Facebook Reach Insights Reporting Bug: 3 Examples

May 10, 2013 by

Thought your Facebook reach was down?  It was just a bug!

The social media marketing sphere has been filled with complaints from brands that their reach has diminished over the last 7 months. According to some, it was a plot from Facebook to force page owners to pay to reach their fans. These disgruntled voices were so loud, Facebook was forced to contradict the rumor and take action to demonstrate good faith.

Even Techcrunch was confused—posting conflicting articles confirming and denying the rumor within the same day! It’s been pretty hard for the rest of us to know where the real truth was.

The truth was actually much simpler than what everyone seemed to think. Facebook reach was never really down, but the way it was reported within Facebook insights was. And, all of this confusion was due… to a bug!

On February 22nd, Facebook announced a bug that had been affecting reach reporting in its page insights. Actual reach was not affected, but stats were inaccurately reporting lower numbers.

Facebook has been rather vague on the actual effect of the bug they’ve just killed. According to Facebook, page owners should expect:

  • Total reach to stay the same or increase for most Pages
  • An increase in paid reach if you ran News Feed ads
  • An increase or decrease in organic reach, depending on many factors such as the composition of your fan base, when and how often you post and your spending patterns
  • A change in metrics computed from reach and impressions, such as engagement rate and virality

So, thanks to that (not so clear) explanation from Facebook, the real question is whether or not your Facebook reach is really up.

The short answer is yes. But the reach metric that has been increased is not the organic one—it is the viral one.

Based on a sample of more than 3,000 pages of all sizes, between February 21 and March 8, organic reach has remained steady, but viral reach has increased by 200% on average—a pretty significant change.

Between February 21 and March 8, based on a sample of more than 3,000 pages, the monthly viral reach statistics have gone from the equivalent of 100% of fan bases to almost 300%.

So, should you expect your organic reach to be the same, and your viral reach to have tripled? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The bug was only affecting certain types of impressions (for example, paid impressions in newsfeed or impressions of shared content); the effect of that bug fix on your page statistics will vary greatly on your content strategy, posting frequency and type of engagement you were getting.

To illustrate how big this difference can be, I’ve chosen 3 different pages from the sample: one very (very!) active page about politics with good engagement (600,000 fans), one page of a charity with normal posting activity and very (very!) high engagement (230,000 fans) and one page of an e-commerce brand with normal posting activity but pretty low engagement (1M fans).

Our active political page has seen an increase in organic reach of about 15% and viral reach has increased by more than 739%.

Our charity page had no increase of organic reach and 1,000% for viral reach.

Our e-commerce brand page also had no increase in organic reach and 135% for viral reach.

In a nutshell, most pages won’t see an increase in organic reach and all pages will see an increase in viral reach, but the magnitude of the increase will highly depend on the level of engagement that page was getting on its posts.

However, one thing is now confirmed, the decline in reach that most pages have witnessed at the beginning of September 2012 was mainly due to that bug. And since it’s been fixed, reach has gone back to its pre-september level.


If you are curious about how your page reach statistics have been affected by this bug fix, you can check it out on the free Facebook Page Performance Barometer we used to extract this data.

Have you noticed an increase in your organic or viral reach since the end of February? Let us know in the comments!

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