It’s hard out there for a Facebook marketer. Anyone who manages a Facebook Page feels it. It might be anecdotal, but the anecdotes are piling up and the conclusion is undeniable: Organic reach is down and fewer people who have liked your page are seeing your posts.
The ominous headlines hit almost daily, including two from this week:
- Facebook Is Ending the Free Ride, in which Valleywag quoted a source familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy saying that Facebook is in the process of throttling organic reach for Pages down to 1 or 2 percent.
- A Glut Of Facebook Updates Results In Fewer People Seeing Posts From Pages, in which ReadWrite quoted a Facebook spokesperson saying the best way to guarantee that your target audience sees a post is to buy ads on the network.
Earlier this month, we took issue with a study that claimed that organic reach for Pages will eventually hit zero. We still don’t believe that will happen. But it’s clear that Page managers are frustrated and confused by Facebook’s recent algorithm changes aimed at rewarding “higher quality” content. This comment by “JeepinJason” on the ReadWrite post sums it up nicely:
What I find ironic and frustrating is Facebook’s desire to put “an emphasis on more “high quality” content” while down playing memes and other such posts. That’s all well and good in theory, but as a page owner for an ecommerce business my posts that consistently get the most views, likes, shares, and comments ARE the memes and those types of posts. And as a regular user on FB the memes and things like that posted by other pages are the ones I’m more likely to like and share.
The way the whole thing comes across to me is that FB is basically saying organic may be good for you, but it’s bad for them (because I’m not paying THEM), so they’re going to hobble organic reach in favor of paid advertisements. The thing is, if a page is paying to boost the reach of a post, I highly doubt it’s a post of “high quality” content — it’s going to be an advertisement. And if advertisements can reach people that haven’t liked your page, what’s the point in trying to grow your page’s fan base on FB, and conversely as a user what’s the point in me liking a page if more often than not I’m NOT going to see their posts in my newsfeed?
The conundrum is exacerbated by the fact that Facebook feels like the only game in town for social marketers, certainly for those of modest means. It dwarfs all other social networks with nearly 1.25 billion active users, users who spend an average of seven hours a month on the network. By comparison, U.S. Twitter users spend two minutes a month on average on the service, according to Upworthy CEO Eli Pariser.
So how can you fight the tide? Here are five modest suggestions:
- Post more often: Given that the Facebook algorithm is engineered to make relevant connections between people and Pages, you should be constantly experimenting with what works. With that in mind, the more posts you make, the more data you will be able to analyze. If you typically post twice a day, try doubling your output. See what works best, then repeat.
- Be timely: Figure out when your target audience is online — and on Facebook — and look for opportunities to post about events that are happening in those moments. You don’t have to be Oreo or Arby’s to take advantage of newsjacking opportunities. It’s better, of course, if the event is directly related to your product or content, but even connections made about news events should make your future posts more likely to be seen by the people you engaged with.
- Engage more: When your customers interact with the page, make sure to respond, answering questions or thanking them for their comments. Those direct human connections are the signals the algorithm uses to make links between Facebook users — and Pages.
- Tag other Pages: When you have a post about a topic that has is related to another Facebook Page, tag that Page. Facebook last month announced that such posts might be displayed in the News Feeds of users who like the tagged Page.
- Break down and pay for it: Andrea Vahl, co-author of “Facebook Marketing All-in-One For Dummies,” says marketers should consider Facebook a subscription-based marketing service rather than a free platform. “Facebook ads on an ongoing basis are inevitable,” Vahl writes. “Divide your monthly Facebook ad spend between boosting posts for increased reach and ads to drive traffic directly to your website. Spend a small amount on increasing your fan base as well. None of this ad spend needs to break the bank. Work on effective ads so that you spend as little as possible for the biggest bang.”
What do you think? Do you still believe Facebook can be an effective free tool for marketers? Share your strategy in comments.
Image courtesy Statista.com