History of Facebook Reach: Where it Was, Where it Went, Where it is Now

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[The following is a guest post from Emeric Ernoult of AgoraPulse.]

I can’t count the number of tweets or blog posts of Social Media marketers whining about their Facebook reach being too low. It’s kind of annoying, and I know it annoys Jon a lot. Well, you won’t have to annoy Jon anymore since your reach is back up!

And you know what? Your “real” reach was not down; it was just displayed incorrectly due to a bug on Facebook…

When Did It All Start?

It started at the end of August 2012. Suddenly, Facebook page owners saw their page and post reach going down like crazy. Some of them even reported an 80% drop. That was big! Jon was one of the first bloggers to report this anomaly in September.

Were they right to complain at that time? Absolutely! That drop was for real.

On the following screenshot from our Facebook page Barometer, you can see the evidence of the drop. And that graph is the result of the average viral reach for more than 3,500 pages of all sizes.

1 Monthly viral drop 600x453 History of Facebook Reach: Where it Was, Where it Went, Where it is Now

Pretty significant drop of viral reach at the end of August and beginning of September.

Weirdly enough, viral reach was the only metric affected; organic did not really change during that period. But as viral is a big part of total reach, total reach went down, too, as a result (simple math).

The Reaction

That whole reach issue started to fill the Social Media blogosphere. According to some, it was a plot from Facebook to force page owners to pay to reach their fans. Jon wrote a detailed post about this issue, a good read I recommend you check out!

Even TechCrunch was confused, posting conflicting articles confirming and denying the rumor within the same day! It’s been pretty hard for the rest of us to know where the real truth was.

The Correction

The truth was that actual reach was not down, but the way it was displayed was buggy!

On February 22nd, Facebook announced a bug that had been affecting reach reporting in its page insights. Actual reach was not affected, but stats were inaccurately reporting lower numbers.

In its announcement, Facebook has been rather vague on the actual effect of the bug they’d just killed. According to Facebook, page owners should have expected:

  • Total reach to stay the same or increase for most Pages
  • An increase in paid reach if you ran News Feed ads
  • An increase or decrease in organic reach, depending on many factors such as the composition of your fan base, when and how often you post and your spending patterns
  • A change in metrics computed from reach and impressions, such as engagement rate and virality

The Stats Since

So, thanks to that (not so) clear explanation from Facebook, the real question is whether or not your Facebook reach is really up.

The short answer is yes. But the reach metric that has increased is not the organic one, but viral.

Based on a sample of more than 3,000 pages of all sizes since February 21, organic reach has remained pretty steady while viral reach has increased by 200% on average. A pretty significant change.

2 Organic versus viral 600x750 History of Facebook Reach: Where it Was, Where it Went, Where it is Now

Since February 21, based on a sample of more than 3,500 pages, the monthly viral reach statistics have gone from the equivalent of 100% of fan bases to almost 300%. Organic has remained pretty steady.

So, should you expect your organic reach to be the same, and your viral reach to have gone through the roof? Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

The bug was only affecting certain types of impressions (for example, paid impressions in news feed or impressions of shared content); the effect of that bug fix on your page statistics will vary greatly depending on your content strategy, posting frequency and type of engagement you were getting.

Based on the data we have for our biggest (and most active) clients, the impact on viral reach has gone anywhere from 100% to 1,000%! That means from twice to ten times as much viral reach. Viral being a big part of the total reach equation, total reach has been affected pro rata as a consequence.

In a nutshell, the magnitude of the increase in reach will vary greatly from one page to another.

But the good news is that the drop that everyone noticed at the beginning of September 2012 has been “erased” by the bug fix. Reach levels are now back to what they used to be in August 2012 and before.

3 Monthly viral up again 600x457 History of Facebook Reach: Where it Was, Where it Went, Where it is Now

Find Your Reach

Want to find out how your page’s reach has been affected by this bug fix? Try our free Facebook Page Barometer.

Let us know in the comments if you notice an increase in your organic or viral reach since the end of February. I’d love to know!3

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About Emeric Ernoult

Emeric is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for Facebook marketing. He is the founder of AgoraPulse, the first Facebook marketing and CRM software specially designed for small and medium-sized businesses. He has also launched the Facebook Page Performance Barometer, a free tool helping Facebook Page manager to better understand their performance on Facebook.

  • Ailsa Cordner

    Great blog – shame it’s come at a time when Facebook Insights have been broken for over a week (mine haven’t updated since 13th May)….

  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Sorry to be the nerd to bring this up, but either: 100% is the same as the baseline (not double) or 1,000% is 11 times of increase (not ten) It all depends if you include your baseline in the new figure or not :)))

    Apart of this “most-pointless-comment-of-the-article”, I think it’s a great post, and although I tend to agree with Jon in his defense of Engagement vs. Reach, I think Facebook fixing this bug will calm a lot of people and by extension make everyone’s work easier.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507607406 Emeric Ernoult

      Hey @AntonioCalero:disqus a 100% increase means you doubled the original number / result. It can’t be the same as the baseline because it is a increase percentage. The sentence should probably read “the impact on viral reach increase”. And you’re right, 1,000% is eleven times.

      I just wanted to make sure someone was reading, thank god I know one person did :-D

  • venkyiyer58

    From what I gather, the action srtarted in August, and FB came out with an official communication in February. Was FB quiet in the interim period?

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