Can businesses still be successful without advertising? Mark Zuckerberg said they can, and are, on Facebook in Thursday's Q&A.

In Facebook’s first public Town Hall Q&A with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, concern about organic reach made its way to the forefront of questions addressed.

Despite diminishing Facebook reach being one of the most impactful social marketing stories in 2014, Zuckerberg said Facebook is empathetic to startups and businesses trying to reach their customers through the social network. Right now it’s estimated that the average brand page will only reach about 1 percent of its audience – even if users have Liked the Page. (Check out this post for more details.)

With that empathy, however, Zuckerberg explained his team’s inherent conflict. If Facebook’s mission for News Feeds is to be the “perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world,” is it better to optimize each personal experience or help businesses reach as many people as possible?

In the end, he said the former takes priority at Facebook.

“We optimize for the individuals we serve – the readers.”

But why is organic reach diminishing in the first place? Zuckerberg said there are two primary trends that led to brands getting less visibility on the network:

  1. Population growth: Zuckerberg said there are roughly 1,500 stories a day that could appear on the average user’s News Feed, but in reality, only about 100 appear. This means less than 10 percent of what’s being posted will actually appear on a user’s screen.
  2. Competition is stiff: Only the highest quality content will rise to the forefront of readers’ News Feeds. “There’s no way a person is going to go through all of the things that are shared with them every day. If a business is sharing content that’s useful, we’ll show that. If they’re showing content that’s not going to be useful, we won’t show that.”

Can businesses still be successful without advertising?

Zuckerberg said businesses can, and are successful without paid advertising. Pushing out quality content and communicating effectively is the best way to ensure your a business’ posts will be seen.

“If a business is showing content that’s not going to be useful, we won’t show that.”

“It’s probably still a very good, free and organic way to reach your audience,” he said.

Learn more about social marketing on Facebook and what we’re doing for our customers:

Molly Buccini is Brafton's community manager. She joined the team with a background in digital journalism and social media. She's a theatre nerd, pop culture junkie and lover of summertime.