Facebook “Bug” Reveals Organic Reach Is Even Worse Than We Thought


Two months after Facebook announced it had been overestimating average view time for videos, the social network let out that it found four more discrepancies in performance metrics relied on by digital marketers and advertisers.

Cue eyeroll…

The most glaring of these miscalculations is how organic reach has been overrepresented in the Page Insights dashboard. Per the Wall Street Journal:

Facebook found that it had been overcounting how many people were exposed to marketers’ organic posts, meaning regular posts that weren't paid ads, because it was adding up the daily reach over certain periods without accounting for repeat visitors. The corrected metric on average will be about 33% lower for the seven-day period and 55% lower for the 28-day period, Facebook said.

The issue, which has been present since May of this year, was discovered after an internal review of Facebook’s advertising and performance metrics. In an attempt to subdue the concerns of many, Facebook announced that it would “double-down” on additional third-party reviews and validation of its data.

Still, this does not help businesses who are solely operating on Facebook organically. They now must deal with the fact that their audience may be less than half of what they thought it was.

facebook reach bug

Organic reach, outlined in red, is over estimated by 50% when looking at the last 7 days, and 100% across a four week span (28 days)

It Gets Worse…

In addition to coming clean about these reporting errors, Facebook also announced that it will be introducing a stricter definition to organic reach in the coming months. As it stands, reach includes users who had a post in their newsfeed even if a user never scrolled far enough to actually view the post.

facebook posts impressions

That’s right, your organic reach includes people who haven’t even seen your posts!

In an effort to improve the transparency of this metric, Facebook will be adjusting organic reach counts to go off of “viewable impressions,” only counting reach when a unique user sees a post on their screen. This is the same way Facebook currently determines the reach of paid content, so the change will create parity between how the two are reported.

The result of this change? Reported organic reach is expected to drop an additional 20% on average. To be clear, this does not mean that you will reach 20% fewer people. Instead it is just a more accurate reflection of your actual audience size. (You can learn more about the difference between organic and paid audiences with our Facebook Calculator.)

To help marketers stay on top of all the upcoming reporting adjustments, Facebook has launched a new blog series, Metrics FYI.

Lessons Learned?

Before your start preparing a “brace yourself” speech for your boss or clients, let’s take a look at some lessons learned from this new revelation.

Lesson 1: Organic Posting Is the Least You Can Do

Literally. We already knew that organic reach on Facebook is abysmal. If you are still gung-ho about posting organic content, don’t let this stop you, just know that your reach can be well below 5 percent of page fans. Organic posts are a great way to make sure your business page stays fresh, but other than that, it’s a bit like yelling in an empty room.

facebook organic reach errors

Lesson 2: It’s Time to Start Boosting Posts

If posting organically is the least you can do, the next best thing would be boosting those same posts. Boosting allows you to expand the reach of your organic posts by putting a little money behind them. There’s no need to boost everything. Just pick a few that have the best engagement, and give them the nudge they so desperately want. (Do Facebook posts have feelings? I think they do.)

Lesson 3: You Have to Pay to Play

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Facebook has approximately 4 million advertisers with a growth rate of 50% in the last year. That being said, the cost-per-click is still well below AdWords. If you haven’t already joined the movement, consider this a wake-up call.

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Nov 21, 2016

Hey Hey

Re: Organic reach calculation - can you please source where this information is coming from? You stated Facebook announced this - can you link to the announcement? the Metrics FYI blog refers to the reach reporting on the dashboard, but nothing no the organic reach re-calculation.

Elisa Gabbert
Nov 22, 2016

Hi Anne, the very first sentence in the post links to the source.

Jean-Christophe Lavocat
Nov 22, 2016

Hi Jess,
This is all bad news, not that I don't like Facebook ads (it's an amazing tool), but this will restrain more and more people to create and animate their Fb page while more and more will create Fb Groups to chat with their users/customers directly.

Rick Noel
Nov 25, 2016

Excellent post Jess. Once advertisers get over the fact that Facebook has evolved to a pay for play (like virtually every other advertising channel, ever), they can focus on how to leverage Facebook advertising to their advantage. Though cost per click is less than Google AdWords, perhaps the more relevant metric is cost per conversion as clicks from each usually have different click to conversion rates. Thanks for sharing.

DL Stickler
Dec 01, 2016

It is somewhat problematic to think that these metrics were reported incorrectly. It makes me wonder about other metrics reporting from other sources. At the end of the day, the drill down metrics can and do have an effect on how to develop strategy and plan although generally my only metric involves ROI. Did I get my money back and how much did I make.

Victoria S. Moreno
Dec 01, 2016

The problem with boosting posts is they are sent to people Facebook thinks are likely to click on your ad...click farms, anyone? Far better results to go into the ad manager and make an actual ad for the post than the simplistic boost offered. Your targeting options are endless and results are better.

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