It’s official: Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform.
For those of us in marketing, this certainly doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Facebook has been slowly turning down the organic reach of posts from our brand pages for years now. It’s likely that a promotional post published today will reach only a small fraction of the audience that has liked your brand page. In order to increase the exposure of a post from your page, you’ll have to purchase it through the Facebook ad platform.
It wasn’t always this way, and stands in stark contrast to the golden days for marketers on social media. Back then, Facebook sold itself to brands as a platform where publishers could amass large audiences to market to directly. The beauty was that there’d be no cost for it, aside from the campaigns that were built in order to draw those users in. In exchange, brands were all too happy to market Facebook in return, by encouraging their audiences to log onto the platform and “like” their pages.
But for reasons that vary – from maintaining a quality news feed for its users, to the fact that Facebook is a publicly traded company looking to make a profit – the free ride is over. If you haven’t started adjusting your social strategy to counter this, or if you’re running into problems doing so, the following post contains some ideas to help you move beyond the problem of declining organic reach.
Take time to review your content strategy
Facebook has set the expectation, with users and businesses alike, that promotional posts will primarily be the ones to have their organic reach cut. However, the definition of what constitutes promotional content is not clearly defined. For their part, Facebook’s user surveys have identified posts that pushed product purchases, app installs, contest entries and that reused content from ads as the worst offenders of promotional content.
In addition to that customer survey, you may want to consider the sheer volume of content that your post is a part of. According to Brian Boland, VP of Ads Product Marketing at Facebook, the News Feed only displays approximately 300 of the 1,500+ stories a person might see when they login to the platform. This makes the News Feed a highly competitive place, even before taking into account the decline in organic reach.
Taking both the user survey and the volume of posts into consideration, the tone of the organic posts on your Facebook page should shift out of a self-promotional style. The types of content that will have a better chance of ending up on a News Feed, as well as appeal to your followers, are the posts that provide value to your audience. Give your followers information they can take away or think about, rather than pushing a hard sell. Save that type of content for actual advertisements that you pay for on the platform. Also, craft content that encourages sharing, which will help to broaden your reach beyond the News Feeds of people who have liked your page.
Start balancing your channels
The decline of organic reach has been an excellent reminder to digital marketers that we should never rely on a single channel to deliver our message. Luckily for us, Facebook isn’t the only social network that our audience could be using. To find out where else your audience might be, start by taking a closer look at who they are and ask yourself two important questions. First, what are the characteristics of your audience? Second, what are the attributes of your brand? Use those answers to align yourself with new social networks that reflect the personality of the two.
If you’re concerned about selecting a new network, don’t. There are so many other spaces your audience and your brand could play in, and you shouldn’t pigeonhole yourself into only one. Really look at how each social network could be leveraged. For example, Pinterest is a no-brainer for any brand in the B2C space, as its a network all about discovery of objects and ideas. Instagram (owned by Facebook) is geared towards imagery and video content, which could be used in crafting an impactful visual message. The possibilities are only as limited as the number of networks available to you, but the key takeaway is that you should maintain a balanced and diverse group of social channels, rather than put all your marketing eggs in one basket.
Use paid to own your audience again
Your brand will have promotional content at some point that you’ll want to display to your social audience. In addition to having to pay for the privilege of broadcasting it to people who have already liked your page, you’ll still be forced to compete with other posts in an audience member’s timeline. Why not move away from the noise, as well as the control of Facebook, and further diversify your digital marketing channels? Use paid advertising to funnel them into more direct marketing channels, such as an email campaign. This will bring your audience onto another marketing channel that you hold the control over, and one that cuts through the noise that social media can create.
What Facebook has done by throttling down organic reach can be done on almost any other social network. It remains to be seen whether it was the right business decision for Facebook users, the company’s shareholders and marketers alike. Just keep in mind that Facebook is but one platform in a wide array of social networks and digital marketing methods at your disposal. Use it and other social channels alongside a balanced array of methods like SEO, paid search, content marketing and email, and you’ll be better prepared to adjust your strategy to business decisions like and you’ll be better prepared to adjust your strategy to business decisions like this in the future.