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Why small business owners will be hit hard when Facebook organic reach becomes history


Lately, I have been experimenting with social media networks for my own marketing purposes.

Very quickly, I have had to zoom in on one particular network – Facebook – and decide if it’s really worthwhile my time and efforts in the short-term, given the sporadic, inconsistent results and my limited availability as a one-man band business owner.

My experimentation involves testing different topics and media formats, at different times of the day and the week, and fine-tuning my posts and content calendar across channels based on the learnings from my weekly data analytics – all of this in an effort to promote my newly launched business.

Facebook has quickly stood out to be the least rewarding out of the 4 networks I have been using (the other 3 being LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+). This is not entirely surprising; after all, I haven’t spent one advertising dollar on it despite the platform’s many prompts to “boost” my posts (in their own words).

You may indeed choose to advertise on Facebook to fast-track the development of your fan base, increase your total reach and engagement levels. I have chosen not to do this initially; instead my plan has been to build and leverage organic reach to help me test and optimize my calendar before turning to paid media.

It is also true that one must be patient when it comes to building a social community – they don’t happen overnight, even more so without paid advertising. However, it quickly became apparent that something was off.

About three weeks into my marketing test, the science would just not deliver the results one might reasonably expect. The insights derived from the latest weekly analytics (e.g. time/day of the week for optimal post reach) would not consistently yield results the following week. I appreciate it’s not all about the data; the content relevance and resonance with the audience have a role to play also. However, analytics are pretty reliable and as such usually set you on the right path. Something else was interfering with what the page insights were telling me to do. Something that was out of my control: the Facebook algorithm.

I have been experiencing what has made a few headlines lately: unlike your content goes viral, Facebook is making it increasingly difficult for your posts to reach fans and non-fans without paid advertising. It is one thing to read about it and quite another to experience it first hand.

According to a recent study by Ogilvy@Social, the organic reach of page posts has gone down from 12% last October to 6% in February and is set to decrease to 1% or 2% according to the tech blog ValleyWag – before hitting zero eventually Ogilvy@Social tells us.


This trend is the result of numerous successive changes to its (now infamous) algorithm, which are slowly making organic marketing efforts on the network redundant. In other words, you will see very little returns now, and soon little to none, leaving you with no choice but to pay up.

What I find most disappointing is that businesses with no to little spare cash to spend on marketing (i.e. startups and micro businesses) will be most penalised by Facebook’s transition to a paid advertising model.

Not all small business owners can afford paid advertising when they start trading; and when they can, they have to prioritize where to invest their hard-earned cash. Social media channels are one of the many marketing options, yet unlikely to bring the quickest results one needs and hopes for.

Hence, a lot of small businesses may give up the platform altogether, with medium to large corporations staying onboard – alongside the very consumers they are hoping to woo – as they continue to pay up.

Not surprisingly, resentment amongst advertising professionals and brands alike is growing, slowly but surely. Some brands are threatening to leave the network, others already have.

Last month, Eat24 (a brand I admire for its innovative, risky marketing tactics) posted a break-up letter on its blog for the attention of Facebook. The company made the decision to shut down its Facebook page in the face of too many challenges and frustrations in return for an ever-decreasing pay-off.

More are likely to follow; yet Facebook is unlikely to reverse its strategy. At the end of the day, it is under pressure to deliver increasing dividends to its shareholders.

With this in mind, we can only hope that Instagram doesn’t follow in its big brother’s (and owner) footsteps. For the sake of all small business owners out there.

Cecile Ferre is a digital marketing consultant. Passionate about digital marketing, she writes about its development and future direction. You can follow her via email at www.digitalfabriq.com or on Twitter at @digitalfabriq.