Posting a photo is the worst way to get people to see your Facebook posts

Data provided to Business Insider by social media analytics company Socialbakers shows just how badly photos perform compared with videos, links, and even simple text-only posts in terms of reach on Facebook.

What makes this data so remarkable is that it wasn’t so long ago that posting photos used to give brand page owners the best chance of their posts being seen by their fans (Indeed, a Socialbakers study dated April 2014 declared “Photos Are Still King On Facebook.) Now the algorithm has changed, punishing photos, perhaps in response to page owners trying to game the system by constantly posting photos, or maybe because Facebook has been shifting its strategy ever more toward video in recent months.

The Socialbakers data, which covered 4,445 Brand pages and more than 670,000 posts between October 2014 and February 2015, shows that video is now the most effective way to reach users in the newsfeed, driving more than twice as much reach as photo posts.

Photos had the lowest organic reach (the percentage of a page’s fans that see a post, without the page owner needing to pay for advertising to boost the post further) over the period, with only an average of 3 out of every 100 (3.7%) page fans seeing a photo post.

On the other hand, videos garnered an average organic reach of 8.7%. Links and text-only (defined by Socialbakers as “status”) posts follow with organic reach average’s of 5.3% and 5.8% respectively (although their positions in the organic reach hierarchy were interchangeable over the fourth quarter of 2014, as the chart below shows.)

Those organic reach levels fall even further for the biggest pages on Facebook, those with 100,000 fans or more. But the hierarchy stays the same: 1) Video 2) Text-0nly 3) Link 4) Photo.

Socialbakers’ data also shows that 27% of videos are promoted, but they’re not getting the same punishment by the algorithm. That might just be because Facebook only relatively recently (compared with photos) allowed users and pages to upload video directly to Facebook.

Or it might be yet another sign that, behind the scenes, Facebook is stepping up its charge to become a competitor to YouTube. In a blog post published in January, Facebook revealed that the number of videos posted to the platform per person in the U.S. increased by 94% over the last year, and that 50% of Americans who use Facebook on a daily basis also watch at least 1 video on the platform every day. Meanwhile, Facebook is becoming one of the key video discoverability platforms on the internet, slicing off a huge chunk of YouTube’s audience, and the company has reportedly created a team in Los Angeles charged with convincing YouTube’s top stars to create exclusive-to-Facebook videos.

Jan Rezab, Socialbakers CEO, told Business Insider: “Video is proving to be a very engaging format and gaining in popularity, consumers really like them. As we’ve said before video has fast become the new photo and is the biggest trend we’re seeing in social right now. Therefore we’d advise marketers to include video as part of their content strategies.”

Aside from video, organic reach on Facebook is a huge topic within the marketing community and beyond. The amount of people the average page post on Facebook reaches on average — without paying to promote it — has been declining rapidly in recent years, as the news feed has become more flooded and as the company has stepped up its advertising efforts. In 2012 organic reach on Facebook was at around 16% on average, according to a highly publicized [email protected] study. As the Socialbakers data shows, that organic reach has declined significantly since.

For brands, it’s a bit of a vicious circle, Socialbakers suggests. Back in 2013, just 9% of all Facebook page posts had been promoted. Data from the fourth quarter of 2014 shows that 17% of posts were promoted. That doubling of promoted posts means there is even more competition in the news feed, so brands need to think carefully about what and how they promote.

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