A few months ago, we wrote a blog post outlining the latest Facebook statistics for 2017. These statistics make it pretty clear that Facebook is a juggernaut that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Facebook’s advertising capabilities have increased substantially since the early days, when the only metrics anyone talked about were page likes, follows and comments. Now, Facebook advertisers can track a wide range of metrics, including video views, clicks and even conversions. They can also target highly specific audiences, based on their interests, demographics and interactions with your page or similar pages.
As Facebook’s advertising potential has grown, it has become more difficult for pages to reach people with organic posts. Facebook introduced the Boosted Post in 2012, and around that time page managers began to notice a decline in the effectiveness of non-promoted posts. Soon, Facebook introduced more sophisticated advertising options through the Facebook Adverts Manager, which allowed advertisers to create dark posts (i.e. posts that don’t appear publicly on a page).
These developments have left many to wonder: Are organic Facebook posts even worth making any more? Are boosted posts even worth it any more?
First, some clarification. What is the difference between organic posts, boosted posts and dark posts on Facebook?
Organic Posts are the old-school way of posting updates to your Facebook page – simply posting something without putting any money behind it. This used to be an effective way of reaching your page followers, but ever since 2012, fewer and fewer people are even shown organic page updates. On average, page managers found that only 16% of their followers were seeing their content starting in 2012. And as Facebook’s algorithm has undergone more changes, this percentage has continued to drop.
Boosted Posts, on the other hand, are regular page posts that have some money put behind them to increase their engagement rates. This functionality was Facebook’s first dabble into the world of paid advertising. Due to its simplicity, it is also a popular feature for marketers who are just beginning to spend money on Facebook.
Boosting a post on Facebook is as simple as selecting the “Boost Post” option next to the post, before or after it goes live. You can choose your audience for a Boosted post – either people who like your page, people who like your page and their friends, or an audience you define based on demographics and interests – but you cannot choose the end goal you want to achieve. The end goal of a Boosted Post is always to increase Post Engagement. Boosted Posts also appear publicly on your page.
Dark Posts are essentially just another name for what most people would think of as Facebook News Feed ads. These are advertisements that can appear in a person’s News Feed (as well as in other placements like Instagram and the right side-bar on Desktop) but do not appear publicly on the advertiser’s Facebook page. Dark Posts can be created and managed through the Facebook Adverts Manager. There are at least two main advantages to using Dark Posts over Boosted Posts:
Technically, a post doesn’t have to be a Dark Post to be managed through the Facebook Adverts Manager. You can choose to turn a public Facebook page post into an ad through the Adverts Manager, with the ability to choose different business objectives. But you don’t have access to these different business objectives if you try to Boost that post from the page interface. You need to go into the Adverts Manager or Power Editor for that.
The ability to choose different business objectives or KPIs is perhaps the biggest advantage offered by dark posts (or public posts that are promoted through the Adverts Manager). Post Engagement, which is the objective of a Boosted Post, is just one of twenty different objectives Facebook offers advertisers.
Choosing different objectives for your Facebook advertisement drastically change the performance outcome. To demonstrate this, 39 Celcius performed a test where they ran the same ad with four different campaign objectives:
All other variables (e.g. ad spend, target audience, geographic targeting and creative) were kept constant.
Unsurprisingly, the ads that were optimised for Traffic achieved the most clicks, the ads that were optimised for Post Engagement achieved the most engagement, and the ads that were optimised for Brand Awareness achieved the most reach. The difference in results was quite vast in some cases. For example, the ad optimised for Brand Awareness got 8,590 impressions compared to just 1,804 impressions for the ad optimised for Post Engagement (i.e. the Boosted Post).
Clearly, sponsored updates created through the Adverts Manager are the most sophisticated advertising option available on Facebook. Knowing that, is there a point in making organic Facebook posts or boosted posts?
Let’s start with organic posts. The numbers don’t lie – organic posts are becoming less and less effective. We mentioned above that page managers found only 16% of their followers were seeing their organic posts in 2012. A subsequent study from Edgerank Checker found that between February 2012 and March 2014, organic reach for the average Facebook Page dropped from 16% to 6.5%. Additional research from Social@Ogilvy put this number even lower (2%) for pages with more than 500,000 Likes.
To top it all off, in 2016, Facebook adjusted its algorithm again. Following that algorithm update, publishers saw a 52% further decline in organic reach. This should not come as a surprise to anyone since less organic reach translates to more advertising revenue for Facebook.
Thus, if you want your Facebook posts to achieve anything other than take up space on your page and get a handful of Likes and Comments, you have to put some money behind them. Organic Facebook posts are not a very effective marketing strategy in 2017.
But what about Boosted Posts? As mentioned above, Boosted Posts can be very effective at driving Post Engagement. So if your goal is to increase engagement, Boosted Posts are a great way to achieve that. However, Post Engagement will not lead to greater sales, website traffic, reach or brand awareness. If you’re optimising for any of these goals, it’s better to use Facebook Ads Manager to create an ad.
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