Reach is Infinitely More Important than Fan Count on Facebook

When did we start

For better or for worse, Facebook made it easier for people to report or block page posts in September. Since then, the need to tread carefully with posts has increased dramatically; too many reports or blocks can hurt a page’s performance dramatically. This is an important topic that will be covered more in-depth in a future series of articles, but for now it’s important to note.

As Facebook’s ability to drive traffic and improve branding continues to increase, the need to understand the metrics grows as well. Fans, the way that many businesses in the past (and some still presently) judged their effectiveness has never been as important as total reach, but now it’s even more important to note because of increased usage of the network. More people are on it and they’re spending more time on a daily basis. Facebook is no longer an option for businesses. It’s a must-have.

First, let’s get an understanding of what reach really is on Facebook.


How are People “Reached”?

Facebook has always received some jabs from those in the programming world for their terrible site architecture. Those in the know would tell you that the site is held together by coding duct tape and superglue when the curtain is drawn back. However, the way they are able to track people and their eyeballs is unquestionably elegant.

When someone is “reached”, it means that a post or advertisement was presented to them on screen. Facebook knows what you see and what you don’t see. For example, if you post something on your page, it will be available for your fans to see on their news feed. For them to see it (and thus, be reached), it has to register as appearing to them directly. Let’s say someone logs in and they start seeing some of the items in their news feed. If they scroll down far enough to see your post, they were reached. If you post is below where they scroll, they were not reached. The post had the potential to be presented to them but if it doesn’t make it to their screen, they don’t count.

We’ll go into more detail about how to improve reach and sustain it in future articles, but for now, let’s take a look at why reach is so much more important than number of fans.


Real versus Artificial Indicators

Social media is loaded with numbers that are relatively meaningless. One of those numbers is Facebook fans. That’s not to say that you don’t need them. It only means that a low number of high-quality, engaged fans would be much better than a high number of low-quality fans. In fact, having too many fans that aren’t engaged can actually hurt your chances of having your message seen by those who are.

The image above is a snapshot of a page’s reach statistics for a month. The total number of fans is relatively low – from 360 up to 404 beginning to end in the graph. However, you see a sharp spike in people reached. This was accomplished through Facebook advertising and clearly highlights how the reach was exponentially increased as a result.

Important Note: Do not fall into the trap of jumping straight into Facebook advertising without fully understanding it. Facebook users are extremely particular about what they see on their news feeds. Done improperly, Facebook ads can generate an incredible boost in the beginning, but this can fall very quickly even with an increasing budget if it’s not positioned absolutely properly. Running Facebook ads is simple. Running them properly takes experience and understanding.

Getting the right fans, people who are interested in what you are posting, is extremely important. The number of fans is a blip on the overall Facebook marketing strategy. I would contend that a properly-run page with 500 good fans can get a higher and more worthwhile reach than a poorly run page with 50,000 weak fans. In Facebook, it’s about how many people see your message, not how many people like your page. One has a loose effect on the other, but it’s a misleading concept. The math and algorithms behind it all aren’t difficult at all to understand. It simply takes a little research.

When you’re gauging the effectiveness of your Facebook marketing efforts, look first towards reach. This is the number that you must manage. It’s the number that is hardest to maintain at high levels with or without Facebook advertising, but it’s also the one that has the greatest opportunity to improve your overall business performance.

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4 thoughts on “Reach is Infinitely More Important than Fan Count on Facebook”

  1. Nancy Wolff Leary says:

    Your explanation of “reach” is helpful. But there’s a subtlety I’m unclear about. Can you please explain how having too many fans that aren’t engaged can actually hurt someone’s chances of having their message seen by those who are?

    Thank you.

  2. JD Rucker says:

    Nancy – both the natural (EdgeRank) and paid (Sponsored Stories) algorithms go based upon past success. They take into account spam reports, remove from news feed, and instances of being blocked. When you have fans who are not engaged such as in the case of being a local Seattle business with chunks of fans in Boston, Toronto, and Thailand, your posts can garner negative reactions, particularly if they’re about Seattle. As these accumulate, the reach is diminished because Facebook is more careful about which posts it serves to who.

    On question I get often regards sponsored stories. “We’re spending the same amount, we now have more fans, but our reach is dropping.” There are two reasons that this happens – either the content is poor and getting negative reactions or the fans are poor and giving negative reactions. This is particularly sharp when the more common option, “Show friends and friends of friends” is clicked because those people in Boston who see an offer for a free dessert in a Seattle restaurant will be more likely to remove it or mark it as spam.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Nancy Wolff Leary says:

    Very helpful and informative response. Thank you!

  4. Rodney says:

    Interesting article. I think it’s critical for most orgnanizations to be conscious of their fan/likes/followers counts because that number is important regardless of what some people say. That is one of the most important metrics that any visitor to a page sees right away and a high fan count instantly validates that page/site for that visitor. I’m sure that there are no exceptions. Just ask any marketing gurus or upper management.

    I mean look at all of the services out there that help you get Facebook likes – as an example there’s hundreds of them reviewed just here: – and even though most of these services suck, there are some good ones and the high demand for the good ones is evident. This goes to show you why Facebook fans/likes are still so important to businesses and individuals alike.

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