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Deciphering Facebook’s “Reach Puzzle”

Truth In Advertising?

Understanding Facebook’s obscure ranking system for your social network is key for creating messages and targeting audiences. The exact formula may never be known, but this will help those new to the process (like me) be much more effective.


Facebook Criticized By Paying Customers

Facebook recently came under fire when they “tuned up” the algorithms that decide which posts and ads appear on any particular user’s newsfeed.  The tune-up caused reach numbers to drop, even for paid ads. Internet start-up, Eat24 even pulled their page in protest.  I just happened to notice this, as well — something seemed off.

Really? I Am Reaching That Few? How Does This Work?

I am far from an expert, but it seemed odd to me that even though I have over 300 friends, my recent post announcing a pending Android app was not noticed by anyone I would ask.

Marketing Basics

What we’re looking for is how many people see a message (REACH) and how they interact with that message (SENTIMENT and MINDSHARE).

The latter two are presumably reflected in whether people open your post, how actively people comment, forward and what subsequent people do with it, etc.

Page Posts – BAD

As I mentioned earlier, I am working on an android application and I wanted to let everybody know, so I send out a post on the BuildEHR Facebook page.

Nobody seemed to know about the "new app" post, and it got me to wondering...

Nobody saw the “new app” post

A quick look at “Insights” confirmed why nobody seemed to have gotten that post.

Notice how conveniently located the promotion to purchase boost for your post? Tempting…

It was worse that I feared: fewer that 5% of my fans were getting the post AT ALL… according to Facebook.

Having A Fan Guarantees Nothing

I expected that not all would get the message, but certainly the ones who follow the page? I currently have 54 followers so those should get the message, right?  14 is a long way from 54…

I assumed any post to a page would fire a news feed entry for each fan.  It seemed that FB was deliberately blocking my messages.
There had to be a way to communicate with more, and more consistently.

Techcrunch did a great write-up of why the post volume got turned down, and it makes sense.  I underestimated how much competition existed for your News feed!

Events – A Better Channel

As I mentioned in the first post regarding this issue, it seemed clear that calendar events we were the only thing that could possibly come close to reaching my fans.

But would an event be practical for a message and within the rules of Facebook?

Turns out the answer is, yes ( even though Facebook makes it look ineffective).

Testing The Reach Of Calendar Events

I created an event for testing, and invited ALL of my friends.  Several people accepted the invitation right away.

Shortly after sending the invite, Facebook Insights begin to populate and sadly, reached looked it may be worse: I only had a reach of 1.

BuildEHR FB Insights
I started to get acceptance notifications to the event and a few people started commenting.

The reach number still only said 1.

Maybe I needed to wait a little longer for the numbers to crunch?

If a reader opens an Event to see it’s comments, shouldn’t that count as one person reached?

I began to doubt numbers.

image Click Report

Tracking With A URL

I posted a subsequent comment within the event to explain that the event was just a test. People responded to that note. A couple even Liked it. Surely the reach number must be going up?

Since Facebook reach was still at 1, I decided to do my own spot-checking of the reach number by adding a tracking code of my own. In the second post, I also added a URL and encouraged people to click it.

Right away I saw discrepancy, because the Google stats were definitely looking more like the subjective numbers I could guess based on the clicks and comments. Facebook was not reporting the correct reach for the event itself!

Clearly, there was a failure to communicate here.

Time for the Big Guns

My site has detailed reports; maybe I could spot-check this further. Was I somehow getting extraneous clicks from my testing?  

I went to look at my site’s deeper logs. It turned out that the Webaholic reports are *much* more comprehensive.   Overwhelming might be a better word, but after some playing around and filtering, I did manage to see similar numbers… to, not Facebook.

Reach Values Finally Appear!

The reach for the event never did rise above 1, but as luck would have it I noticed that the weekly summary report indicated an accurate number on April 3rd.




Facebook saves face, but it would be much more appropriate to have that information at the point where they’re selling you on the need for boost – at the page statistics level.


  1. Post reach is not great and is getting worse as competition for the Newsfeed space heats up. Paying for “boost” will help, but its up to you as to whether or not it’s worth it
  2. Facebook has been decidedly misleading on the actual need for paid reach on Events with its obscure reporting mechanism. I personally frown at the opportunistic placement of the boost button.
  3. Events have terrific reach. You can essentially get 100% reach, as long as you don’t mind playing by the rules.

Once you’ve reached your target audience, your success will simply depend on the quality of your content and the appropriateness of your target.

No problem, right? 🙂

Happy marketing, and good luck!

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