Reversal Of Facebook: Photo Posts Now Drive Lowest Organic Reach

Reversal Of Facebook: Photo Posts Now Drive Lowest Organic Reach

Remember when the best way reach fans on Facebook was with photos? Those days are done.

In a major reversal, photo posts are now the worst performing of all posts by Facebook brand pages, according to new data from social media analytics company Socialbakers. Photo posts are half as likely to be seen as videos, the new king of engagement on the Facebook platform.

Looking at more than 670,000 posts by 4,445 brand pages (not including celebrity, entertainment or media pages) between October 2014 and February 2015, Socialbakers found that video posts had organic reach of 8.71%, meaning an average of nearly nine fans out of 100 see such posts. The reach was only 3.73% for photo posts, well below the results for text-only statuses (5.77%) and link posts (5.29%).

Although drastic, the flip-flop shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Facebook has been making a huge video push since last June. In November, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that in five years most Facebook content would be video and last month he announced that videos were getting more than 3 billion views a day on the platform.

Meanwhile photos, the former darling of the News Feed algorithm, are being left behind. As recently as last April, Socialbakers reported that 75% of all content brands posted by 30,000 brands included a photo. Photo posts were driving major engagement — 87% of interactions on the top 10% of the brand posts Socialbakers studied then came of photo posts.

That led many Page administrators to turn to photos as a kind of link bait, using photo posts to drive reach and including links in captions hoping to get clicks back to sites. But in August, Facebook announced that it would crack down on that practice, favoring posts using Facebook’s native link format over the photos-with-links-in-captions workaround.

Despite the fall in reach for photos, photos posts are still represent a majority of posts by brands, according to Socialbakers.

All this, of course, is a by-product of social media marketers trying to figure out the best way to squeeze more organic reach out of a diminishing platform. More competition in the News Feed — from people, businesses and brands — has steadily reduced the likelihood of any post reaching its target.

Socialbakers data also shows that brands are promoting more posts, goosing reach with advertising dollars. In 2013, 9% of page posts were promoted; in the fourth quarter of 2014, that total nearly doubled to 17%. They are paying to promote photos posts at the same 17% rate, while 27% of videos are promoted.

Here’s Socialbakers’ breakdown of post-based organic reach looked in the fourth quarter of 2014:

The results were lower for Pages with more than 100,000 likes:

Should Marketers Give Up On Facebook Photos?

So does that mean you should stop posting photos on your brand or business’ Facebook page? Absolutely not. Compelling images still do well on the social network, so it wouldn’t be wise to remove photos from your posting arsenal. Just be selective and post content that you believe will resonate with your audience.

But it’s clear that the days of posting images to game Facebook’s algorithm are over. And really, that’s a good general takeaway for any social media strategy; tricking the algorithm is never going to be a viable long-term tactic.

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