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Facebook organic algorithm updates, 2023 edition By Julia Rhodes

Winning at Organic Social on Meta in 2023

If you’ve noticed a decline in organic engagement in South Africa in late 2022 into early 2023, you’re not alone. This article will cover changes to the Facebook organic algorithm as well as other variables that impact social media content distribution.

Firstly, we have the challenge of the audience being less connected due to high levels of nationwide load shedding. Now pair that with Facebook rolling out algorithm updates, and the result is reduced brand page content performance. 


After investigating Meta’s back-end Facebook insights across various brand pages in mid. March of 2023 we could see – when we did a 90-day vs 90-day performance comparison* - a 93%-97% decrease in organic reach and an 83%-96% decrease in organic engagement.

*The comparison was mid Oct. 2022 – mid Jan. 2023 vs mid Jan. 2023 – mid March 2023. It is important to note that this comparison includes November – a time in which paid media campaigns were running for these brands and less paid media was run during the start of 2023 comparatively.

We also conducted a month-to-month Meltwater performance analysis (mid. March 2023 to 30 days prior) and it presented data showing a decline between 20%-26% across impressions, views, clicks and fan growth.

But don’t worry, we’ll propose some ways to lift organic engagement a little further down.

stay calm and uplift organic social media engagement

Now let’s take a look at whether Instagram has also seen reduced engagement.

After investigating Meta’s back-end Instagram reporting data* across various brand pages in mid. March of 2023, we could see approx. 50% decrease in reach and a 59% -96% decrease in IG engagement.

*The comparison was mid Oct. 2022 – mid Jan. 2023 vs mid Jan. 2023 – mid March 2023.

Again, if we look on Meltwater and compare engagement month to month, the stats were a little less scary 4%-42% down - but still quite worrisome none the less.

Understanding the 2023 Facebook Organic Algorithm

Hear about the Dec. 2022 Facebook algorithm update? Nope? Well Meta wasn’t overly public about any big changes however numerous sources are seeing significant declines in the organic reach of brand content.

On 13 March 2023 Ignite analysts published an article about 689 posts across 21 brand pages (all of significant size, across a variety of industries) and found that, in the week since December 1, 2022, organic reach and organic reach percentage have each declined by 44% on average, with some pages seeing declines as high as 88%.

Upon further investigation – we compared the recent Facebook Transparency Report on Widely Viewed Content to the one from late 2021, and quickly saw that there has indeed been serious changes to what Meta is serving up to users in their feeds.

The Facebook Transparency Widely Viewed Q4 2022 Content Report (United States between 2022-10-01 and 2022-12-31) shows us the following: “We provide insights into the various content types that appear on Feed to help people better understand our distribution systems and how they influence the content people see on Facebook.

By far, the most common experience in Feed for people in the US is to see posts without links, posts from their friends, or from Groups they’ve joined.

Pages followed content is only 8.2% - YIKES !

Facebook Organic Algorithm in late 2022
Note: This report doesn’t include ads or content viewed outside of Feed, like on Watch, Marketplace or other places within the app.

Now let’s compare that to the Q3 2021 report

Facebook Organic Algorithm in Q3 2021 Source Facebook Transparency Report

14.9% (Q4 2022) - 8.2% (Q3 2021) is a 45% decline

“Reach of Facebook Brand Pages is Often Under 3%
Facebook once said that brand posts reach approximately 16% of their fans. That number is no longer achievable for many brands, and our analysis shows that roughly 2.5% is now more likely for standard posts on large pages. So, a year ago a brand could expect to reach 16 out of 100 fans and now that brand is lucky if they get 3 out of 100.” (Ignite analysts)

Understandably this is sad for brands who have worked very hard to foster a following and it is believed that organic followers who engage with brand content are more likely to make ‘quality purchase behaviours’ than those reached solely via paid media.

In a nutshell, the Facebook algorithm is trying to define ‘quality’ by source, so if it comes from publisher X it might be deemed as high-quality vs publisher Y (low quality). 


Facebook algorithm defines ‘quality’ by source

As of 2023, the Facebook algorithm determines which content is most relevant to a particular user based on three main ranking signals:

  1. Who posted it: You’re more likely to see content from sources you interact with, including friends and businesses.
  2. Type of content: If you most often interact with video, you’ll see more video. If you engage with photos, you’ll see more photos. You get the idea.
  3. Interactions with the post: The algorithm will prioritise posts with a lot of engagement, especially from people you interact with a lot.

Dec. 16, 2022 Approach to Ranking from transparency.fb.com

  • Inventory

The first item the algorithm considers is your inventory, or the total set of posts you could see when you open Facebook. This includes all the posts shared by the people you have connected to as ‘friends’, the Pages you follow and the Groups you have joined, interspersed with ads and recommended content we think will be relevant to you based on your Facebook activity.

  • Signals

Then, for each of these posts, the algorithm considers multiple factors such as who posted it; how you have previously interacted with that person; whether it’s a photo, a video, a link; and how popular the post is based on things like how many of your Friends liked it, Pages that re-shared it, etc. All of these factors are called signals.

  • Predictions

From there, the algorithm uses these signals to make a series of personalized predictions about each post based on how likely it is to be relevant to you: for example, whether it’s from your friends or family, how likely you might be to comment on it, how likely it is to foster a meaningful interaction, how likely you might be to find it on your own, or if it contains a quality indicator (if a piece of news is original content the algorithm assigns it a higher personalized relevance score, and it will often show up closer to the top of your Feed). We also run a number of surveys asking people whether a post was "worth your time," and based on those survey responses, we predict how likely people are to find a post worthwhile. Posts that are predicted to be more worthwhile are shown higher up in Feed.

  • Relevance

Lastly, the algorithm calculates a relevance score for each post in your inventory based on these signals and predictions. Posts with higher scores are more likely to be interesting to you, so they’ll be placed closer to the top of your Feed, and posts with lower scores will be closer to the bottom.

Tip: Work intentionally to produce quality content and avoid REDUCED DISTRIBUTION.

You know how Facebook asks users if they like this content or ‘is it worth their time?’ If users consistently say ‘no’ or ‘this is spam’ then the content can be tagged for reduced distribution.

Marketers should remember the 80/20 rule on organic:

80/20 content rule on organic social media

· 80% of content educates, entertains, inspires – ideally driving natural human to human ‘meaningful’ engagement
· 20% other (Product & Price for instance)

Quality over quantity is key – don’t post just for the sake of posting. Only post if it adds value, is relevant, entertaining or engagement worthy.

Let’s look at some learnings off the back of the content that was earning higher distribution* scores.

Group of women using social media
*Distribution scores are only available on video content – which is indicative of the platform recognising the importance of videos on its channel.
  • Content where users learn something does well, often delivering optimal retention; always make sure your content adds value to the end consumer
  • People like to see when brands celebrate competition winners – so try showcasing winners on your feed and see if it uplifts engagement
  • People like it when there is something in it for them like a chance to win
  • Relevancy is key, it was no surprise to see tactical content like load shedding tips did well in South Africa

Proactive action to battle the reduced reach, distribution, and engagement:


Engage with your audience
The algorithm prioritizes posts from Pages that a user has had meaningful interactions with in the past. This means that bumping up your reply game is key.

If a person takes the time to comment on your post, don’t waste the opportunity. Making them feel heard with a reply makes it more likely they will continue to comment on your posts in future. This, of course, sends more of those juicy engagement signals to the algorithm. Ignore them and they’ll likely go silent in return.


Competitions drive engagement so increase the amount of these in the content mix.


Pay to play – boost content and run dark ads.


SEO optimise social content by including relevant information and keywords in your posts (in captions, alt-text, subtitles, and closed captions) to increase the chances of having your content surfaced to users browsing social media.


Encourage people to add your brand page to their favourites on Facebook by educating them that Facebook gives you options to customize your feed:

Favorites: You can select up to 30 people and pages to add to Favorites. Posts from these accounts will appear higher in the feed. To access Favorites, click your profile picture, then click Settings & Privacy, then Feed Preferences, then Favorites.


Get your audience to engage with each other
Remember how we said the algorithm values content that people want to share and discuss with their friends? Well, a pretty easy way to send that signal is to get people sharing your content and discussing it with their friends.

Facebook itself says that if a post triggers a lot of conversation among a user’s friends, the algorithm applies “action-bumping logic” to show that post to the user again.
Source: Engagement boosters: https://blog.hootsuite.com/increase-facebook-engagement/

Tip: Get a little help from your friends (or employees, or influencers)

When people share your content, that’s a hint to Facebook that this is the good stuff. So encouraging your team, family or friends to share your posts with their own network doesn’t just get you in front of their followers: it helps boost you in the newsfeed for everyone.


Facebook Live videos see the highest engagement of all, so incorporate a live broadcast into your social strategy every once in a while. Keep in mind that vertical video gives you the most screen real estate on mobile devices.


Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes native videos, so you’ll get the best results when you upload your vids directly to the channel, instead of sharing a link.


Post consistently and at the right times

Since the Facebook News Feed is based on an algorithm, your fans will not necessarily see your content the moment it’s posted. Still, “when was this posted” is one of the signals for the Facebook algorithm. And Facebook itself says that you’re more likely to see engagement if you post when your fans are online.

Schedule posts during peak times – Facebook should prompt you, but you can also use third party tools like Meltwater to assist:



 Try posting content without a link in the caption because we see that ‘posts from pages followed’ without links get served up more often than ‘posts from pages followed’ with links.

Extract learnings and optimise, optimise, optimise! 


Our Head of Social Media & Digital Julia Rhodes is a digital marketing thought leader with a decade of experience delivering excellent results for top South African retail brands as well as numerous global clients.