Facebook Pages' Updated Organic-Reach-Crushing Algorithm, And What it Means for You

Facebook Pages' Updated Organic-Reach-Crushing Algorithm, And What it Means for You

As many of you who have your own photography pages probably already noticed, Facebook drastically changed their Pages organic reach algorithm on December 3, 2013. We have been living with the changes for a month, analyzing the effects on our brand and how it affects you, and the news isn’t good. With dramatic decreases in reach and engagement, our Facebook community is not nearly what it was. So what can you do about your own Pages?

Let’s first take a look at what the changes have done across the board, not just on Fstoppers. In a recent study by Ignite which included 21 brand pages of different sizes and across industries, they found a decline of “44% on average, with some pages seeing declines as high as 88%. Only one page in the analysis had improved reach, which came in at 5.6%.” That’s abysmal.

As we all know, Facebook wants us, and has wanted us, to pay to access the fans that some of us out there, including Fstoppers, have spent years fostering and growing (at Facebook’s continued insistence that fostering growth was pivotal). Though we weren’t happy about having to pay, we did understand it. We were ok with reaching most of our readers and paying to reach them all. That seemed fair.

Back before December 3, on average we organically reached about 42% of the Fstoppers followers. That’s pretty darn good. The ones that did not reach that many were perhaps less interesting articles, and then there were the hugely popular pieces that virally shared over hundreds of thousands of people, unpaid. That was also awesome, especially considering that there has been research that shows that organic content leads to better buying actions than paid reach. That also makes sense. None of us really LOVE being advertised to.

Let’s look at that Ignite study again, and see how bad the reach decline is for other brands:


Huge, huge declines. This is what Fstoppers has seen in the past month:

• 73% average drop in reach since December 3 (with the greatest drop at an astonishing 95%)
• 86% drop in engagement (likes, comments, shares)
• 7.4% average reach to followers, down from 42%

What’s most upsetting about the data from our Fstoppers account is who we are no longer reaching: our most engaged readers. According to a study by Forrester and Google-owned Wildfire, engaged users are a brand’s best customers (kind of a no-brainer if you think about it). They are the most likely to click and purchase. But our data has shown those engaged users no longer see our pages, and instead it appears those who now engage with our brand (the scant few) were not part of that “most engaged” group.

So not only is everything down, and down a considerable amount, but the people we would prefer to reach have almost no chance of seeing what we post.

So we should pay, right, in order to reach those people? Not necessarily. We have been shocked with the kind of interaction our posts have when we pour money into them. A vast number of the likes and comments come from completely left field.

example comments from paid distribution Fstoppers

Click through rate takes a dive, and we have lost thousands in what appears to be a Facebook black hole. Not to mention, the cost of paying to play is... well, it's a lot.

cost of distribution on Facebook fstoppers

To add salt to the wound, the amount of page moderation now required has dramatically increased. We have seen a large influx of spam on our page wall and in our page posts, increasing the time we need to spend on cleaning and maintaining our Facebook presence, yet receiving nearly no yields for the labor.

So what does this all mean? It means we are forced to diversify. Our Twitter is pretty awesome, and you can chat there directly with both me and Patrick. But also, we will be pouring a more concerted effort into our Google Plus. If you want to get updates from us, and we know many of you do because thousands of you treated your Facebook like a true news feed from us for breaking news and education, I suggest liking us both on Facebook and Google Plus, and trying to check Google Plus more frequently. G+ will only get better if we all contribute, and given that Facebook seems to get worse and worse for business as the months wear on, we’re basically given no choice but to jump ship, or at least share between the sites equally.

So back to my original question on what you can personally do? Help grow Twitter and G+, at least until Facebook realizes how they're squeezing us here isn't best for their bottom line. But if they don't change, it's really not worth the effort anymore.

As we put more effort into our other social channels, we will track those results and let you know how things look over the next couple months. Hopefully we can work together to find a solution that benefits everyone.

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*shakes head in disapproval*

Seems like it is something with content and status posts especially. I noticed that when I posted photos from new year's, I received way more traffic than usual..hmmmm

Jaron Schneider's picture

Images always raise organic reach over just text and links, but our stats are specifically from image-shared posts. So the biggest traffic driver on FB is hampered significantly.

Why bother with it then? It may have been great while it lasted, but if it's not doing anything for you now, why not just kill it?

I think G+ is going to be the next best thing once more people embrace it. It's got to also help your website.

I've been enjoying G+ more and more lately as well. Only problem is lack of demographic diversity compared to Facebook. If I want to target other photographers it's fine but anything else and you're in trouble.

What a coincidence!
I totally randomly opened fstoppers to read this article, on another tab I had youtube open to watch something about retouching.and there I found your videos. I closed that tab later and then found your name here. What a small world this is... Thanks for your videos by the way, your techniques are really great and I learn a lot from them.

Haahaa, that is a coincidence Karin, small world indeed. Glad you found the videos helpful :)

Just understand that once G+ gains real traction they will be following FB's example. This is how they monetize their product outside of ad support.

I was just talking about it with some friends yesterday. Facebook has steadily been on the decline with use personally for my business and personal pages the last several months. I've been getting more use out of G+, too... the format is actually better, but the content still needs some work (aka too many reposts). I wrote a little about it if anyone wants to read: http://smithandfritzy.blogspot.com/2014/01/3-ways-to-get-more-with-Googl...

It would be better if I could "trust" and understand Google's privacy controls. It seems quite complicated and they lost a lot of my trust. I have no idea what I share as a person will end up where. I am sure I can if I put the energy in to it, but there is the "rub". And I am a computer person!

G+ needs to make a product that you can understand how to use it. It's not very intuitive.

The performance on my page seems to be following the same trend, although I've taken more steps recently to increase engagement. I agree with your call - without content, Facebook is the next MySpace. It seems reasonable at this point to diversify social sharing. If FB makes to pay, and the pay results suck, why bother.

Once they went public and started making changes to how content was shown, specially images, which get the most traffic, it really marked the time to pull the eject button. I deleted my FB account.
G+ has a lot of photographers enthusiast which have taken to it, so that seems like an option for now.
The truth is, that as far as we're using free services, they get to sell our data and do as they please with their service, the only power we have as users is to put the squeeze back on them by not using the service.

What's not really been covered is that this algorithm appears to be on a three month rotation.

I've several pages which suffered from the organic throttling that your talking about between September to December, however since early December two of them are absolutely flying - mostly thanks to Facebook's new Suggested Pages feature. One has risen from 80k to 180k and the other from 17k to 41k in just four weeks. I anticipate that this will last for two to three months again and then other pages will see a boost and mine will halt. In fact I know this will happen as pages which benefitted from the September to December algorithm are now suffering from throttling.

Jaron Schneider's picture

If this is true, I would be very interested to hear why it was implemented. It doesn't make sense from a user standpoint, as it should be based on individual profile likes and dislikes, not arbitrary choices by Facebook. Do you have anything to back up this statement other than personal observation?

I'd be happy to share some numbers and screen grabs over email Jaron (ill fire them over tomorrow, I still have your email) - I can tell you that around 80% of the new users we're seeing on both pages are coming via 'Mobile' and 'Suggested Pages' (mobile I'm taking to be the suggested pages feature, but accessed on a mobile device).

This is all an educated guess after all, but myself and a friend both own very similar pages that follow a niche motorsport - around September last year my page had 70k followers and his had 40k. Between the first week of September and the first week of December his page grew from 40k to 500k. Mine grew from 60k to 70k and not only that but our reach was well down on the usual. Since the first week of December my page is now growing at a rate of 3k to 5k new fans per day with massive reach, and he is reporting huge throttling - like Facebook suddenly pulled the plug. Around the same time my other page started growing hugely - we weren't posting any more or doing anything different, it just started picking up - again Suggested Pages and Mobile are the main sources of new fans.

Jared Monkman's picture

It's interesting how your page garnered so many likes all of a sudden, but could it not just be coincidence? I'm with Jaron on this one. It doesn't really make any sense.

It could be coincidence sure, but I believe not. Based on the September-December boost that some pages benefitted from - that happened at the exact same time that some of my pages suffered from throttling. At that time my pages went through the exact same thing that many pages are experiencing now.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I might have an explanation. Stay tuned...

If you want a quick look in the meantime check out the 'Talking about' number on the Digital SLR Photography magazine Facebook page compared to the Fstoppers page - it's all out of wack! All of those 'Talking abouts' are people seeing our page via Suggested Pages I'm pretty sure.

This is a huge misconception. Organic reach is not dead. Watch this interview to find out more.


Wait, if that's true why do I have a post on my feed today (1/11 10:47PM) from a friend that was dated 1/9 12:30pm? I never commented on this post, never liked it. I'm not "following" this person, but a new post from a page (scientist, artist, company) that I like I don't see until I go to the page. Nope, not buying it.

You didn't watch the video, did you?

Noam Galai's picture

My page suffers from the same issue... it's kind of amazing to see how FB shoot themselves in the leg time after time - and each time they do so, they get closer to becoming irrelevant

It's been a double edged sword for me. My rate of acquiring page likes has increased a fair bit over the last month or two but post engagement is a lot lower so the net effect is still the same or worse.

I have seen an huge drop in the people seeing my post. I only have 103 likes as I do all volunteer work but it was normal for my photos to be viewed thousands of times in a week. In the last three weeks the best I have seen is about 90. I was thinking it was the holidays but in asking, allot of my followers are not seeing my post. Shame part is all the stuff I do is to help the performing arts or animal charities at no cost to them but Facebook keeps wanting me to pay to get hits.

G+ seems like a strange little animal to me. Im one that has tried and doesn't quite get it. They could be the next big thing if they only reorganize the structure for the mainstream. I made my FB page a little late in the game (about 1 1/2 years ago) and its tough building it. With the promote option in force it seems silly to put up content at all, especially after reading the results here. I truly think that putting a link from a blog or other resource is the way to go, but on my profile page. Ive been working that way for a while now. Would love to 86 the page, but can't quite pull that trigger. I run some big photography groups as well on FB. I do enjoy the interaction, but the spam has increased this past month expedentially. I am now forced to screen every profile before adding people. It really is getting stinky in FB land.

Screw Facebook Pages, and Facebook! Page Admins has no control .

I've been using Google+ since the beta, sharing my photography, music I like, technology news etc etc and I've racked up over 14,000 followers. It does work, it just isn't easy :/