The Days of Free Social Media Organic Reach Are Gone.
You may think that seems like a strong statement from a company that works in the social media space daily for our clients, but it is in our opinion true. Social media is not “free.” Years ago we could use applications like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and post different posts, reach a fairly broad following and grow that following fairly organically.
New adapters to the platforms and the technology seemed to gain followings overnight and their success on a small budget (sometimes no budget) seemed too good to be true. As companies, we adapted. We formed groups, we added friends, we followed and then it changed. We were expected to have all these platforms for our business. We were told to create all this content to post on these platforms. Then we built our digital brands on applications that we didn’t control.
The pendulum shifted.
Do you remember when Facebook had an option for you to pay to gain likes to your page?
It wasn’t that long ago when many of my clients were boosting posts on social media to gain “likes” to their pages. I had clients that were obsessed with how many people liked their pages. It was common to want to have more likes than one’s rivals. This social obsession with followers is still engrained in our minds when our social reach. We paid for this “audience” that didn’t necessarily get us clients, but we looked great to the competition.
Boosting Posts on Social Media Was Just the Beginning.
So we did it, we bought the “likes” from boosting our posts, we created an audience, and we developed content to talk to that audience. Then, Facebook changed the rules, now they were only going to show your posts to 10% of that audience you bought. Many of which are not really that interested in your product or service. You now boost posts to target more of that audience you bought and you are seeing less interaction with the content that you share.
The pendulum shifted again.
From the moment that Facebook went from being a privately held social media company to a publicly traded one things changed.
Facebook has one of the largest audiences as a social media platform. In fact, 22% of the world’s total population uses Facebook with 2.01 billion monthly active users. More than 65 million businesses have a Facebook business page. With more page views than Google in 2017 and more active users than most countries have populations. The algorithm changes to the newsfeed meant that our followers didn’t see as many of our posts unless they interacted with our brand regularly. The less of an audience we reach, the higher the advertising costs rise.
Did you know that Facebook reported advertising revenue of $9.16 billion in the second quarter of 2017, a 47% year-over-year increase? Think about that for a minute. This model is very profitable for Facebook, but for businesses that spent a lot of time and money developing their brand on that platform, the changes have cost them much more than money. It has effectively made all the work they did to build those audiences obsolete.
Facebook is now a pay to play social media platform.
Even our friends don’t see our posts unless we regularly interact with each other often. So we basically see about 10-25 of our friends on our newsfeed in 2018. Helpful? The jury is out, and so are the users. Many of us post things daily. It is like an online journal of our lives that preserves our memories like a giant scrapbook for an audience we choose to see it. Yet many of us post, but we don’t interact as much with the other users in our group. In fact that the newsfeed algorithms on Facebook are now completely decided by artificial intelligence. The AI uses more than 10 thousand different factors to determine what is “newsworthy.”
Are you counting on your posts going viral? I read somewhere that over 500 million posts are sent daily on Facebook. You have a better shot of all your friends seeing the announcement of the birth of your child than you do with something that has to do with your business. Maybe the answer is to just keep having kids? That may be more expensive than simply paying for the ads.
Where does this leave us with Facebook as a social media platform?
It was too good to be true, and now it is such a staple of our brand, our audience expects us to be there and sharing, even if they aren’t looking at it daily, weekly, or monthly. As businesses, Facebook is useful to us for several reasons. We can still post when we want, and we control the content we post. We can share that content with groups, which is a good way to keep our messages out to the Facebook communities without paying for ads. We can create special groups to offer sales and coupons to. We can also boost posts to very specific audiences when we are doing something important without brand. We have to pay to put it out there on most platforms these days. It is the cost of doing business.
Using Social Media as part of a bigger Digital Marketing Strategy
If you have found your audience uses Facebook regularly, this isn’t a bad way to go, but it is not FREE to reach them. We can also use Facebook to be a champion of our backlinks for our SEO strategy, just like we do with Twitter and LinkedIn. Your digital marketing strategy can’t be limited to Facebook alone. Don’t’ build your entire digital footprint on any single platform that can change the rules at any time. The goal of all of our digital marketing efforts is for our brand to be found.
Facebook still leads over many major social media platforms in users sharing content. According to AddtoAny more people share content to Facebook than any other social media platform. That doesn’t not, however, guarantee that people with interacting with the content once it is posted. In fact, a recent study from ChartBeat suggests that “most people who like, click or forward an article barely open it.”
No matter what you decide to do, it will cost you either your time, or your money, and most often both to develop a good digital marketing strategy.