Who sees what and why on Facebook

Nonprofits on Facebook have a mission. You want to reach and engage hundreds, if not thousands, of people every day. You’re also on a tight budget, and have real urgency behind your message.

You may think that Facebook is working against you achieving your goal. We’ve heard the complaints: suppressed reach, no free ad dollars, blocking posts unless you pay. Sound familiar?

This post will clear up these misunderstandings. Simply put, it’ll help you reach more people for free on Facebook.

Let’s get this learning started!

Page Likes and Page Follows

There’s a difference between page Likes and Follows. Your supporters can Like you or Follow you — or both. The difference is showing their public support (Liking) vs. receiving posts in their feeds (Following).

When you first Like a page, you will also be Following it by default. Following a page means you’ll receive their posts in your news feed.

In the example above, Steve’s support for ActionSprout is private for he hasn’t Liked the page. But he still receives our posts in his news feed because he is Following the page. Anyone can choose to both Like and Follow a page, or opt for just one or the other.

What happens to page posts

You’ve likely noticed that not all of your page followers see all of your posts. Facebook delivers your posts to the people who follow you first, but chooses a subgroup of your fans it thinks will enjoy the post the most. They’re the only people who see it.


There’s too much content for everyone to see everything anymore — those days are long gone! Facebook’s number one job is to protect every user’s news feed including your own. This means playing matchmaker between people and posts.

Facebook can show you 1,750 plus posts each time you login. Nobody has time for that!

So Facebook serves up a short list of posts you’re likely to enjoy. They stick these posts at the top of your news feed and let you discover the rest if you scroll through your feed long enough.

Your goal is to get your posts placed on the short list. It’s easier said than done, but practice makes perfect!

What low reach actually means

Low Facebook reach means your content isn’t picked to be at the top of supporters’ news feeds. Facebook’s algorithm determined that your content isn’t the first thing supporters want to see.


It could be that supporters stopped engaging with your page’s content. If supporters scroll past posts for long enough, it’s signals lack of interest. Facebook wants to make people happy, so these folks will see less from your page…or nothing at all.

When your reach goes down, you get to figure out what content matches your supporters’ interests. It could be you have the wrong audience of people who aren’t likely to be interested, or that your content strategy just needs a little TLC. This is a time to test new content!

Facebook reach: organic, paid or viral

We’ve described organic reach above. This is when Facebook chooses which of your page Followers to show a post to. To increase organic reach, focus on getting content at the top of your audience’s feeds. Think about your target audience (people most likely to care about your mission) and talk authentically to them.

You can also use Facebook ads to reach more people. And you guessed it, it’s called paid reach. Paying Facebook to reach more people captures more current page followers, and also gets you in front of new faces. It’s a powerful strategy for organizations that can budget $50 or more a month on Facebook ads.

It’s natural to look at your posts with low reach and want to boost them. Don’t do it! Facebook already figured out that they don’t move people. A bad avocado is still a bad avocado, even if it’s at the top of the pile.

Long story short: Save your ad dollars to promote the posts that work already. You’ll reach and engage more people and your money will go much, much further.

Now let’s talk viral reach: Reaching people outside of our current follower base. When a supporter engages with your content, it reaches their network of friends who may not know about your organization or cause. These new faces are much more likely to dig in to your cause because a trusted friend cares about it. To increase viral reach, post stuff that’s useful or gives people ways to change the world. They will be more likely to engage with and share this content with others.

Final thoughts: Facebook is social

The moral of the story? Work with Facebook, not against it. Facebook is a social network, so work with your followers.

Listen to them, serve them, build human relationships with them and talk with them, not at them. PSA style posts never perform as well as thoughtful, conversational content! Respond to their comments and questions and think of them as an extended part of your organization because they are! The rest will fall into place in time.