Facebook lowers organic reach - what now? close

Beth Gladstone
In Online Innovation
17th July 2014
Facebook lowers organic reach - what now?

Social media used to be one of the only marketing channels where, with the right approach, brands could make a decent impact without actually imparting any cash. With posts appearing alongside those from family and friends, brands were given the chance to build authenticity with customers, while generating site traffic and presumably, revenue.

Yet back in October, following a leaked sales deck obtained by Techcrunch, it was clear that what brands had been noticing for a while, was definitely true. Brands used to creating an organic buzz on Facebook, saw that less and less of their friends and fans were seeing their posts. In short, Facebook had turned the volume down on organic reach.

This angered many brands and businesses, who seemed to feel that it was their prerogative to appear within a user’s newsfeed. But as Facebook (badly) explained in this post, competition on Facebook is only growing, as more brands and businesses vie for the attention of users, who may only be spending 5 or 10 minutes on Facebook a day.

In some ways, I can sympathise with feeling cheated, having been among those who spent time and money, building a following for the Facebook page of our children’s apps brand Kizzu. Yet at the same time, if all Facebook showed was posts from brands and businesses, how long would it be before users abandoned the channel anyway?

So what are the options?

Paid Advertising

If you have the budget, you can use a blend of paid and organic advertising to retain a strong social media presence. The important factor with any type of advertising, is to weigh up what the spend is actually achieving for your business. If you just want to increase traffic to your site, then measuring clickthroughs is fine. If however, your key metric is paid conversions then perhaps promoted posts aren’t the way to go. It’s also important to look at what each channel offers to its advertising partners - can you gain a clear overview on what you’re spending? Is it easy to pivot the direction of your ads if something isn't working? Certain channels, particularly Twitter, will provide a strong support network for paid advertisers, regardless of spend. While testing ads for our Twitter monitoring tool Twilert, we even had access to a Twitter Account exec who looked at our ads and suggested ways to optimise the campaign. This can really make a difference to the amount of engagement you get for your money and is definitely worth weighing up, when going down the paid media route.

Improved content

To try and retain some organic reach, brands will need to get much more clever with content. Find out what people want to engage with by trialling a variety of different types - status updates, photos, videos, GIFs and linked blogposts, then monitor the effect of each. Which type of content is creating the biggest reach? Are people clicking through to your site or just clicking on the post? Focus on the quick wins - even with paid promotions, the more fans you can reach through ‘shares’ or ‘likes’, the higher your posts will begin to rank in Facebook’s algorithm.

Alternative channels

Contrary to popular belief, there are other social media channels that brands can turn to, that don’t expect you to ‘pay to play’. For most, it’s probably a bit of a habit to continue trying to engage with Facebook fans, but if the amount spent outweighs the return, it could be time to jump ship. Depending on the industry, LinkedIn and Google Plus have both proved themselves to still have fairly good, organic reach and there’s no harm in measuring the success of content on these platforms. The other channels to consider, which many marketers and brands seem to overlook, is the ones you own. You can’t control what Facebook shows to your audience, but you can control your own blog, emails and website. Get clever at using these channels to sell your brand - does your email footer link to your latest blog post? Are you capturing email leads at different stages throughout your website? Social media has almost eclipsed more ‘traditional’ marketing methods, but in light of these updates, it could be the traditional channels which now prove more effective.

Measuring time vs. money

The most important factor for any social media marketing, is to make sure you’re aware of what your Facebook or Twitter activity is achieving for your business. Perhaps you spend an hour scheduling your Facebook posts at the beginning of the week and have a 5% conversion rate from those who click through to your site. In this case, the time spent probably justifies the cost. But if you have a large team, spending hours working social media content, with a minimal - or non-existent, return in site traffic or conversion - couldn’t the time be better spent elsewhere? We’ve found guestblogging to be a great alternative to social media marketing, particularly if you can get yourself on a well-established site that sees a large amount of traffic.

There are also many tools out there which can help automate social media, to reduce the time spent on updates and monitoring. Some of our favourites are Bufferapp for scheduling, our own Twitter Monitoring tool Twilert, for cutting through ‘the noise’ and finding relevant tweets and a new tool we’ve recently started to use called Meet Edgar, which allows you to recycle your own content in an automated loop. Obviously, you need to be wary of automating your social media presence too much, but employing the right tools can be the difference between a costly exercise and a fairly cheap one.

What Facebook's decline in organic reach has really highlighted, is that social media has monopolised brand marketing strategies for too long. If agencies and marketers are honest with themselves, alongside this decline comes a well-needed wake up call that Facebook likes rarely convert into customers and actual 'engagement' is difficult to measure. There are many ways in which one could be disappointed in Facebook, but its refusal to shove branded content into the face of its users, is probably not one of them.