Since Facebook introduced a metric at the bottom of posts to tell you how many fans you're reaching, there has been a bit of confusion as to why this figure is so low. Many pages reacted when they found they were only reaching an average of between 10-20% of fans. This figure shows not how many fans are actively engaging with your content, but how many fans are actually seeing it. You would presume, of course, that if someone likes your page, they would see all your updates, but this isn't the case. To see how many of your fans you're reaching, look at the bottom of a post when you're logged in as the page admin to see the number of fans reached, and how this is expressed as a percentage of total fans:
If you're not sure how Facebook actually allows you to reach the people that have liked your page, here's a quick guide to help.
The news ticker on the right hand side of the page should show most of the updates from your page. As this is based on real-time information, fans will only see these updates when they're logged in. Even though the ticker features recent, real-time content, this still won't guarantee that fans will see all your updates, given the amount of content that passes through the feed. Unless you're posting very heavily throughout the day, the chances are your updates will be missed by the majority of your fans.
The News feed
Your Facebook news feed (the updates in the main panel on the homepage) appear based on Facebook's own algorithm. This is where the good content will be prioritised, according to a number of factors such as how many of your friends have engaged with content, how popular a particular update is overall and whether you have posted multimedia content such as a photo or video. Whether your post is shown in the newsfeed here is dependent on Facebook's algorithm. The best advice here is to ensure that you're posting good content that people are interacting with.
There is a problem with Facebook's method here though as it seems fairly inconsistent. Looking at the two updates below, there is a significant difference in the number of people engaging with a post, yet where a post has a higher reaction, this isn't necessarily reflected in the number of people reached:
In one example, 11 people liked a piece of content (not particularly high), yet the post reached 16% of our fans.
Yet a post that received 58 Likes, still only reached 16% of fans, in the same week:
This leads you to think that their algorithm isn't the most reliable and that there is really only one way to guarantee you reach the majority of your fans...
Pay for posts
Around the same time that Facebook allowed you to see how many of your fans you were actually reaching, they also introduced a button (handily right next to that number) prompting you to promote your posts:
You will see here that the guaranteed reach is significantly higher than non-promoted posts. Combining this with other paid activity such as sponsored stories of course, will help to push this up.
Testing the limits
By Facebook's own admission, the free option for posting your content will only ever get you a reach of around 16% and they recommend pages pay to promote posts in order to increase this. This could end up seriously backfiring for Facebook though. At a time when they're being dragged through the mill post-IPO, they need to keep the love for brands and convince them that their platform is the right place to focus their time and money. Facebook isn't exactly playing ball right now. By squeezing more and more from brands, they're making the platform an unattractive option for social marketing from a cost basis if nothing else.