Experiment: What Percentage of Facebook Fans REALLY Saw Your Post?

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facebook reach Experiment: What Percentage of Facebook Fans REALLY Saw Your Post?

First of all, let me be clear about something: I really don’t care much about Facebook Reach. Our obsession with it is all wrong.

I care about actions. And a high Reach doesn’t necessarily mean high engagement, link clicks, registrations or sales. Just as getting those actions doesn’t necessarily mean high Reach.

Additionally, when it comes to Reach I care more about how many people are being reached in a given day, week or month — the single post isn’t that important.

But since people care so much about the Reach metric, I want to be sure you are at least measuring it properly. So the purpose of this post is to step you through a process to uncover “true” percentage of fans reached with a single post that you’ve likely never tried before.

The Problem With How You’re Measuring Reach Percentage

First of all, the typical marketer incorrectly assumes that Organic Reach or even Total Reach is the equivalent of Fan Reach. Not true.

Total Reach is the total number of people you reached — fans and non-fans, paid and unpaid.

Organic Reach is the total number of people you reached without advertising — fans and non-fans.

So when you take a ratio of Total or Organic Reach over total fans and say that’s the percentage reached? Completely wrong.

But even if you do know how many fans you reached, chances are that your methodology is still a complete mess.

Let’s say you have 50,000 fans and you published a post that reached 5,000 of them. While that does indeed mean you reached 10% of your fans, it misses a very important point.

The problem here is that we’re so hung up on Facebook’s News Feed filtering that the common refrain is that Facebook kept 90% of our fans from seeing that post. That’s incredibly far from the truth.

A few more than half of your fans will be on Facebook every day. And of those on, they’ll only be there during certain times.

So while you may have only reached 10% of your fans with a post, you shouldn’t have been expected to reach a big chunk of them.

The trick will be to find how many you should have been expected to reach.

The Solution

In a perfect world, you’d be able to compare the number of fans reached to the total number of fans who were online and could have seen the post. While there are holes in what I’m going to tell you, it’s far more accurate than current methods.

I am going to show you how to find the following:

  1. Total Number of Fans Reached With a Post
  2. Total Number of Fans Online When it Was Posted
  3. Percentage of Fans Reached Who Could Be Reached

This method won’t consider fans who have hidden all of your content. It won’t consider fans who saw or could have seen your post more than an hour after it was published. It’s not perfect. But it will provide a much clearer picture into your true percentage of fans reached.

1. Download Post and Page Level Exports

Go into your web Insights and click the “Export Data” button.

facebook insights export data Experiment: What Percentage of Facebook Fans REALLY Saw Your Post?

Then pick a time period that ends no more recently than a week ago and starts about five months prior to that. I’m using 9/14/2013 – 3/14/2014.

download facebook insights export 700x366 Experiment: What Percentage of Facebook Fans REALLY Saw Your Post?

You’ll want to use the “New” export, and separately download both the Post and Page Level versions.

2. Find the Total Number of Fans Reached Metric

This sounds simple, but few marketers know how to find this.

It’s not the Total Reach — that includes fans and non-fans, paid and organic. It’s not Organic Reach — that includes both fans and non-fans.

Within the Post Level Export, go to Column T of the Key Metrics tab (the default view).

facebook fan reach export Experiment: What Percentage of Facebook Fans REALLY Saw Your Post?

If you occasionally promote posts like I do, you now have two options:

  1. Eliminate all posts that were promoted
  2. Subtract fans reached via ads (Column V) from total fans reached

Since I promote a decent number of posts, I’m going to do the second. While this will eliminate all fans who were reached both organically and paid, that’s actually the way Facebook measures Organic Reach now anyway.

I then clean up my document to include the following columns:

  • Permalink
  • Type
  • Posted
  • Total Reach
  • Organic Reach
  • Fan Reach
  • Paid Fan Reach
  • Organic Fan Reach

It’s up to you how much of this information you want to keep. But I feel it will be helpful when understanding why one post did better than another.

3. Focus On Specific Posts

You’re going to see why momentarily, but let’s focus only on posts that were published within five minutes of the top of the hour. So you could use anything published between 8:55 and 9:05, for example.

The result for me is a sample size of 78 posts. Following is the breakdown by +/- 5 minutes on the hour (my local time):

  • 0:00 – 4
  • 1:00 – 3
  • 7:00 – 3
  • 8:00 – 7
  • 9:00 – 5
  • 10:00 – 5
  • 11:00 – 6
  • 12:00 – 9
  • 13:00 – 4
  • 14:00 – 2
  • 15:00 – 3
  • 16:00 – 3
  • 17:00 – 2
  • 18:00 – 1
  • 19:00 – 5
  • 20:00 – 1
  • 21:00 – 5
  • 22:00 – 6
  • 23:00 – 4

4. Find the Total Fans Online During Those Times

The reason we’re focusing on +/- five minutes from the top of the hour is because Facebook provides data on how many of your fans were online during that specific hour on that specific day within the export.

If you posted at 7:30, there’s less confidence that a high percentage of your fans who were on during the “7:00″ hour could have seen your post since some would have come on before you published.

So the key is to document all of those who were on Facebook within an hour after you published because the expectation is that if they could have seen it they would have.

Now, you probably know that there is a “When Your Fans Are Online” section of the web Insights. This is nice, but it’s for a “recent 1-week period.” The export provides exactly how many fans were on for the specific day and hour in question.

Within your Page Level Export, go to the final tab called “Daily Liked and Online.”

Here you’ll see how many of your fans were online to see any post from any source during each particular hour on each day.

If you are slick with Excel, you can run some formulas to pull this info and put it into your spreadsheet. Otherwise, you’ll need to add it manually.

5. Find the Percentage of Possible Fans Reached

Now, simply divide the Organic Fan Reach by the Total Fans Online for that particular hour on that day, and you’ll get a more accurate percentage of potential fans reached.

My Results

There are many different directions I can go with this. Let’s break down the highlights…

Highest Percentage of Possible Fans Reached: 78.7%

I created this text update on October 26 at 7:05pm that organically reached 4,978 of a possible 6,326 fans online:

 

What’s crazy is that it didn’t receive all that much engagement.

I had three other posts that reached at least 70% of my possible online fans. Two were text updates and one was a link. Two were in October and one the day after Christmas.

Lowest Percentage of Possible Fans Reached: 3.5%

This photo shared on November 26 at 11:55am reached a miserable 361 of a possible 10,374 fans online:

 

Well, the problem with that is we know this isn’t accurate. For the longest time, Facebook has misreported reach of cover photo updates.

Second Lowest Percentage of Possible Fans Reached: 6.0%

Since the cover photo share numbers aren’t accurate, let’s go to the next post. This is a link share on December 23 at 8:05am:

 

Note that this post did receive advertising, which would have negatively impacted the number of fans reached organically. But it’s also two days before Christmas, which may not have helped.

Average Percentage of Possible Fans Reached: 27.4%

Frankly, my results are across the board, as you can see. But on average, I can expect to reach a little more than a quarter of the fans who are currently online.

Percentage of Possible Fans Reached by Month

Take this for what it’s worth since we’re looking at small sample sizes. But here you go (number of posts in parentheses)…

October (17) – 44.1%
November (11) – 29.6%
December (15) – 23.5%
January (19) – 23.8%
February (8) – 20.8%
March (8) – 26.3%

Percentage of Possible Fans Reached by Post Type

The results here shouldn’t be a surprise based on what we know. But keep in mind that text updates aren’t getting the same advantages as they once did (number of posts in parentheses)…

Link (46) – 23.5%
Text Update (21) – 40.5%
Photo (11) – 31.4%

Percentage of Possible Fans Reached by Paid vs. Non-Paid

The results heavily favor organic reach of fans when not paying (number of posts in parentheses)…

Paid (11) – 19.2%
Non-Paid (67) – 28.9%

It’s easy to distort what this means. Some will say it means you shouldn’t promote posts. Stop…

Remember again that Facebook has changed the meaning of Organic Reach. If you reach a fan both organically and paid, Facebook now only counts the paid event. Therefore, the Organic Reach is underreported, and these two are likely much closer.

Percentage of Possible Fans Reached by Hour

We’re going to have serious sample size issues, but I present this data anyway…

0 (4) – 31.5%
1 (3) – 20.7%
7 (3) – 20.5%
8 (8) – 25.7%
9 (5) – 14.8%
10 (5) – 29.9%
11 (6) – 23.3%
12 (8) – 24.6%
13 (4) – 24.8%
14 (2) – 15.9%
15 (3) – 21.9%
16 (3) – 26.3%
17 (2) – 43.5%
18 (1) – 28.2%
19 (5) – 33.1%
20 (1) – 18.2%
21 (5) – 43.1%
22 (6) – 55.4%
23 (4) – 33.7%

It doesn’t surprise me a whole lot that I reach a high percentage of fans late at night. Less competition.

But also keep in mind that I rarely (never) promote those posts. So they are at an advantage due to the way Facebook reports Organic Reach.

Conclusions

I won’t say I have black and white conclusions. But I enjoy digging into this data.

Since the information used here has imperfections, we can’t say for sure just how many fans were kept from seeing my posts. But this does provide a closer idea of just how many were being reached and the circumstances surrounding that.

While I may be reaching an average of 9.3% of my total fans with a single post, the truth is that I’m reaching closer to about 27% of those I have the chance of reaching.

How much of that is because fans have hidden my content? How much of that is due to Facebook’s News Feed filtering? It’s tough to say, but I at least have a better sense of the answer now than I did prior to this study.

Your Turn

Go ahead and try this yourself. What percentage of your possible fans are you reaching with a single post?

Let me know in the comments 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).

  • http://open.adilo.com/ Robert Hunter

    Thankyou for the detailed analysis. The nuances of how Facebook shows posts and reports data are intriguing. Why do I mistrust them still?

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

      I don’t know!

    • Geoff

      Great analysis, but looking at how the reach is dropping everyday I don’t think that we will need it as I can see how reach will drop to 0 very soon

  • http://beta21.circussocial.com Avtar Ram Singh

    Top marks to you Jon, another useful post – one that I wish more people would take the time out to put out there instead of mindless lists. I really like the approach you took here – what would be interesting to see is what kind of reach you garner for the months of January to March 2014. I will definitely be setting up the method that you used here and see what kind of reach I’m able to get on my page!

  • Camila Porto

    Great post Jon. Everybody is blaming that can reach 2% of their fans, but barely know what metric to measure. By the way, I sent you a message, about those questions to my book. :)

  • http://www.wisemetrics.com/ Stephane Allard

    Very smart. Thanks Jon.

  • Claire Chesneau

    Apologies if this has been said before, but I’ve found that my fan base ‘ages’. People who were avid readers two years ago are nowhere to be seen now and I know for a fact they haven’t ‘unliked’ or hidden or exited from FB completely. I would guesstimate that the earliest 25% (?) of fans are inactive, on a constantly rolling basis. I will be downloading and doing the math, as per your excellently clear instructions, but my engagement figures are singing loud and clear already…….

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

      Oh, absolutely. Not only do some formerly active users become inactive on Facebook, but many of the people who were interested in your brand two years ago lost interest without unliking.

  • LinRP

    Interesting. But also interesting is that I have liked your page and followed you for a long time. I’m on FB all the time for work, day and night. I cannot ever remember once seeing one of you posts, organic or promoted, in my newsfeed. I have often wondered why…

  • Ronery

    Great article! Small thing – a typo in the dates, just above the final screenshot for point 1 (the end date should be 2014, not 2013).

  • Fernando Miguel Amaral

    If you assume you should reach your audience within 1 hour after posting, you got it all wrong. My typical post will reach fans for 48h, a real good one will last longer as comments will bump it to the top of the newsfeed.

    • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

      I believe his assumption falls on the conservative side. Some say you should assume 3 hours, some say 48 hours like you. But you get what I mean – it’s all hearsay and you’ve got to make a judgment.

  • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

    Thanks for clarifying the reach data Jon. You mentioned something about cover photo updates’ reach being under-reported. Could you point me to the article where you wrote about it? I actually thought that Facebook killed Cover Photos’ reach.

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

      No article. Just an obvious bug since reach and engagement numbers are far too close together (sometimes engagement is higher than reach) to be possible.

  • Rami Unger
  • gnir

    Hi Jon, This was really great info! Apparently the exported data report gives the time in Facebook’s time zone rather than the Page’s. Yet in Insights the chart showing when people are on we get the data for our own zone. Am I missing something … is there a way to get the report in our own time zone? Thanks!

  • Cass

    FB continues to decrease the organic reach of posts….that is for sure! Last month we were reaching just over 50 million people a week. This month, we are only reaching 24 million people per week. That is a 50% decline at it started 2 weeks ago. The decrease in reach happened overnight and reach has not come back. FB is playing with the algorithm and they have clearly adjusted it downwards! Regardless of how you measure the reach of each post….the overall reach is falling!!! :(

  • http://socialcutty.com/ SocialCutty

    This is great, Jon. I’m performing the same experiment for one of my Pages right now! Quick question on your +/- 5 minutes around the hour logic, just to be clear:

    Let’s say you have two posts from the same day, one posted at 10:55am and the other posted at 11:05am — you would grab the “Daily Liked & Online” metric for the 11am hour (column N in Page Level Insights) for both of these posts, right?

    Essentially, the logic being, we can say with more certainty that this person at least had the potential to be “reached” with said content given that they were online within a 10 minute window of when the content was posted — is that right?

    I know you explained this in the article, but I just wanted to clarify that you use the same “Daily Liked & Online” hourly metric for someone online 5 minutes before AND 5 minutes after the content was posted.

    Thanks!

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

      That’s correct! You wouldn’t use the 10:00 hour for 10:55 because you have very little certainty that you would have reached a big portion of those people who logged in at 10:00-10:50.

  • gnir

    Jon, sorry for two posts!! But when I went through the report’s “fans online” column and plugged everything in I am getting vastly different results than what appear in my Insights’ graph. I’m wondering if this has to do with the time of my posts being in Pacific time in the Export and in Eastern time in the Insights? Basically in the Insights graph it is showing the largest number of fans at 9:00 pm. Yet in the Export it is showing the largest number of fans at 5:00 p.m. I know you really can’t comment without seeing the actual data but perhaps you can share if your Export’s numbers matched approx. the Insights’ numbers? Thanks!

  • venkyiyer58

    Wow!

  • Mona

    Very, very interesting. Did you, by chance, have anyone reveal the magic Excel formula to pull the FANS ONLINE to the appropriate post?

  • Michelle

    I’m confused looking at my spreadsheet, however, it does look as though my post at 5:55 p.m. (ET) is recorded by Facebook on the same date as a 3 p.m. (PT) post. I had just finished making all my conclusions about the data when I discovered this. Back to the drawing board!

  • Jess

    Does “organic fan reach” equal “Lifetime Post reach by people who like your Page?” I want to make sure I’m using the right numbers, because right now, our numbers are stellar. So either we’re reaching a lot of fans outside of that first hour (the average from January to March is 101 percent) or I’m using the wrong numbers. Thanks!

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

      Not the same thing, Jess. Lifetime Post Reach by People Who Like Your Page includes ads.

      • Jess

        Then what is the title of the column I should be using? Does it matter if we don’t run ads?

  • Storewars News

    Nice read! Very informative. Did you know that Coca-Cola’s Pay for Management Under Fire operations? Full story here: http://goo.gl/QWnTT8

  • http://www.sindbadtravels.com Rita Ma

    lots of information in this article ..most of them new to me …thank u very much..i was waiting to find this article:)
    rita
    sindbadtravels manager
    http://www.sindbadtravels.com

  • Selene

    This post http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/facebooks-declining-utility/ and its comments summarize a lot about how I feel about Facebook these days…
    Comments?

  • http://bit.ly/1ejGRkn RoundTable

    Thanks for the help! We try to check out when the largest amount of our followers are on Facebook before we post, but this seems like a lot better way to go about it! Thanks again!

  • Colin Wills Gibson

    I can’t find the “Daily Liked and Online” tab anywhere in my data on page level, is it possible we receive different information in the UK? What you said was in column T was in column X, so maybe there is discrepancies?

    • Guest

      I’m having the same problem…

    • http://linwrightdesign.com/ Linwright

      It’s in the last tab…tabs are located at the bottom of the Excel sheet. Took me a second on this one too!

      • Colin Wills Gibson

        The last tab for me is to do with mobile data :(

      • http://www.DennisBauer.com/ Dennis Bauer

        Thanks, Linwright! I couldn’t figure out where he was getting his hourly numbers. You saved the day!

  • http://emily3000.tumblr.com/ Emily Thousand

    Jon – yet again, a stellar, in-depth article with insights you can’t find anywhere else. Thank you for digging into this and shining some light.

    I can’t stand to see another article with folks squawking about their reach going down and how Facebook is no longer worth their time……….

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    Interesting break down Jon. I’m a fan of Reach as it does at least give you a basis to go on as far as knowing if people are seeing your posts at all or not. If I post something and notice that say only 10 out of 1000 people were “Reached” by the post I probably should adjust things. So it does have value, but it shouldn’t be the primary focus of a page for sure.

  • Sebastian

    Hi Jon, it’s definitively a great article. I’ve been following your work for a couple months and I really appreciate the level in-depth analysis you add into your blogs.
    Re this particular post – I need to say I’m pretty sceptical about insights.
    I just exported the data from the last 4 weeks on one of my pages and it doesn’t correlate to what chart on the Posts tab says (When Your Fans Are Online. Do you think Facebook is delivering accurate data on this particular insight?
    Sometimes I have the feeling that the team in charge of report tools at Facebook can’t keep up with the constant changes the algorithm suffers and the constant changes on the platform.

  • EtienneJ

    Awesome, awesome stats breakdown Jon. And methodology.

    Thanks,

    Etienne

  • http://www.windycityparrot.com WindyCityParrot

    Once I have this data – what actionable tactics are you recommending to maximize this new found information?

  • Rasmus

    Hi,
    This post is really great and I would love to perform these calculations for the pages I manage. But all my tabs and columns have different names from what you write in your post. Is there any way you could clear up, which is which. In particular, I cannot find the ‘Daily Liked and Online’ tab in the page report.
    Am I blind?

  • InquiStat Inc.

    What a great post, Jon! Always fun to dig into data. Would have been even better in you did more of a highlight on the “So what?”. How does reach relate to engagement?

  • http://www.scirev.net/ Wolverine

    A worldwide protest called #PagesFightBack is going to take place on Facebook on 1st june. They are going to protest the loss of reach and that Facebook requires one to advertise.
    I don’t agree with their assessment while it is true that reach is decreasing, it is not totally Facebook whch is the cause of this. First of all with all the pages on fb, it is easy for a page to be lost within the crowd.. it’s not as simple as they think.
    Doing as they are going to do, may backfire on them. They are going to post just blue images instead of their content on that day, which I think may generate negative feedback.

  • Nitiket

    A new platform known as profilebaker helps to integrate all our social media content into one mobile app. This can be the long run of social media promoting for several brands and can additionally make sure that posts reach their fans.

  • Braque

    Great article and effort. I would just argue with the point of the whole calculation of the total available fans for reach. Looking at your monthly aggregates, excluding October, they are not changing too much- between 23-29%. So while it is still a nice exercise, it perhaps could be ignored. Especially if you use even bigger aggregation- e.g. Quarters and compare it YoY, I tried it here with the analytical tool kpiwatchdog.com- https://medium.com/key-performance-indicators/8cb1c1e34c70
    However, I completely agree that the final action is what matters. In my analysis linked above, the traffic coming from Facebook remains flat in last 2 years despite the 3x bigger fan base. And that is not good.

  • http://www.cosmeticsocialmedia.com/ moniqueramsey

    I was Googling to find out a benchmark of % of daily fans online is when I got this article as a result. Happy to know I was on the right track using the Daily Fans Online number as my denominator. (I was wondering if anyone else scrolls to the very end of those Excel spreadsheets and now I know who my stats buddy is!) I love that you are breaking it down to within an hour of the post. I was just taking the daily average, which is probably much lower than if I were to take this extra step. Their organic reach (in the 24 hour period) is 20%.Oh, and I was only using the last 90 days, right up through today — so will make your suggested adjustment on time period prior to downloading next time. So back to what I was Googling – This client’s daily fans online is 87% of their total fans (on average over the past quarter). What do you think about that number? High? Low? They only have a small number of fans so I don’t know if that makes any difference.

  • http://www.clippingpathbusiness.com/ Clipping Path

    Very nice post, i like it, i agree all of your analyze
    Clipping Path

  • http://www.methodsocialmedia.com Rosemary Smith

    Thanks for providing this information. I appreciate your explaining how to do this.

  • Iona

    What I really need to figure out is how many of my fans have clicked on the link to my website within a post as my major KPI is traffic. Any ideas about how to break this out from just ‘link clicks’?

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