On June 5, Facebook addressed widespread frustration from brands who have seen a significant decline in organic reach via a QA on the topic authored by Facebook Head of Ads Product Marketing Brian Boland. In this edition of Friday5, we analyze Facebook’s core answers and provide some additional perspective.
1. Why is organic reach declining?
Facebook’s answer is two-fold. First, mobile technology created an explosion of content from everyone (users and brands), which leads to the second reason: increased competition for space in users’ News Feeds. Per Facebook, there are an average of 1,500+ pieces of content vying for only 300 available slots in the News Feed. To rise above the noise, brands need to approach Facebook with a strategic approach that starts with content (and includes paid support).
2. Why not just show everything — every piece of content from every friend and Page — and let people decide what they want to see?
Some social platforms (e.g., Twitter), offer real-time content through a constant ticker. Facebook has always been different. The Facebook News Feed is dynamic and evolves based on user habits.
Facebook is built around trying to serve people content they want to see. Many debate the effectiveness of Facebook’s algorithm, but in general this is more likely to be content from friends than brands.
3. Is organic reach dropping because Facebook is trying to make more money?
Facebook’s answer is no. They argue that they make such changes to protecting its users.
That may be, but creating the best possible user experience is how Facebook makes money in the long run. Facebook attracted over a billion users by giving its users what they want (more often than not). As marketers, it’s important to understand that:
- Facebook is a business. They know that giving brands priority in the News Feed is the most effective way for them to monetize the platform.
- Social media is growing up – paid is no longer a nice-to-have, but is rather a critical component for elevating your top content (and not just on Facebook).
- Facebook users care more about their friends than brands. No one is petitioning Facebook to see more ads.
4. Is Facebook the only marketing platform that’s seen declines in organic reach?
Facebook cites search engines as examples of platforms where organic reach declined as they matured. It’s important to understand that Facebook’s success isn’t just about organic reach anymore:
- Organic reach does not always equal engagement. Facebook prides itself on crafting a delivery algorithm that delivers to those likely to engage rather than simply everyone.
- Other platforms may offer greater ability to reach new people organically. YouTube and Twitter are examples. Instagram is probably the hottest for organic engagement on brand content right now.
- Facebook is improving tools for brands to go deeper and be smarter when delivering content.
5. OK, there’s more content now. But what’s the value of having more people like my Page? I paid good money for my fans on Facebook, and now I can’t reach as many of them.
Facebook’s answer: Fans have value because they make ads more effective and cheaper, they give you insights about your customers, and they give you credibility via social context on ads.
Facebook’s answer is part of the story, but there’s more:
- Fan acquisition should not be an umbrella objective in most cases.
- A Facebook “like” is not equivalent to an email subscription.
- Facebook is getting better at tracking deeper metrics. Brands need to move beyond fan counts, and even engagements (likes + comments + shares), to focus on deeper metrics like conversion, purchase, etc.
Facebook and all social media will continue to change and evolve rapidly. Change will create challenges for brands, but also new opportunities to communicate in more targeted, more innovative and more effective ways.
How does your team respond to changes in social platforms?
Photo credit: Bethan