Your Facebook Posts Reach 16% of Fans… THE HORROR!

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facebook 16 300x300 Your Facebook Posts Reach 16% of Fans... THE HORROR! This has been bothering me for a while, and it’s time that this blog post is written…

I keep seeing people freaking out about the fact that their brand’s Facebook Page posts only reach 16% of their fans, “forcing” them to pay for advertising. I continue to read grand proclamations about how EdgeRank is the culprit, and that they should be able to reach everyone.

Just stop.

My biggest struggle with EdgeRank (the formula Facebook uses to surface content that is important to you), is that Facebook is incredibly ambiguous about how it’s used. It makes sense that EdgeRank is the force behind Top News, but I still doubt it’s much of a factor when your News Feed is sorted by Most Recent.

How much exactly is Facebook keeping you from your audience? Is EdgeRank the reason the percentage is 16% instead of 17%? 30%? 50%? No one knows for sure.

I’ve read comments from uninformed users and blog posts from respected writers who are all certain that EdgeRank is the Boogeyman. Yet no one has statistics or studies showing exactly how that’s the case.

Something scientific would be great here, folks. “After a two week study, we concluded that our average Facebook post reached only 160 of our 1,000 fans, and we would have reached 40 more if not for EdgeRank.” You know, facts and evidence and stuff.

I’m fully convinced that we’re focusing on the wrong thing, and some basic math shows this to be the case. People want to point the finger when EdgeRank is not the main reason why you’re reaching only 16% of your fans.

Is 16% Really That Bad?


I find it a bit strange that so many marketers are demanding that their posts reach more than 16% of their fans. Why is it that anyone can expect we’d easily reach more?

The typical open rate for a marketing email is 20%. Yet, email is a stationary target. Whether your target audience is on their email right now or not, they’ll get that email. They just may not open it.

Facebook ain’t email, people. When you post an update, you aren’t sending it directly to your customers. Instead, when you share content to your Facebook Page, you’re doing so with the hope that your fans are around to see it.

On Facebook, your target audience is constantly moving. While users are on Facebook more than any other website, that doesn’t mean that your fans are sitting at their computers waiting for your brand’s latest update.

A recent study indicated that the typical Facebook update has a lifespan of 2 1/2 hours. If your fan isn’t on Facebook within 2 1/2 hours of you posting it, they probably won’t see it.

Another study indicates that the average user is on Facebook 16 hours per month, or about 30 minutes per day. So, what are the odds that your post reaches your target audience during that 2 1/2 hours when they are only on Facebook for 30 minutes per day? Also keep in mind that only half of all users are on Facebook on a given day.

Let’s do the math. An average Facebook user is on for 30 minutes per day. There’s a 2 1/2 hour window from when that person is online that you can reach them (total of three hours). Of a total 24-hour day (especially for international brands), that leaves you with a 12.5% chance of reaching fans through the News Feed on any given day — without considering EdgeRank.

Have a US-only audience and think that only 16 hours matter? Fine, then we’re talking 18.75%.

Maybe my math is wrong (statistics nerds — let me know your thoughts), but do you see what I’m getting at? Our biggest obstacle isn’t EdgeRank. It’s that our audience is a moving target. It’s that, unlike email, if our fans aren’t on Facebook during a small window of the day, they probably won’t see our post.

It just seems to me that people have latched onto the concept of EdgeRank without thinking. How many of your Twitter followers do you think see your updates? How about Google+? No one talks about this because there isn’t some big, bad formula to blame.

Is 16% really that bad? No way.

The Solutions


Some marketers are revolted at the thought of using Promoted Posts or Page Post Ads, but advertising is a very good solution. Facebook knows when your fans are online, you do not. So if User X missed your post, Facebook makes sure that they see it. What’s bad about that?

Of course, you also need to do your due diligence to make sure that you’re reaching as many of your fans as you can organically. Don’t post updates blindly. Use your Facebook Insights and analyze posts made during the past three months that were made in specific 15-minute windows. Which had the highest reach? Which were lowest?

Insights can be a great tool to strategically determine when you should post (and what you should post) to reach the largest possible audience.

Your Thoughts?


What’s your response to the fact that your updates reach only 16% of your fans? Share below!

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • Dennis_T

    Fully agree. You ‘likers’ have to be on facebook in the first place to see the update. We aren’t all social media types that see every update 24/7 now are we? :)

  • morganxxx

    I’m always bummed when I see a small reach percent, but then I wait for around a day and that number really picks ups (it sometimes doubles – 12% to 24%). It’s still not 100%, but then again some people might’ve blocked my page from their newsfeed (is that a thing people commonly do?). Thanks.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      That is a great point about hiding posts from pages, Morgan. Yes, it definitely happens and needs to be considered in the equation. I know we think that all of our content is important and no one would hide it, but we need to account for a solid 5-10% of our fans who won’t see our posts at all by choice.

  • KICKs

    I believe that facebook is becoming another internet trash, where the heads of Facebook become blinded from the desire for more money… Facebook used to be nice before, but all those changes make it even worse although the heads of Facebook think that they are improving and developing their vision but without asking Facebook users what they think about those new changes… I guess we are just small cogs in the machine, the huge marketing machine where we are sold as products to use those simple features of Facebook… WE ARE NOTHING MORE THAN WALKING WALLETS for them…

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  • abdo

    Human greed…they have billions and they want more, i quit posting on my 55k page for this reason, when i make a post i only find few likes and comments, but before this promote-post thing, there’s was a lot of fans interaction, and i don’t earn from this entertaining page so now it’s like they’re forcing us to advertise and pay. and by the way it’s not as written in help center
    “Nothing has changed” cause i made a test with some online fans and they couldn’t see the post in real time.
    Thanks for the article, abdulmajeed from jordan

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  • http://kimrandall.biz Kim Randall

    My thoughts are simple and that of a consumer… I liked a page and I wish to see the content. There are times that MY OWN FANPAGE updates THAT I POSTED do ot show through my newsfeed. Clearly I’m Online, right.
    Back to me being the consumer… I like pages that I want to see updates from, why take that away? What next? Pay-to-see? If you are in the field of Social Media then you’re probably logged into FB all day. This would mean that I technically shouldn’t “miss” an update, right?
    Clearly I’m wrong!

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  • http://twitter.com/tombrownjr Tom Brown

    A great article on putting reach percentage into perspective. The nice thing about the internet is everything is measurable. What about the response rate to paper mailers? Newspaper advertising? TV Advertising?

    Thanks for some fresh insight. (pun intended).

  • http://twitter.com/iRollo David Rollo

    Jon, great perspective.
    I’m not sure exactly where to start, how about “don’t hate the game, hate the player.” In this analogy the player would be your (the brands) page-post. Maybe even calling into question the level (quality) of your connection to your “friends” or fan-base. 16% is the reported average reach of a post, however most of your truly close friends/fans (that you engage with the most) see a very high percentage of your page posts… conversely, the 1MM fans (fake accounts) you may have acquired for $500 – not so much (which may also be playing a role in this 16%). It’s important for brands to understand that the quality of your fan-base is much more important than the quantity. Marketers/brands that focus on acquiring the “right fans” have a much easier time taking their social (branded) relationship to the next level focusing more on fan engagement and activation. For marketers the “devil is in the details”(the art and science of blending paid, owned and earned media), not within EdgeRank. Much like Google’s algorithm or the KFC chicken recipe it may be a while before we glean a deeper look/understanding of EdgeRanks true impact. Most marketers/brands have learned how to “say” that social is a two-way connection between brand and consumer, however most still struggle with actually putting it into practice… let’s start there.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      That’s awesome, David! I also think we tend to overlook one very important factor: EdgeRank can also HELP brands! But, you know, we like to ignore that and just be angry.

      I also wonder what would happen if EdgeRank didn’t exist. Would more people see my posts? Or would the firehose actually prevent more people from seeing my posts? Likewise, even if more people were “seeing” them, would fewer then be interacting because posts were suddenly hard to manage?

      I do think Facebook should provide more control over what you see in terms of brand content, but it sounds like that’s going to happen (talk of “Subscription” option).

      Thanks for your awesome feedback, David!

  • http://www.facebook.com/indesire Jean Catherine

    As a consumer also, i really don’t think when people read a post is that important, as long as they eventually read it. So it may be wise for brands/groups/pages to actually target their fan base to make their page a favorite or add it to a group folder and then if it is really important or a competition to actually post the details a couple of times. All users get notifications so it is more about making those notifications interesting enough for users to want to read them. I find nothing worse than companies who run promotions over a couple of hours, i may not be online in those 3 hours and by the time i read the notification i’m like blah and after a few times i just unlike the page. Same as if i get notifications and the update is boring. Plus most users are online at night so doing the maths it is best to update your pages for consumers then. At the end of the day though, being approachable, friendly and joining in with conversations with your consumers will win loyalty and friendship and they will come back to your page time and time again. People use facebook as a social site, meaning conversation and making friends, game neighbours, having a laugh. If companies don’t respond people will just go next company please and you will only get 16% view your newsfeed or people will only have liked your page for the hell of it because it related to something in their life lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/shirl.corder Shirl Corder

    Thanks for your insight. I live in South Africa, whereas the majority of my readers come from the States. So would you recommend posting important things twice? Once for my friends in my country and over toward Australia, and later in the day for the Americans?

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hi, Shiri! I actually deal with the same dilemma. I spread it out. So in the morning, I post my regular new content, then late at night I schedule an old piece of content that people in other time zones (or anywhere reading at that time) may have missed.

      You can see more about my strategy here:

      http://www.jonloomer.com/2012/08/10/facebook-scheduling-benefits/

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  • Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

    Jon, do you have a link to that 2 1/2 hour study? I would love to site it in strategy discussions but quick Google did not prove fruitful.

    In the larger picture I think it comes down to that Facebook has inflated its sense of reach and importance to companies with inflated numbers – first with Likes that meant little but seemed like a big deal, now with the TAT and viral numbers which also are pretty inflated considering how light an interaction or connection can be counts there – and this was just people waking up for a brief moment to the fact that people do not read their news stream in “recent” setting by default, and that Facebook is something of an exaggeration for a variety of reasons. Don’t worry though, after a few weeks it all went back to usual biz for most.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Hey, Kevin. I’m having a hard time tracking it down myself, which is why I didn’t link to it. I’m relatively certain I saw it on AllFacebook.com.

      There is this post that cites a three hour lifespan, but it’s from January:

      http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_posts_only_live_for_3_hours.php

      What I read was definitely post-Timeline. Now that I’m Googling it, there are also reports from last year that it was much longer than that — almost 24 hours. But those reports are on the true “death” of a post when it no longer receives any comments or likes at all.

      So there’s certainly a question of how this is measured. Now I need to find that original post…

  • LianneCarlaS

    I completely agree BUT edge rank IS at play due to the time decay edge which is essentially what you are talking about. Promote posts are great egerank boosts if used wisely. Promote ‘bait’ to get comments likes and shares and you positively impact the affinity edge of the people who engage with that post therefore increasing the chances of them seeing other non-promoted posts organically.

  • Sheryl

    I set my news feed to *most recent,* and after some seemingly random amount of time, it reverts back to the default *top stories first* with no warning whatsoever. I want most recent ALL the time, Facebook! I manage a church page and have heard from fans that they never see our posts … and they WANT to see them! Very frustrating. I wasn’t aware of the promoted posts option until finding your page a few days ago. Happy to have found you!

  • Anthony

    I run a $15,000 marketing campaign to run ads on Facebook for people to LIKE my fan page for my company. After spending $15k, Facebook is now telling me that I have to pay to reach those people that I already paid to connect with? This is a crime in my opinion. I will stick to email campaigns from now on.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/admincontactwebsite.adminchat Admincontactwebsite Adminchat

    Your Facebook Posts Reach 16% of Fans… THE HORROR!

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  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Facebook seems to be the “Bad Guy”…and still people don’t want to stop using it.

    People don’t get so angry when Google doesn’t show their pages in the rank they wanted; I have never heard anyone saying “bloody Twitter, it’s 140 character policy doesn’t allow me to communicate with my audience”; when sending eDMs people is happy with a 20% opening rate; and a CTR of 1% on a Google Adwords campaign is considered a good one…..

    …but when it comes to Facebook…people show all their rage and anger.

    When I hear this nonsense (quite often, sadly) my response is always the same: nobody obligates you to use Facebook. If you don’t like it, stop using it

    So people: Less whinging. More Marketing

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Have you ever seen stats on Twitter Reach, Antonio? I haven’t, but I’ve gotta imagine it’s in the low single digits. But that’s fine.

    • Bedford

      I found this post while searching for a solution for the same problem. I completely disagree with you Antonio. While on adwords you don’t reach people you know, on facebook the fans are people who want to know about your news, as they have choosen to like your page. FB is more acting like: you connected with fans and we show to some of them what you have to say: if you want to reach all of them, you have to pay, even if they asked to know about your news. FB is arbitrarely choosig who can see your news and who can’t, even if the fans want to know about your company.

      • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

        The way Facebook shows/hides post (called EdgeRank) is not arbitrary at all, and is based on the interest an individual has shown for that Page. Without EdgeRank your newsfeed will be saturated with thousands of posts that you’d be unable to read, as when you are doing it more posts will arrive and so on. EdgeRank simply shows content to people that are genuinely interested in your brand…those who never click on your posts, never make a comment, never get into your Page…. do you think are really interested? (Would you prefer to have a page with 10,000 of those non active followers, or have simply 1,000 but very active and genuinely interested?)

        And even if EdgeRank would not exist, you’d still be unable to reach all your followers (as it happens on Twitter), as not all of them will be connected at the time you publish a post…. some of them may not even connect every day to Facebook!

  • jared

    If I have 11,000 fans all 11,000 fans should see my message- they chose to follow me…. its crazy I just posted something and 300 fans saw it… I have 11,000 fans – OH I can “promote” it for $50…. ha ha what a scam.

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  • Walidno

    I think the 2 1/2 hour statistic sounds pretty logical to me. Even if your posts reach 100% of your audience there is still a big chance most of them will miss it since there are hundreds of posts on their news feed from their friends and other pages/groups competing with yours. And they are all updating pretty fast. Just as soon as you log on, there could be at least 10 new stories popping up.

    Besides, has anyone noticed that there is a “get notifications” under the LIKE button of your page that’s just like a subsribe/follow option? If your fans click that, they will be sure to get your message 100% of the time. It would be a great idea to sponsor a post that tells your fans to click that. Maybe a few sponsored posts with your important message/sales offers with a mention to click on “get notifications”, and pronto!

    But if you still can’t reach enough then maybe you’re page is boring, in which case this site could be helpful:
    http://allfacebook.com/how-to-get-more-likes-and-comments-on-facebook-book-excerpt_b74466

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