For years, social media brands like Facebook have taken to gradually decreasing the amount of reach any single post from a corporate brand could have. While Facebook doesn’t explicitly publicize the numbers, it has acknowledged the phenomenon that so many business owners have experienced firsthand: organic reach is steadily going down.
Facebook has been tactful about explaining the causes for this. Though most marketers and business owners suspect that it’s a clever move to gradually get more businesses to pay for advertising space on the platform, Facebook insists that the decline is merely a way to maximize the relevance of the average user’s newsfeed. A smaller percentage of visible posts in a newsfeed means those that remain are more important, and pre-selected to be valuable to the user in question.
Of course, Facebook isn’t alone in this move—Twitter and LinkedIn have implemented similar measures. So with no end for social media advertising in sight and an organic reach that seems to keep declining, will the organic reach of social media posts eventually disappear entirely?
There are a handful of reasons why organic reach on social media might continue to decline, at least for the next several years.
Increasing advertising opportunities
Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and even Snapchat are experimenting with bold new ways for paying advertisers to reach their audience. Facebook, for example, has introduced a kind of social shopping platform, and every year it introduces new features and functions for its core advertising platform. Pinterest, as another great example, is pushing for a new kind of social media/e-commerce hybrid app with its latest expanding feature, buyable pins. These increasing advertising opportunities are a sign that social media apps are getting serious about monetizing their platforms for businesses. That alone is enough incentive to keep organic reach as low as possible.
Greater social media power
Social media marketing once seemed like a superfluous and unpredictable investment, but as the years roll on, more brands are discovering that social media is a phenomenon that’s here to stay. Similarly, user numbers for every reasonably popular social media platform are constantly on the rise. The major players like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn gradually gain more power, and accordingly, they can afford to ask more of their corporate users. Consider it a “first taste free” effect—now that social media marketing is being taken seriously, social media apps have taken it upon themselves to ratchet up the stakes.
Less wiggle room for profitability
Historically, social media platforms have been overvalued. Because of their early popularity and impressive functionality, investors and stakeholders have enjoyed a mini economic bubble of interest. Now that social media platforms are commonplace (and tend to pop up in new iterations regularly), investors and stakeholders are more concerned with the practicality of these apps—even the established players. That means these applications have less wiggle room than they used to for profitability, and that means stepping up their ad revenue by any means necessary—including reducing organic reach.
On the other hand, there are also reasons why organic reach might maintain the same level, or even increase after a period of time.
New forms of content
Social media platforms are evolving in many distinct different directions, with most of them offering new ways of communicating with audiences. Facebook, for example, is introducing a new messenger function that will make it easy for brands to communicate with customers directly about issues, questions, and concerns. Platforms like Periscope and Meerkat offer direct, live streaming video views to users—a medium that would be difficult to capture as a form of advertising. These new, innovative ways of communicating with audiences mean that while traditional status updates and posts may get less reach, new forms of organic reach will arise in different areas.
There’s no shortage of social media platforms out there, and that level of competition is a boon for corporations torn between managing a presence on all of them. If one platform completely does away with organic reach, it’s likely that a chunk of their corporate users would abandon the platform in favor of another with more organic potential—especially if they had a tight budget. This keeps every social media platform loosely in check with the others, guaranteeing some level of organic reach on each of them.
Personal brand reach
No matter what social media platforms do to corporate brands, they can never get rid of the organic potential of their personal users. These individual users are the reason why advertising is profitable for the platforms, so the organic reach of their posts will continue to exist uninterrupted, indefinitely. Corporate brands feeling the pain of an ever-restricted organic reach can simply rely more on personal brands to supplement their communicative potential.
It seems unlikely that organic social media reach will ever disappear, though it may continue to decline, especially for less reputable or emergent brands. To counteract this, you’ll need to continue striving for higher and higher quality posts, rely more on personal brands to get your message across, enlist the help of multiple social platforms to hedge your bets, and consider incorporating a bit of paid social advertising into your campaign. As long as you continue to produce what your followers and customers want to see, no platform will ever cut off your organic reach completely.