How to Deal with Facebook’s Decreasing Organic Page Reach

Pay to play on Facebook

For businesses, nonprofits, bands, consultants – anyone using a Facebook Page – Facebook is now pay to play. Things have been moving this way with increasing changes to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm (which determines what information shows up in users’ News Feeds). But the death knell for “free marketing” on the platform has come with stirrings and rumors that Facebook is about to decrease organic page reach to only 1-2% for Pages. In fact, research shows that organic Page reach is already hovering around 4%.

There may be some social media “gurus” out there who will try to tell you that you can combat this and maintain your reach by posting more times per day, encouraging Likes and Shares, tagging people in photos, blah blah blah.

Sure, those things still help significantly right now. A recent post I made on my nonprofit’s page got a good number of shares which increased the reach of that one post by 1000%. For real. And when I post a photo of my band, reach and likes go up when I tag the band members.

But these are temporary workarounds to the growing problem of diminished reach. And I have no doubt that Facebook will enact measures to prevent even these tried and true methods from working very soon.

The solution? Well, you’re probably not going to like this answer or at least feel that I’ve teased you with the title of this blog post. But my solution has more to do with the overall social media success of your business or organization. And it’s this: spend less time posting on Facebook, and when you do post, pay to boost it.

There is no longer any point to maintaining a daily posting schedule on Facebook if those posts are only going to reach 50 or 100 people. Unless you have a large number of fans for your Page (like, over 10k), you can still promote a post for a relatively small amount – usually starting around $15.

The trick is that those posts need to really drive ROI, or at minimum have a clearly documented deliverable for your organization. Look at it this way: you used to have to buy email lists (maybe you still do). Now you can use a paid Facebook post to encourage email list signups, drive traffic to your website or to drive donations, sales or whatever your goal is.

The good news is that since you’ll be spending less time on posting to Facebook, you can spend more time on another channel that is more effective for your organization, be that Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest – or developing a more robust website or email marketing strategy.

I have no plans to totally abandon Facebook in my overall social media strategy, but I do plan to use it even more strategically than ever before – and bring my dollars to the table when I want to play.

Instagram Ads for Businesses and Nonprofits

Instagram ads

I seem to be the digital media guy who always raises the questions that most people who do what I do don’t want to have to deal with until their boss asks them. The latest manifestation of that relates to the coming rollout of Instagram ads for businesses. I just read a good article on that. But my question is this: So, you get a lot of likes on a photo you post. To what end? I’m not questioning the value of a fan following you (that benefit is obvious). I’m saying, on Instagram – to my knowledge – the number of likes you get doesn’t boost you in the feed. What you pay determines where you appear in the feed.

I’ve been doing social media marketing long enough that I don’t pin my evaluation of a post’s performance on Likes alone. For instance, one Share on Facebook by someone who has a good amount of friends boosts a post’s organic reach far more significantly than a Like or a comment does. But, I’ve gotten off topic here…

Instagram ads will be something that I think small businesses and nonprofits (like the one I work for) will be able to use for our benefit. People like seeing photos of other people – and a lot of nonprofits exist to help people. So post photos of both the people you help and the employees who do the work of the organization. It’s only natural that individuals will connect and engage more with friendly faces than with a logo. While you do want to get some likes on the photos you post on Instagram (paid ads or not), the key is to further build your brand by increasing your emotional connection with your audience.

The Problem With Social Media

TheProblemWithSocialMedia

Instagram now says it can republish and sell the photos users post on the platform without paying them or even notifying them, and this re-introduces the perennial problem of social media: you do not own your own channels. So you created a Facebook page for your business or organization and have spent years building up thousands of fans and populated that page with tons of fantastic content? Well, it could all disappear in a moment…on a whim of Facebook. But it’s not just Facebook. Whether you’re on Twitter or Tumblr or Pinterest or Pheed or whatever hot new social platform – a change in terms of service or a glitch or outage or a perceived violation in user agreement and you’re thrown out in the cold, content-less, identity-less.

The author/software developer Reginald Braithwaite, in translating Instagram’s new terms of service, pretty much perfectly explained social media as a whole: “You are not our customers, you are the cattle we drive to market and auction off to the highest bidder. Enjoy your feed and keep producing the milk.” I’ve talked about this before, but every instance like this is a reminder of just exactly how little control we have over what might happen to channels that we work so hard to develop and engage customers through.

But there is an easy solution: use social media as channels to engage your audience, yes, but, more importantly, use it to direct them back to your actual property: your website or blog. Those are the only places where you have control over what gets seen and how it’s presented. Almost all the content you post or share on social media should have a home on your actual website. I’m in a band, so I’ll use that metaphor: Think of social media platforms as venues where your band performs. You travel to the venue, play your show, hang out with your fans, but that’s all. You don’t store your instruments and equipment there, you don’t live in the basement of the venue. You may go play the same venue a number of times – but, if it closes down, it’s really no substantial loss to you because the venue is only a means through which you send your message. The band still has their albums, their merchandise, their band image that they can then go share (sell) at any other venue.

So, in this (only semi-applicable) metaphor, here’s what’s important: Be a rock star. Wait, no, that’s not it. The point is to have the hub for your content, your reputation, your online brand image somewhere you can control it, where you own it. Use Facebook, Twitter, etc. to go play your rock show, hang out with your fans, tell them about cool stuff – but always send them back to the hub: your website or blog.

Networking (part 2): Sharing Your Passion

A while back, I wrote a post about networking and the importance of connecting on a real human level, not just a “so where do you work” level. After continuing to go to more networking events, I’ve realized something else that is key to successfully connecting with people: sharing your passion. To be more specific, if there’s something you want, share that with everyone you meet.

A good example of this: When I was in college, I played in a band that got some attention in the Dallas/Ft. Worth music scene (yes, I’m originally from Texas…shh!). Lance, a good friend of ours who was largely responsible for getting that band together, decided from the outset to be our booking agent and band manager. When he was a teenager, he started a production company called Spune Productions with the goal of bringing concerts to small West Texas towns where the kids wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see live music.

I noticed that every single person we met who was in the music scene – and even a lot of people who weren’t – he’d tell them about Spune and about his passion to bring great music and well-known bands to the small town where our college was. But he wasn’t just sharing his goal…he was sharing his heart, his aspirations. At the time, I saw that is a bit self-centered. But looking back, I see that he was bringing other people into his vision in a way that got them excited, in a way that made them want to join in the mission and help in whatever way they could.

Because of his networking savvy, within a year my band that he was managing had played shows with a number of really well-known indie bands at the time and even played with the Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot. Lance moved to Dallas after graduation and several years later was named Promoter of the Year there. Since then he’s also been named “Best Booking Agent” and “Best Record Label” by local press. To say the least, he’s having continued success with his business and is doing what he always wanted to do.

He knew what he wanted to achieve, and he told almost everyone he met about it. And it worked. I want to adopt this approach in telling people about my passion to help businesses and organizations communicate effectively and authentically through social media and grow thriving online communities that lead not only to more business but also improve the lives of their customers. I want to tell them how their company (whether for-profit or nonprofit) can have a mission that can make the world a better place. And it all starts with a handshake and “Hi, my name is Matthew.”

Why Facebook Is Evil (or The Monetization of Facebook)

Facebook has, for quite some time now, been using algorithms to determine what shows up in your News Feed. But now, Facebook’s updated EdgeRank algorithm (explained well here) drastically influences what you see. It theoretically populates your News Feed based on assigned value to posts…but the problem is, it chooses those values for you. So, when a page you Liked never shows up in your feed and instead some spammy-looking “trending story” does, that is why.

This is a problem for this reason: If I have worked hard to build a following for a Facebook page I manage that has a large number of fans, you would think that when I made a status update that all of those fans (who voluntarily Liked the page) would see it, right? Wrong. Of course, that’s never been the case, but it’s even worse now.

Now that Facebook has introduced the “Promote” feature on posts, the algorithm seems to more aggressively limit the organic views of your posts. [note: This could be debated, but this is my theory based on conclusions from observed trends and a bit of speculation.] Facebook claims that using the Promote feature “increases organic views of your content” – which is only true because they have likely intentionally diminished the true organic reach of content so they can turn around and make you buy what you used to get for free.

Want an example?
I manage a page for the band I play in. For the past few months, we have typically reached 36% to 40% of our audience (i.e. the people who have Liked us). Since the introduction of the Promote option, our reach per post has dropped to only about 14%. Now, just to reach the same amount of people I used to reach, I have to pay at least $5 per Promoted post. This is why Facebook is evil. Or, evil genius if you want to think of it that way.

How about another example?
On a page I manage for xx xxxxxxx that has xx,000 fans, we went from having a xx% reach on an average post to having an x% reach – just since the Promote button has been introduced. Ok, decided to edit out that example so as not to give away any proprietary information.

On Facebook, you now have to pay for the same reach that you once got for free. I must say that Facebook did a damn good job of getting everyone on the bandwagon without ever letting on that the ride was eventually going to cost us a lot of money.

You know what drug dealers do? They give you some crack or meth or whatever for free. And when you come back for more, they might even give you a little more for free. Once they have you hooked, all of a sudden what you once got for free is now gonna cost you hundreds of dollars just to get a fix. Who could have guessed that someone in mainstream culture would get away with that same business model?


The Power of Presence

That’s the name of the new ad campaign for the Range Rover Evoque. The first commercial I saw for it (below) really does illustrate that power – both in the original context (physically in NYC) and in the secondary context (the commercial seen on the web).

Though I wouldn’t quite call this a PR stunt, it is a clever, though simplistic, approach to launching a product. One of the best things about the marketing strategy here is that there is no attempt to control or influence the message. It’s just a “here it is” approach that displays a “and we’re know you’re gonna like it” kind of confidence in the product.

Their method also works well to translate word-of-mouth buzz generation to online buzz generation. I like that (except in the time-lapse shots) the focus is as much on the people and their reactions as it is on the SUV. And, the commercial as film has some nice touches – some tilt-shift, some nice cinematography and some great shots of NYC. All around, this one is a win. I just wish they would only use this one instead of some of the other edited-down versions of this commercial that just don’t do it justice.

 

And all this got me thinking about this concept, the power of presence, in relation to social media. ‘Cause it’s sorta the same thing: you’re giving people something to “look at” that represents your brand or organization. And what you’re giving better be 1) interesting and engaging and 2) less about you and more about them. The same way that many of the shots in this commercial focus on the people walking up to check out the car, the focus of any good social media campaign should be on the customer. Listen to them, watch their reactions, highlight them…all to the end of giving them what they want. And, it sure won’t hurt if you’re a bit flashy (but tasteful) with the content you’re putting out there.