In 2010, the company I was working for was going through a website redesign process. We brought in 5 different vendors in the interview process. One of them suggested that the website be only a small part of digital strategy and suggested that we invest the majority of our digital resources into Facebook. Thankfully, I had a competent boss who saw the flaw in that concept; that you shouldn’t put most of your eggs in a basket that you don’t own. On a sidenote – I wonder how many other companies bought into what that guy was saying and I wonder what they think of him now.
As you are most likely aware, Facebook introduced changes to its algorithm in late 2014 that greatly reduced the amount of organic impressions for brand pages. This has upset a lot of marketers, but I think it’s great.
How Dare They
I’ve seen a lot of posts from outraged (and entitled) marketers chastising Facebook for changing their algorithm. I believe their argument is that Facebook wouldn’t exist without brands living on there for free, which is inaccurate on multiple levels. Here is the painful truth; Facebook was never yours to begin with. You bought their affection, tricked them into liking your page, made them like your page for a free gift. You were allowed to reach literally millions of people for free for over 5 years and instead of saying thank you, you are now criticizing them. And you can still reach them for free if you’re good enough. Even if you only reach 1% of all of your fans, they will most likely to be the ones who really care about what you share. Facebook is really smart.
Another reality is that the people who like your page don’t actually like it that much. They don’t care nearly as much about your company as they do about your friends and family. If you have something to share that is so important that thousands of users must see it, promote it with an ad.
Without Facebook’s algorithm, users would be seeing nothing but page posts. According to Socialbakers, the average Facebook user in 2009 liked 4.5 pages. That number increased to 40. Pages were also updating their pages less frequently in 2009. In 2009, pages posted an average of five times per month, meaning that users saw an average of 22.5 updates from pages per month. Compare that with 2013 when pages were posting an average of 36 times per month, for a figure of 1,440 updates each month. According to Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith, there are around 1500 stories that could be shown to a Facebook user in their News Feed at any moment.
We seem to understand that a TV show with 4 minutes of content and 56 minutes of commercials wouldn’t be all that interesting but we seem to fail to grasp that concept when it comes to social media.
In order to reign in the amount of promotional content its users see, the new algorithm now affects:
- Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
- Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
- Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads
You can still share those types of posts but you must now pay for Facebook to show them. Jon Loomer said it best on his blog,
“Because marketers chase reach, they attempted to game the system at all costs. And because they attempted to game the system at all costs, they created crappy content that appeared — on the surface — to perform well. Because they created this crappy content that reached a lot of users, it became the source of a bad user experience.”
This is a Social Network Not a Promotion Network
As Jay Baer points out in his book Youtility, for many, social media marketing isn’t new marketing, it’s old marketing just for free. Many marketers just use it as a free way to yell at people. To those of you in that group, your time is up.
What to Share
Facebook is still the greatest opportunity for businesses to connect with customers. You can still use Facebook to build a community. Brand should enjoy social media. It’s the one place you don’t have to push product. You can just be yourself. Go to the Dos Equis page and see how many times they mention product. This is finally a place to connect without pressure. Answer questions, Ask questions. Prove your great customer service. Have some fun. Do something that makes people that do follow you want to tell their friends about.
They’re Just Doing it For the Shareholders
Perhaps. And that is absolutely their right. They’ve created an incredible platform that has gathered an unimaginable amount of intimate data about it users that advertisers are willing to pay handsomely for. To the victors belong the spoils. While I believe that increasing revenue played a large role in the decision, I also believe that user experience played an equally important role. Facebook’s main resource is people. In order for Facebook to continue to have value to advertisers, it has to keep its users happy and engaged. Otherwise it will become MySpace.
Don’t Be Cheap
Finally, don’t be cheap. I know you feel you’re being ripped off for having to pay to reach your fans (like brands have been doing for hundreds of years) but as someone who’s used Facebook Ads, they are some of the least expensive and highest performing forms of advertising I have ever used. If you even only have $100 to spend on advertising every month, choose two great, relevant posts and boost them for $50 each. You’ll be amazed at how far your post can spread.
Facebook also offers the ability to send people to your website, retarget to visitors to your website, and reach users on a granular level. Stop bitching about what they took away and use what they have given you.
Winners / The Bright Side
- Brands who are interested in building a community
- Brands who care about what their customers are thinking
- Brands who want to provide value
- Brands that measure engagement
- Brands that value discovery and search
- Brands they don’t mind paying a reasonable fee to reach highly targeted people
Losers / Doom and Gloom
- Brands that like to shout
- Brands that measure vanity metrics
- Brands that love themselves more than their customers
- Brands that don’t recognize value
In fact, at this point, if you’re still pissed about the new changes, perhaps you should give up on Facebook because it is quite apparent that you don’t get social media.