Facebook just came off of a strong 1Q 2014, reporting 1 billon monthly active mobile users and strong revenue growth. The company continues to excel, but it's left a rather bad taste in marketers' mouths as of late with reports that updates to its News Feed algorithm are slashing business Page organic reach to around 6.5% of fans, or even lower in some cases.
It's frustrating. After all, some businesses have invested thousands and even millions of dollars on 'like' ads to encourage users to like their brand Pages, so they can communicate them on an ongoing basis, akin to an email subscribe. Now, the percentage of those individuals they can reach organically is limited and only growing more so. Facebook contends, justifiably, that there is so much content being created on the platform that it is forced to limit the amount of content displayed to them to encourage a positive experience. Advertisers, on the other hand, feel duped that they built a fan base that they are now forced to pay to reach.
Facebook Didn't Dupe Advertisers… It Just Feels That Way
It's an understandably frustrating situation, but Facebook's only doing what many have done before it. After consumers adopt a new tech platform, businesses quickly follow, gaining notoriety for being first and typically getting involved before any kind of pricing model is in place, making the effort free from a media perspective. But as the technology evolves overtime, and competition for attention heats up, business models are naturally put in place and the platform forces advertisers to pay.
Search started out this way, and now paid search is essential for driving site traffic. We're seeing early adopter brands leverage Snapchat and Whisper for free, but there will come a time when advertisers are forced to pay on those platforms as well.
You Get What You Pay For, and If Not… Invest Elsewhere
Facebook's move to limit reach and encourage advertising gets everyone on the same page. In the past, it's been all about content engagement, which is still important. However, it doesn't come with any guarantees. Paying to promote content gives advertisers a stronger sense of what they can expect from their investment. Then they can set performance benchmarks more effectively against other media efforts, which puts Facebook in a situation in which it needs to prove undeniable value. It's absolutely a two-way street. Facebook generates ad dollars, while advertisers can see how investing in Facebook delivered on outlined brand objectives.
Engagement is still critical as it helps advertisers get more for their dollars because content that is promoted still achieves organic reach for engagement. Investing in paid promotion offers a guarantee for exposure, when organic reach is essentially added value, similar to paid search and organic search working together.
But what about those fans? After all, brands have invested in building up the number of people who like their business Pages. Now, they can't reach them organically? They still add value because they ad social context to Facebook advertising. When a user sees an ad from a brand that they can also see one of their personal connections has 'liked' ad recall increases 55%. Fans essentially make Facebook advertising work harder.
Let's Not Forget… It's Still Social
Facebook has not become just about the media. It's just become an essential part. Sharing and engagement play a critical role, and businesses need to change their approach and what they want from their fans.
- First, send people to your Facebook Page. People should know your Page's URL. Use your other marketing channels to drive people there, especially if it plays a critical role for your business. Remember, getting likes adds social context to your advertising.
- Shares are the best action you can hope for from your content. It's the best way to increase the reach of your content because users share it with their social connections as well. Likes and comments are nice, but encourage sharing to get into the News Feeds of your fans' friends and increase reach.
- Invest in promoting content. Paying to promote posts is the quickest, easiest and most efficient way to guarantee reach. Facebook is a media play just as much as an engagement effort.
- Diversify your social footprint. Facebook will continue to evolve, and businesses can evolve with it, while also investing in growing their social footprints. Twitter, Google+, YouTube and especially your business' website offer opportunities to diversify where you send your customers to for more information and interaction.