You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression
Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.
For Facebook, the dilemma has turned into
Why buy the ad when you can get the consumer engagement for free.
For years, businesses have been using their Facebook pages to promote their services at no cost, posting what amounts to free advertising seen by everyone who “likes” their page.
Facebook saw a big surge in users from this trend as businesses jumped on the social-media site. However, it wasn’t monetizing those new users, and that’s a problem for a business, especially a publicly traded one.
Hence a series of controversial changes in policy that have businesses scrambling. Late last year, Facebook changed its Newsfeed algorithm to devalue what it dubbed memes and cheap attempts to build traffic, while favoring so-called high-quality posts. Now comes word that Facebook will slash organic reach even further, down to a rumored 1 to 2 percent.
What’s the motivation for this change? Money, pure and simple. Facebook wants businesses to pay to reach their customers, and it’s done offering that reach for free. The move will force businesses to invest in promoted posts to spread their messages. Here’s what your business needs to know about the Facebook changes and how you can still maintain some of that organic reach for free.
Why The Change?
Many are wondering why Facebook has made these changes. The reason, of course, is dollars. Though we’ve come to think of Facebook as a part of our lives, akin to our daily coffee break or morning jog, the fact is that Facebook is a business. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to make money, and his stockholders expect that of him.
Mobile advertising has become hugely important to the company, accounting for more than half of total ad revenue during the fourth quarter of last year. That means Facebook has a platform that’s in demand from more and more advertisers, and it wants to funnel people there. By reducing organic reach to just a fraction of what it once was, the site is forcing businesses into action.
Using Facebook Promoted Posts
Promoted posts are one of several advertising options on Facebook, and they’re just what they sound like.
The advertiser pays to have one of its Facebook posts promoted to people who have not liked them. For instance, let’s say you own a local cleaning business. Your promoted post about a special spring-cleaning promotion can be aimed at people in your geographic region so that you reach the right people without spending on reach that won’t benefit you, such as people in another state.
Whereas with organic reach you can’t really control who is seeing the posts — your 120 “sees” may include 30 people in another country — with promoted posts you can drill down and target the audience that will most benefit your brand. It comes at a price, however.
One blogger created a pricing tool that will calculate the cost of promoted posts to reach the same number of fans you have for your page. Say you regularly post four items per day to your Facebook page. If you have 1,200 fans, it will cost about $25 per day for those posts. That doesn’t seem too bad, right? But then consider that for an entire year, you’ll be paying more than $7,000 for posts that didn’t cost you a dime in the past.
Interestingly, Facebook does not treat all sites equally when it comes to promoted posts. Those with more likes must pay more for their reach, probably because the site figures the ones with more likes can probably afford it. This can hurt small businesses that happen to have done a good job promoting themselves and earning likes. Alas, they’ll be punished for what just a few months ago seemed like a sound strategy.
How To Maintain Your Facebook Reach?
While Facebook’s plan certainly sounds deflating — why even bother using your Facebook page if no one’s going to see it — there are some ways that businesses can deal with and even thrive under the new conditions. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep your organic reach strong in face of the changes:
- Post unique content. Facebook does not like it when businesses jump on a viral topic; if everyone is posting about the same thing, those posts are less likely to show up in Newsfeeds. Facebook wants its users to get a wide variety of content, and so anytime you can add information no one else has, your posts will benefit.
- Abandon the crusade for likes. It used to be the more likes the better, but since they don’t really mean much anymore — besides upping the cost of promoted posts — there’s no reason to keep chasing them. If people want to like you, they’ll find you.
- Stop self-promoting so much. There are some who argue that Facebook is actually taking the right approach. They say it’s ridiculous to put all these self-promoting posts in users’ feeds when they’re more interested in their friends’ posts and funny videos than hearing about your upcoming sale. So many share posts that aren’t entirely about your business.
- Supplement Facebook with other digital marketing. You can link to Facebook posts from elsewhere, and you can also post a feed of your most recent updates on your site. There are ways to get reach from Facebook that don’t directly depend on the site. For instance, you might write a blog post on development costs for websites and then include some Facebook links in it to get people to your page.
Changing How You Do Business
If you decide that promoted posts are the way to go for your company, to make up for the decline in organic reach, make sure to budget properly. You’ll need to plan for this expenditure and perhaps pull from other parts of your digital-marketing budget to pay for it. The good news is that Facebook advertising is pretty effective compared to other types of online ads, according to a recent study. It found that Facebook ad click-throughs rose 29 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.
Be selective about which posts you promote. Nothing says that everything you put on your Facebook page needs to reach a larger audience. Only pay to promote the really big stuff, the posts you’re counting on to generate foot traffic to a sale or participation in an event.
If you follow these tips, perhaps Facebook’s recent changes won’t have as much of an impact on your business as you fear. While change is a constant in a social-media world, your organic reach doesn’t have to go up and down, too.