How to ensure your paid and organic Facebook activity work in harmony

Ben Matthews

By Ben Matthews


Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ever since Facebook introduced paid ads in 2007, the relationship between paid activity and organic reach has felt jarring.

From reports early on of organic reach plummeting as soon as anyone paid for their first ad, to recent stories of the algorithm penalising those with low organic reach it is difficult to know how best to make the two channels work together.

In this blog we look at the evidence for the relationship between organic and paid activity on Facebook and search for ways of making the the two sides complement each other.

Do Facebook Boosted Posts affect the Organic Reach of your Facebook Page?

Facebook boosted posts are a fantastic way for any organisation to reach their fans in a quick, simple and cost-effective way.

But many organisations are unclear about the relationship between paying for Facebook ads using Facebook’s boosted posts feature and how this might affect the reach of organic content.

The latter is especially important as organic reach continues to be squeezed by Facebook’s algorithm. The last thing anyone wants to do is further compromise their organic reach.

Some charities we’ve been working with have also heard that the more engaging your organic content is on Facebook, the more ‘relevant’ Facebook will score your boosted posts.

Which of these, if either, are true?

According to Hootsuite’s Adrian Cockle, these speculations are conflating two things:

  1. The impact of the engagement rates of a single boosted post
  2. The engagement rate of the whole page

The former does affect the relevance score, the latter does not:

“If your paid ads are engaging the relevance score (visible in the FB ad manager) increases, which is one of the factors, alongside things like bid value, that determines how many people see your ad. You can post zero organic content and still get great relevance on your paid. See for an example of what zero organic looks like!”

Facebook’s own support information around this backs up his view, showing that relevance score is only for paid ads and is not affected by organic content at all:

“Relevance score is calculated based on the positive and negative feedback we expect an ad to receive from its target audience. The more positive interactions we expect an ad to receive, the higher the ad’s relevance score will be. (Positive indicators vary depending on the ad’s objective, but may include video views, conversions, etc.) The more times we expect people to hide or report an ad, the lower its score will be.”

Neither of these quotes rules out the possibility that Facebook uses organic performance to inform the relevance score, so we’re not convinced. Phrases like ‘Positive indicators vary’ show that Facebook is being deliberately vague on this issue.

Does organic reach will drop after you start running Facebook ads?

Another question we always get asked is whether your organic reach will drop after you start running ads.

With limited budgets it’s understandable to be worried about inadvertently tying yourself to an extra expense just to maintain your previous organic reach, with no way of turning back.

We always advise that there’s no impact to organic reach from beginning to run ads. The horror stories we heard early on are not reflected in our day to day use of Facebook Ads.

Any downturn in reach organisations are seeing now are more likely down to changes in the algorithm and are best addressed with adjustments to your content strategy.

Bask in the Facebook afterglow

So far, we can see no clear evidence that paid activity, like boosted posts, has any effect on organic content, or vice versa.

We have however found two important exceptions.

  • If your page gains new fans through page ads. Facebook will then show more of your posts in their newsfeed for a short time (we’ve tested and seen this first hand).
  • If people engage with a boosted post they are more likely to see future posts from you (although those posts will still be heavily squeezed by the algorithm).

This slight ‘afterglow’ effect might seem insignificant, but we think it could inform an important part of your social media strategy.

 Bask in that Facebook afterglow... Bask in that Facebook afterglow…

How to align Facebook ads, boosted posts and organic posts

If you have a Facebook ad campaign running, you’ll want to make sure that the organic posts shown around it are strong.

This will make the most of the increased reach these posts will gain with new or existing fans.

You might want to focus your ‘afterglow’ content on your organisations values, to give brand new followers a clear understanding of your organisation’s mission.

Following up a boosted post with a similar topic, style of content or theme could be a good way of maintaining a fan’s interest.

You have essentially just segmented part of your audience based on their interest in your boosted post, so make the most of it!

You may even want to try a donation or engagement ask now you know they are ‘warm’ to your messaging.

Is boosting Facebook posts cheaper than normal Facebook ads?

Boosting isn’t cheaper. It should be the same cost, as they are both Facebook Ads, they simply use a different process to publish the ads.

Boosting is easier and there are less targeting options (which makes it easier).

Boosting is really designed to make you spend more: a 2-3 click process to boost the post, rather than having to go through a lengthier process using Ads Manager.

Facebook’s boosted posts are similar to Twitter’s new offering in that way.

And boosting the best option if you don’t want to muck around with targeting and just want to get on with showing your page content to your existing fans.

Facebook Ads or Boost Posts: Which is better?

Whichever direction you choose, it’s worth putting in a Facebook ads strategy to think through how your paid social content and your organic content is working together.

Not sure where to begin with your Facebook Ads or Paid Social strategy? Say hello to empower and we’ll happily discuss the best route for you and your team.

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