Facebook Has Finally Killed Organic Reach. What Should Marketers Do Next?

After years of pushing brands’ reach lower with one hand (and opening marketers’ wallets with the other) Facebook has finally announced the end of organic social marketing on its site.

In a Friday night blog post the social giant warned brands that “Beginning in January 2015, people will see less of this type of content [promotional page posts] in their News Feeds,” and admitted that brands that post promotional content “will see a significant decrease in distribution.”

It’s not as if marketers could count on much organic reach or engagement anyway. Ogilvy reported that in February 2014 large brands’ Facebook posts reached just 2% of their fans (a number that was falling by .5% per month). And earlier this year a Forrester study showed that on average, only .07% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts. But Facebook’s latest announcement will certainly make matters worse.

What should marketers do now? Today we published a report called “Social Relationship Strategies That Work” that details several options. Two of the most important things brands can do are:

  • Add social relationship tools to your own site. Our 2015 social predictions emphasize the renewed importance of branded communities, and for good reason. A recent Forrester survey shows that US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are almost three times as likely to visit your site as to engage you on Facebook. Most companies still don’t offer branded communities — but smart marketers are already finding success building social relationship tools into their own sites. Sony Playstation got 4.5 million visits to its social microsite GreatnessAwaits.com; people stayed for 4 minutes per visit, and this effort helped Playstation outsell Xbox by a huge margin. B2B marketers like Analog Devices and Tyler Technologies successfully focus their social efforts on branded communities as well.
  • Stop making Facebook the center of your relationship marketing efforts. That same survey shows that US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are almost twice as likely to sign up for your emails as to interact with you on Facebook. Plus your emails get delivered more than 90% of the time, while your Facebook posts get delivered 2% of the time — and no one’s looking over your should telling you what you can and can’t say in your emails. If you have to choose between adding a subscriber to you email list or gaining a new Facebook fan, go for email every time.

For much more data, examples and recommendations on how to build effective social programs in light of Facebook’s changes, Forrester clients can read our new report “Social Relationship Strategies That Work.” 


Reclaim Your Community

Couldn't agree with you more Nate. This has been coming for a while.

Handing over your community and allowing an external companies algorithm control what % of your community actually get to see your posts has never made sense to me. Building a genuine community on your own site is way more powerful and beneficial in the long term for any business/organisation.

For those who are interested, this is exactly what we have been building for the last few years at Pubble. Community engagement that you control - and it works (check us out www.pubble.io).

Build Trust, Engage & Convert Your Fans

For progressive brands, they use social networks as a tool to gain extra referral traffic to their website / digital channels. The onus now is to sustain and engage that traffic - subsequently improve time metrics, increase social engagement, and conversions. Utilizing user generated content via multiple social networks with owned content on digital channels is the way forward. Additionally, organic reach is boosted because of social sharing and interactions. Get more insights here: http://www.engagesciences.com/goodbye-facebook-organic-reach/


What I think is really the telling point here is that marketers are now being faced with the identifying the quality of their audience. It's nice to have over 10K fans on a page, but is that audience truly engaged with the shared content or are they simply numbers.

The test is to share content strictly to the current audience and then share that exact same content but don't allow current fans to see it. That's a sure way to tell whether the existing audience is quality.

Reliable Reach is dead

Great stuff Nate. I wouldn't say that Facebook and Twitter are without merit, but companies are definitely going to have to change their strategy, especially around content publication frequency and overall channel participation.

I see what you're saying about rolling your own social on your website, but the reality is that the % of people that are on your site is very small compared to the % of people spending time on social networks. You'd be interested in the analysis and presentation I put together on this same topic this summer: "Why Shotguns trump Rifles, and it's time to fundamentally change your social strategy"


Thanks for the great research, and a terrific summary. Would love to get you on Social Pros podcast early next year to discuss?

It's true that fewer people

It's true that fewer people come to your site than use Facebook.

But as you yourself say in your link, "If Facebook has 1.2 billion members, but your posts only reach 81 people, that 1.2 billion figure is pretty damn pointless day-to-day."

Likewise, if I'm a marketer I'd rather have real conversations with the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who show up on my site, than watch my Facebook posts reach a fraction of that audience while I daydream about theoretical billions.

Hi Nate. Interested in how

Hi Nate.

Interested in how you're defining 'branded community'? You cite website visits, but how many of these visitors actually joined a genuine community? Personally I think that 'community' is a dreadfully overused word in relation to social media: it's usually applied to any group of fans or followers, but rarely do they act as a community.

Totally agree that I'd take an email address over a 'Like' every day of the week. Much more valuable.


I'm less worried about the

I'm less worried about the definition of 'community' than with giving customers a chance to feed their passion for your brand. So I'd include in that category anything on your site that offers brand loyalists great social content or interactions -- including forums, blogs, and social aggregation hubs. If it's 'real' community, that's great -- but anything that generates positive interactions, in an environment where the brand (rather than a third-party social network) controls what users see and what they don't, is fine by me.

Loved it

Hi Nate - first off. Great post. Tweeted and blogged about it earlier today.

This is a trend that we have been noticing for a while. Smarter brands have long begun the shift to cultivating their own communities on the web properties that they own. Putting an algorithm between you and access to your community was never a good idea.

I am a co-founder and CEO in a company called Pubble (http://www.pubble.io) that helps brands build the type of engagement experiences that the social web offers right on their own sites. I suppose Forrester would classify us broadly as a "Social Depth Platform". It is fantastic for us to be able to point to commentary and research like this when making the case to brands about how and where they should build community. Thanks for putting this out there ;)

Hi Nate, Thank you for a very

Hi Nate,

Thank you for a very broad and analytical perspective. The social media channels have been overselling; and created some distorted perspectives. No doubt social media is growing fast, but are really a smaller part of the ecosystem.

I am a co-founder, of Zample that provides brand intelligence into images and videos; and a 360 content recognition company.

Joe Pereira

Response for your article

Hi Nate! After reading you text I need to write that contrary to you I perceive upcoming changes on Facebook as positive for marketers. Why is that? Please check my extended response for your article:


I hope I will convince you to change your opinion about Facebook effectiveness in terms of being communication tool.

I do not think Nate would

I do not think Nate would disagree with you about using Facebook as a paid advertising channel. He made that clear in earlier comments.

Great Perspective

Hi Nate and readers. Your article is spot on. What I was immediately reminded upon reading it is the amount of effort and cost that continues to be incurred by companies to engage fans on Facebook, which essentially was crashing a party the brand was invited to in the first place. Hitting a like button is by no means an indication of wanting to participate, although two distinct behaviors remain prevalent - a.) fans use FB as a secondary support channel and for b.) obtaining discounts and offers. The fact that companies are getting less for their resource allocation only exacerbates the inherent problem in the brand/Facebook relationship.

Now for the somewhat self-serving part of this comment.

Here at www.turntonetworks.com, we offer a utility that is truly social in the way it connects shoppers/browsers who have questions with those who have already purchased the particular product or service being offered by the company. It is a gateway to developing a more connected, as you say, branded community of followers who truly want to engage with their peers and the brand itself. Feel free to contact us if you have questions!

What's Next?

Great article and I agree with a lot of the points made. However I have to question the idea of social vs email marketing. And I believe the answer is "target audience." For instance the millennial generation, among others, still invest a great deal of time and effort into social networking platforms. In my opinion there's far greater reach via social marketing than with email marketing for this particular audience. Email has long become the spam of yesterday's telemarketing.

I understand why you have that impression

But remember: It doesn't only matter how many people use a platform or channel -- it also matters how many people are willing to engage with brands in those channels. And you may forget that far more people use email than use Facebook.

1.3 billion people use Facebook globally, but only 16% of US online adults say they engage with their favorite brands there. By comparison, it's likely that well over 2 billion people use email globally, and 29% of US online adults say they sign up to receive emails from their favorite brands.

That's why marketers have long told us email is one of their most successful and valuable marketing channels, and that marketing on Facebook and Twitter offer much less value. See a relevant chart here: http://blogs.forrester.com/nate_elliott/13-11-05-twitter_marketers_are_s...


The demise of organic reach was inevitable. Name me another media channel that allows you to distribute your content to large numbers for nothing... Email may be close but you have to get people there in the first place. I agree that Facebook should no longer be the centrepiece but social network still have a valuable role to play. The landscape has shifted. That's the reality.


I think this article is a copy of something written years back..

The titles are indeed similar

But if you take time to read the two pieces, you can see the focus of the research is different: The HBR report is about how people connect with other people on social networks, and how brands can facilitate those peer-to-peer connections; our report is about how brands can use social media to create better relationships directly with their customers.

Nate The Great! A Question & A Solution


Thank you for the insightful article. I agree whole heartedly, not just as a digital investor, but also as a consumer. We all know the level of interest we pay to these platforms, and what is authentic and what is not.

What amazes me is that we have been taught for 20 years to Search, Search, Search and then for the last 7 years, we have been taught to Share, Share, Share.

Why are brands, retailers and web publishers not focused on the largest social behavior, which is "saving + conisderation?

When I find stuff I want on the web, I want to save it. And, as digital marketer, I know that when people SAVE stuff, that means they have real intent, and the chance for a transaction/conversion is exponential.

If I find a pair of jeans I like, I want to save it. A great article on raising a problem 7 year old, I want to save it. If I find some cool sports videos, I want to save them. Your article, and the stats, I want to save it. Great Facebook posts, I want to save them.

What would be a more direct channel to your consumer base than seeing what they save, and being able to reach them with offers based on what they saved? There is no greater, authentic CRM.

While I appreciate "sharing" it is un-qualified and it is wasteful, despite the high pass along.

Finding out what consumers are saving, and being able to interact with them, re: the content and products they save, is the truest value one can derive from their marketing dollars.

And, as in innovator and investor, that is why we built Clipix.com

The one place where consumers can save everyone they care about, and the one platform that allows partners to interact with them, based on the exact content/products they saved.

IMO---Saving is the New Black. And, unlike others, there is no strategy or alogorithim needed.

Just see what people save--and make them offers on the same stuff.

Like Google is to Search, Clipix is to Save.

Hope you find this helpful as you look for solutions that actually work for marketers.


[re-posted from my comment on

[re-posted from my comment on the WSJ blog citing Nate's Forrester piece]

It seems Nate Elliott has an ax to grind. While it’s true that average organic reach on Facebook has declined over time, that’s neither here nor there. Facebook still delivers gigantic reach, amazing targeting, and a constantly improving ads platform, and taken all together this combination works very well for many, many advertisers.

For many other advertisers, Facebook does not work well, but that is not unique to Facebook. For example, for many advertisers, search does not work well for reaching new audiences/prospects, but we do not then conclude that search is a poor advertising channel for advertisers in general.

Mr. Elliott seems to use an organic perspective to denigrate Facebook and Twitter, without acknowledging that regardless of organic reach and engagement, paid reach and engagement can work great for many advertisers. This is very, very clear – it is measurable.

My take-aways from Mr. Elliott’s views:
– Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket
– Measure paid and organic ROI and shift resources accordingly (averages are next to meaningless – advertisers’ own unique metrics are the only thing that matters)
– Go where the audience and ROI is – it might not be Facebook, or it may very well be Facebook
– If companies can find ways to reach and engage their audiences and customers without depending on a 3rd party like Facebook, certainly they should try to do that (file that under ‘no brainer’)

Disclosure: I work at a digital ad agency – most of our work is in managing Google AdWords and Facebook Ads programs for advertisers. We have some clients that do well on both, and some that only do well on one or the other, and we shift resources accordingly.

Read further

Terry, I agree with you that Facebook ads can deliver enormous reach, and that Facebook ad targeting continues to improve. And I agree with you that sometimes Facebook paid ads work and other times they don't. (Your "Go where the ROI is" advice is spot on.)

But what many people seemed to have missed (perhaps inevitably, given the bombastic and often inaccurate press headlines around this report) is that this research is entirely about organic engagement marketing on social sites -- and that the research is not at all focused on paid social ads.

The simple fact is, organic engagement marketing on Facebook is effectively dead. Just 2% of top brands' fans see each of their posts, and Facebook has announced this number will see a "significant decrease" in 2015. Just 0.07% of top brands' fans like, comment on, or share each of their posts. The opportunity to build relationships on Facebook is all but gone.

The opportunity to advertise is very much alive. As we say in the report, "Let's be clear: We're not predicting the demise of Facebook. After all, the site offers about one-third of all the display ad impressions online. ... But while they'll continue to collect billions in display ad revenues, they're just not the most important [site] for social marketers anymore." The report even spends a paragraph giving advice on how marketers can best use paid ads on Facebook (though again, this isn't the main focus of the research).

So it seems we're more in agreement than in disagreement when it comes to brands' opportunities on Facebook.

On the other hand, about that ax you say I have to grind... Sure, I criticize Facebook from time to time. But I also proved that teens weren't fleeing their site (http://ow.ly/ECqwS), called Instagram "the king of social engagement" (http://ow.ly/ECr8h), constantly complement Facebook's ability to improve its user experience and keep people coming back every day (http://ow.ly/ECr1r). Forrester's job is to make our clients more successful every day -- and we do that by making the tough calls (both positive and negative) that help marketers make decisions about how to spend their valuable time and money.

Ah, Yes, I think we do agree

Hi Nate,

I think, then, we are in agreement if the context is all about organic. Although we do work with some advertisers who really do have significant reach and really impressive engagement on Facebook, probably the majority of companies do not.

Thanks for listing your other articles - I will check those out.

What about Instagram?

Hello Nate,

Any insight in to how this might affect Instagram? Now that they're rolling out advertising as well, is it only a matter of time before the same shift occurs? Any info or thoughts would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Instagram is a good choice, for now

As far as we can tell, Instagram does still offer organic reach. And it certainly offers organic engagement: Instagram delivers top brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter. See details here: http://blogs.forrester.com/nate_elliott/14-04-29-instagram_is_the_king_o...

We are concerned, though, that at some point Facebook will start to filter Instagram posts the same way it did Facebook posts - and that any algorithm on Instagram could hurt brands there the same way the Facebook algorithm has. Facebook assures me there are no current plans to introduce an Instagram algorithm, but I think we'll likely see one in the next year or two.

Thank you!

Thank you!

Great stuff. Also interesting

Great stuff. Also interesting comments. It looks to me that in US thinking in Social Media Formats is not that common.
Using Facebook für Brand or Issue Communities is nuts (Social Media Format 4 & 5).This can not work. Using Facebook for Dialogue & Communications (Format 3) is fading out, due to Facebooks Limitations. Using Facebook for direct Informations (Format 2) and for Advertising (Format 1) is still an option. Not more, not less.

The last bit of social hope

Nate - good post. All good things in media seem to at some point become a profit center and cut the original organic value they had. Benefit of scale and risk of building a community on someone else's platform.

There is still one data of social engagement that is free - that of social sharing that can drive traffic. We've found that by encouraging users to share you can increase your social traffic. We also found that by analyzing data on what product are being shared, a brand can enhance their product recommendations and optimize their onsite experience. Results are pretty incredible with large lifts in sales as a result.

As the social channels become more expensive to market on - brands will need to find more ways to harness the data they have.



Mobile app and CRM platform geared for the evolving Human Era

Nate - Your insight into ever-evolving social marketing tactics hit home for our new tech startup - Everyware. We just launched a mobile app and CRM platform that fills the gap most small businesses face with connecting and engaging with customers on a daily basis. We would love to hear your feedback on our mission if you could check out our video ow.ly/G8qUa We are hopeful that soon businesses across the nation can join as part of a movement. "Likes" "boosts" "retweets" and "banner ads" will not engage the customer on a human to human level. That is the gap we are trying to fill with our Everyware solution.

Agree 100% and is why we created TeamUp

Hi Nate,

I found your article and have now used in live presentations as well as in my own posts. You are spot on. I agree that there will be a rise in Branded communities but the problem will arise that people will only be willing to visit regularly a certain number of them.

Here is a link to one post I made on Linkedin regarding how we use passion to drive fans to brands. You will see the reference to your post there too. :-) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/passion-marketing-drives-customers-your-b...

I would love for you to take a look at what we are doing and give us your opinion.

Thank you very much,

<3 Donna

Got it :

Hi Nate, Good points you got there. At first, I thought that people are more likely to interact on Facebook rather than websites."Emails get delivered more than 90% of the time" and I totally agree with you on this. People like to read posts of others but not really interested in reading related to products as they're only seeing it as an ad.

Hi... thanks for this

thanks for this information. Great points. I appreciate your approach.
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This blog is great. This blog

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