebook is now loading fewer stories in a user’s news feed, perhaps to make more room for those big, beautiful images it now displays. In order for a post to count, a user must scroll down their news feed, allowing the post to be fully loaded and viewed within the feed. This will ultimately make reach calculations more accurate, as it will only count posts that users actually see in their news feeds, instead of scrolling past quickly or never seeing the story at all if it’s buried on the bottom.

How will this affect your Insights and strategy? 

The short answer it, we don’t know yet. But stepping back and taking a bigger view of Facebook’s Insights and metrics over time can give us a little perspective as to what it means to your marketing strategy.

First of all, the change to include mobile users in a page’s reach metric is good – it’s a much needed change that should improve most pages’ reach scores overall. Most Facebook marketers assumed that mobile views were included in the reach metric, so it was surprising to learn that this important chunk of the audience had been ignored. Unfortunately, this is about as deep as the metric goes. Facebook does not currently break down who saw, liked or commented on your post via mobile or desktop. The only metric that tracks mobile activity is Likes, which will tell you how many people liked your page via mobile.

It would be useful for marketers to know how many people visited and interacted with their page via mobile because it would allow them to tailor messaging, links and how linked pages display on mobile devices. Let’s cross our fingers that metrics that include mobile behavior are coming soon.

How posts are counted to have reached users is another story. By limiting the number of users who are reached by your post – meaning they have allowed the post to fully load in their news feed – will probably negatively effect reach numbers for most pages. Think about your own timeline: it’s cluttered with loads of stories, game requests, photos and videos, some of which you care about, and some of which you scroll right past. Most users “screen” their news feeds in this way – they only stop and allow stories to fully load if the content is interesting or engaging to them personally.

This gives Facebook marketers extra motivation to create content that captivates their audience – something that will make them slow down and allow the post to load, and maybe even entice them to like, comment or click through to a business page. This recent change may explain why I have noticed recently that original photos and videos are outperforming links and text-based post nearly 3 to 1 on the pages I manage. A photo or video causes users to slow down, look more carefully, and engage. This means the post reached more people.

These sorts of changes also impact marketers in another way, one that I hold very near and dear to my heart. I like data. I like being able to present clients with information about how their pages are performing over time. I enjoy looking at trends and how post content succeeds or misses the mark. But other than it being a fun hobby for nerds like me, consistent data is a necessity when trying to create a content strategy and increase a page’s effectiveness. Whether a business is looking to increase leads, build brand awareness, or provide better customer service, data is necessary to help guide strategy. It’s impossible to provide accurate data over time or even month to month when the calculations for metrics change every few weeks.

Bottom line: 

These changes might impact your Facebook Insights negatively, or they may increase the reach of your posts overall. Either way, use the change as motivation to continue providing engaging content for your audience that is optimized for viewing on all platforms.

And let’s all hope there aren’t too many more changes around the bend – at least for another couple of months.

Special thanks to HubSpot, Inside Facebook and Marketing Pilgrim for their insight.

Want help analyzing your Faebook Insights, or optimizing your social presence for marketing? Give the Fruition team a call


Jeff Williams

Written by Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an SEO Project Manager at Fruition. He uses his deep understanding of SEO and internet marketing to guide clients, optimize websites and ultimately improve search rankings. Jeff continues to focus on understanding the technical aspects of SEO factors that affect website rankings in the major search engines. He has recently found a passion in local marketing and helping business carry out effective digital marketing strategies, taking a lead role in developing Fruition’s local SEO services.

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