Is your business still putting all its eggs in Facebook’s basket? If so, you might want to rethink that tactic.
Facebook has reduced the number of organically shared status updates from 17 percent 24 months ago to around 6.5 percent now. The theory is that, ultimately, Facebook will reduce organic shares to 1 percent or even less. Marketing pro Jay Baer is calling this decline the “Reachpocolypse.”
In December 2013 Facebook announced that it was changing the algorithm that determined which items in the News Feed were displayed because “competition for each News Feed story is increasing.” While Facebook claimed that the reason for the tighter restrictions was to increase quality of posts, marketers suspected – and Facebook did not deny – that it was pushing advertising as an alternative to organic exposure.
How Facebook decides which posts to show
Facebook decides which posts to display through a complicated formula called EdgeRank that includes roughly 100,000 different indicators. According to TechCrunch, these factors include:
- How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone?
- How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it?
- How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer?
- Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past?
- How recently was the post published?
Many brands have paid handsomely to build up their fan base on Facebook through paid advertising, believing they were investing in creating a community that they would be able to engage with over the long-term. Now some feel that they’ve been hoodwinked.
Eat24 posted a “breakup” letter on its blog, telling Facebook, “ . . . we can’t trust you. You lied to us and said you were a social network but you’re totally not a social network. At least not anymore … So that’s it. We’re done … We’ll pack our things and be gone by 11:59 pm on Monday night . . . Eat24, the company that is always telling customers to Like our page, post on our wall, and ask us for coupons on Facebook… is deleting its Facebook.” And it did.
Derek Muller of Veritasium, a science education media organization, posted a YouTube video claiming that Facebook’s advertising model is deeply flawed and that its revenue is based on fake likes. He said he paid to promote his page, gaining 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn’t care about his page and subsequently did not engage with his posts, driving his reach numbers down. Even when page owners are careful to target their campaigns – by limiting “Likes” to Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Austrania – he said owners were likely to be duped into spending money on fake followers. Then owners would have to pay again to reach their followers.
It’s even possible to be the victim of fake likes without advertising, Muller said. Pages that end up on Facebook’s International Suggested Pages are targets for click-farms seeking to diversity their likes so that they aren’t as likely to be identified.
Remember — it’s all about Facebook.
Brands need to recognize that Facebook cares, first and foremost, about its business – not about theirs. During the period of October 2013 to February 2014, the timeframe when Facebook reduced organic reach from 12 to 6 percent (and sometimes as low as 1 percent), its stock price increased from nearly $50 to nearly $70, adding billions to its market capitalization.
Many marketing and financial experts say that Facebook’s growth is dependent on monetizing its existing user base, since it is has reached 60 percent global penetration and it doesn’t have a lot of room to grow organically. Robert Rose, chief strategist of Content Marketing Institute, says that he and his Wall Street friends and clients doubt future growth without acquisitions. Some say Facebook won’t even be in business – at least in its present form — in 10 years.
What’s the solution to the diminishing Facebook visibility?
Baer, a best-selling author and blogger at Convince and Convert, recommends four strategies to fix the Facebook problem:
- Publish things that are worthy of attention. (improve the quality of your posts.)
- Pay to play (advertise).
- Get customers or employees to carry more of your messages on Facebook (easier said than done!)
- Start building community elsewhere. (i.e., Google+ or Twitter)
Kevan Lee of Buffer provides these six tips:
- Try the cultivation strategies used by Fortune 500 companies:
- Openness and disclosure – Show what goes on in the company.
- Access – Show availability for customers and fans to reach out and interact with the company.
- Positivity – Make the customer’s experience enjoyable.
- Assurances – Make customers feel their concerns are important.
- Networking – Show shared interests with fans.
- Sharing of tasks – Collaborate with fans to solve problems.
- Post at non-peak times.
- Share original, behind-the-scenes photos of you and your team.
- Engage your community with questions.
- Share self-explanatory photos (infographics are good for this).
- Look at the numbers differently. (Look at your reach on a daily and weekly basis – it’s higher than you might think if you post several times a day.)
What I think you should do about your Facebook reach problem
Here are my tips to consider:
- Don’t base your marketing success on properties you don’t own. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc., do not owe brands exposure. These sites are in business to make money, so they get to make the rules. Instead, spend more of your resources on your own digital properties – your website and blog. These are properties over which you have control and should be the foundation of your digital footprint. Social media sites are just the icing on the cake.
- Consider Facebook advertising as part of your overall advertising budget. It’s a bargain compared to traditional advertising costs and it’s highly targetable. An effective, three-pronged marketing program includes a balance of purchased media (advertising), owned media (website/blog, email, publications, direct mail) and earned media (PR and social media).
- To increase visibility on Facebook, post updates on your personal profile in addition to your business page, as Facebook is more generous with organic reach on personal profiles than on business pages. If you want to use your personal profile to promote your business but want to maintain the “friend” status only for close friends, enable the “follow” status for business acquaintances and use filters to determine who you share status updates with. You might also consider starting a group as an alternative to a business page because of the more generous reach allowances.
- If you’ve postponed getting started on Google+, now is the time. It has more than 1.15 billion registered users and 201 million active mobile users on a monthly basis. Social Media Today says Google+ is on the track to beat Facebook and become the most widely used social media. Google+ has several unique features, such as Hangouts on Air and Circles, and it helps you extend your reach and become visible by creating relationships with industry influencers. When you post links to your blog posts there, they are indexed almost immediately by Google. (But remember — don’t put all of your eggs there! You don’t own it!)
In summary, Facebook has been a fun – and sometimes profitable – ride while it lasted, but the free ride has come to an end. Facebook can still be helpful to brands in a limited way as a free medium or it can be an excellent paid medium that allows brands to target their audience very specifically according to the demographics they want to reach. Brands seeking to build their business on free promotion alone must look elsewhere.