It isn’t a rumor, nor is it a conspiracy. Facebook organic reach has been slashed. Facebook has admitted to changing its algorithm so businesses (or anyone else with a Page) are forced to pay if they want their posts to be seen. While most businesses saw a decline to about 15-20% organic reach last year, many are now reaching only 2%. In the case of the Arkside Marketing Facebook Page, we are seeing 5-8% consistently.
Facebook has become the bridge troll with a pay-to-play model.
General Motors Called Facebook’s Bluff
The origin of this change reaches back about a year and a half. Facebook had one billion users and was the place to be. Many Fortune 500 companies were clamoring to get on the bandwagon but still hadn’t figured out how. Even at the end of 2012, only 66% of the F500 were on Facebook, let alone using it effectively.
But in May 2012, General Motors’ firebrand CMO, Joel Ewanick, made the decision to fire their social media agency of record and stop all advertising on Facebook. Quick way to save $10 million. The stated reasoning was that they didn’t see any substantial return on their investment so they would stop advertising and continue with their organic Facebook Page fan base of a few million followers.
Even with Facebook making it impossible for brands to reach 100% of their followers, most were still seeing what you posted. Why advertise? Faceb0ok was cannibalizing itself. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
Not only did they just eliminate themselves as a top Facebook advertiser (and revenue source), but they did this the week Facebook had their IPO. Ouch.
We believe Joel was right.
Ewanick and General Motors exposed the flaw in Facebook’s plan. Spending wasn’t necessary because people were organically finding, Liking, and sharing brand content.
Facebook had to fix the giant hole in the ship. Now you have to pay to get on board.
Effect on the Facebook Page for Business
Post-IPO, Facebook has been under immense public pressure (especially from our own Founder who has had issues with the platform). They have been busy addressing their failure on mobile devices and an unfriendly ad platform. Organic results were odd also. For many years, it has been frustrating for businesses on Facebook because they are treated badly. Even when a customer says they “Like” a business, Facebook doesn’t see that as permission to show your content. In their belief, just because a customer says they “Like” something, that doesn’t really mean they want to see anything from it.
In high school, guys wanted “no” to mean “yes”.
On Facebook, “yes” actually means “no”.
Now, “yes” actually means “no way in hell”. So what is a business to do? According to Facebook, a business is to pay for ads. “Your brand can fully benefit from having fans when most of your ads show social context, which increases advertising effectiveness and efficiency“.
Perhaps the most offensive and glaring admission is this: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.“
If someone tells you they like something and you block them from seeing it, how does that equal a meaningful experience?
Social Media Sharing Options
1) Save Money and Reach Fewer People There are many social media agencies and managers that we have spoken to whom have told us they will be focusing less of their time (and their client’s money) on Facebook Pages. In their view, the task of reaching a fan base is so time consuming and expensive that better results can be found on other social media or even traditional media.
2) Spend Money and Reach More People Other social media agencies and managers have said they will pay, if necessary. Facebook wants to command paid media and may be a force that is too large to ignore. For those companies with substantial followings in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, a marketing investment may be a wise decision.
At Arkside Marketing, we have saying, “advertising is an investment. If it is only an expense, you are doing it wrong.”
3) Leave Facebook
Yes, we’re serious. For some businesses, the Facebook Page organic reach may have provided a nice bump in social interaction, but their new model decreases the return that could possibly be achieved. Could that time be better spent on other social platforms such as Twitter or the SEO-friendly Google+?
In the spirit of full disclosure, we have not recommended that any of our clients abandon Facebook. Each of them can continue to successfully reach their audience, but to a smaller degree. We also plan to continue our own Facebook presence, but will reduce our advertising to large announcements.
Facebook In The Future
Although we agree with his decision, we blame Joel Ewanick for this. Ultimately, it would have occurred anyway. Facebook had to realize their shortcoming. But now that it is here, what will your business choose? The pay-to-play model is here to stay, mainly because it doesn’t seriously infringe on Facebook’s main product: its users.
If you would like an objective evaluation of your social media presence and strategy, contact our office.