Facebook’s organic reach is declining — what do you need to do?

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One of the biggest topics in the Facebook marketing world right now is the decline of organic reach and the rise of Facebook advertising. Facebook page admins built their fanbases, sometimes through page like ads, and now they feel like they’re being bait-and-switched by being asked to advertise again to reach those same fans.

So, what can a frustrated Facebook marketer or page admin do? That’s what we asked Lance Neuhauser, CEO of Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer 4C (ads and insights). Neuhauser discussed the twilight of pure unpaid reach on Facebook and shows where smart marketers can find opportunity in an increasingly paid media world.

Inside Facebook: What is your reaction to the changes that Facebook has made to the News Feed algorithm and the diminishing organic reach?

Lance Neuhauser: If we realize that social as a whole is the world’s largest collection the least-biased observational data that has ever existed, and we realize the benefits that that has for marketers, then the goal for us as marketers to make sure that data set remains observational and it truly is indicative of user behavior and it really is as least-biased as possible. If we take this long-term view, then I would hope Facebook would continue to advance their algorithm, change what enters their News Feed and the user interface as a whole as much as humanly possible in order to provide the best possible user experience.

If we take that long-term view, then we’ll realize Facebook has done a fairly decent job of alternating their algorithms to make sure that the most relevant messages for any given user is what that user ends up seeing. This is not just subject to marketer’s messages — none of us see 100 percent of the messages that are coming from even our friends. In fact, you would be quite overwhelmed by that. It’s frequency, it’s the relationship status we have with people that causes us to see more messages from them.

Those same rules are available for pages as well. You provide all the content, and get the user to engage — not just like the brand once, but actually engage — share a post, comment on a post, like a post, and get them to do so regularly, you’re actually going to go above that 6 percent average and you’re going to end up seeing a lot more.

If you’re constantly just trying to go for the quick hit and looking at this as a marketing platform, as opposed to a behavioral or observational platform that it can and should be, then I can understand why you’d get upset spending all this money building up a fanbase and then when you send out messages, you only get a fraction of the messages received.

IF: That’s what a lot of admins are saying, “I paid to get these fans. I paid to get these likes, and now I have to pay again to reach them?” Could you give some advice for some of these page admins and marketers?

LN: I actually love engaging in conversations with marketers like that because it affords the opportunity to get a different perspective on this. I do think if we end up taking the short-term road, we’re going to end up taking what I think is the most golden of marketing platforms and turning it into dust incredibly quickly. If we table that short vs. long-term argument, just for a second, and we start talking about what we’re holding Facebook accountable to, in terms of metrics and mentality, I think it would be important for us to engage in conversations with marketers to find out how are they holding their own channels accountable.

They spend millions of dollars to get the customers, then spend millions of dollars more on CRM efforts. Spending money to re-engage your customers, re-engage your biggest fans, is actually one of the best uses of money that you can put to work. I think if we start helping marketers see apples-to-apples and not see Facebook as this unique one-off platform, but more as a beautiful two-way line with their customers, they’d start to understand that what Facebook is doing is in the best interest of the user, which is best for marketers.

IF: Do you think that marketers should understand that organic reach is not guaranteed, that Facebook isn’t a platform where you can have all of your fans see all of your content? What are you telling your clients to think about the way organic reach is perceived?

bio_lanceLN: I know you’ve written about it, and there was one comment I thought was profound: folks who are trying to make money themselves telling the platform not to make money is a little self-centered. I think you’re spot on. Let’s recognize that not only is Facebook trying to make money, and marketers are trying to make money, but let’s give some credit to Facebook for being a pretty good shepherd in this process. Being able to, in the last few years, aggregate over 1 billion users who continue to leverage the platform and are OK with messaging coming their way.

IF: With these changes, where do you think pages can still see an opportunity to grow their business?

LN: If we start looking at this from a numerical perspective, people can see that there’s still so much opportunity and it should actually overwhelm them, not underwhelm them. When we start looking at the value of users that still engage with brands — let’s say even 1, 2 or 3 percent of their fanbase on a quarter-by-quarter basis. You’re talking about, in the case of some big brands, millions of users each quarter. Some of the smaller brands, you’re looking at thousands, and having a customer pool of information and engagement data from which we can continue to learn. We’re talking about larger sets of information than has ever been available — larger than survey, larger than panel based data, larger than Nielsen.

Does it force marketers to understand that information better, deeper and wider than they have before? Without a doubt. But, what that actually causes them to do, is to have a voice. They need to use things like conversational signals — people talking about certain topics that may or may not be directly related to the bottom line — and they need to understand what their decision intercepts would be along with those conversations.

Let’s take a car brand, for example. A car brand might be putting out posts and they only get 6 percent of their fans seeing their posts. … Why wouldn’t they be listening to conversations around things like safety seats in cars, around reports that come out about tires, about speed limits — you name it, the conversations are happening online. Start engaging with that voice in their arena, to be seen as a thought leader, to engage readers — and not just with their own posts, but in other forums. That’s what being social really is.

Brands need to find their voice and they can’t be scared of it anymore.

Readers: How are you adapting to Facebook’s changes?

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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