Here at Pagemodo, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can help small businesses get more out of their social media marketing efforts. We try to stay on top of Facebook’s periodic changes to its EdgeRank algorithm and keep our users informed about what they should be posting.

In doing some research this week, I came across an interesting article from tech expert Shelly Palmer called Facebook Reach Data: Do The Numbers Lie? This caught my eye because our own social media maven, Irina, just returned from Social Media Marketing World with some news about changes in reach on Facebook (stay tuned for her event summary next week).

In his article, Palmer talks about the changes that EdgeRank underwent last September, which we reported on in a blog post. These changes caused many admins to see a significant drop in their posts’ reach numbers – that is, the number of Facebook fans who saw each of their posts. Since then, hundreds of articles and studies have come out talking about how visual posts are the best way to get engagement on Facebook. And while this advice still largely holds true, a distinction needs to be made between engagement, and reach.

Palmer offers these definitions for reach:

Organic reach is just what it sounds like: people who like a page stumble upon the post organically, like by scrolling through their news feed or visiting a page.

Viral reach is an extension of that, and would happen if you commented on a post and one of your friends saw a post about your comment. If your friend clicked on the page, that would be viral reach, as it was a result of your comment.”

So, what then is engagement? Found in an admin’s Facebook “Insights” dashboard, engagement is often called “people talking about this.” (Catchy!) This metric shows the number of people who created a story from your post – that is, the people who liked, shared, commented, etc.

Palmer found – and had confirmed by a Facebook rep – that it was now text-only posts that were getting the highest organic reach on his page. We did a little checking on Pagemodo’s Facebook Insights from the last month and had similar findings.

When sorting our recent posts by reach, text-only status updates were the clear winner, with one over-achieving image post at the top:

However, when sorting the list for engagement (“talking about this”) the results favored images more, with a few outlying status updates:

But then, another interesting stat emerged when sorting by virality. Virality is kind of a combination of reach and engagement which tells you out of the number of people who saw your post, the percentage who then engaged with it in some way. By this metric, images were the clear winner:

Takeaways: When you are researching the “best” types of content to post on Facebook, it’s important to keep in mind what metric you are shooting for. Reach, engagement, and virality are all important metrics to follow, but you will need to decide which one you are trying to target when creating your posting strategy.

For Pagemodo, our current numbers show that text-only updates get the best reach, and images get somewhat better engagement, and far better virality.

Take a look at your own page’s insights and let us know what you find!

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