I know you can’t 100% tell my tone from the title of this blog, but it’s sarcastic. The last few months I’ve heard people complaining about a decrease in organic Facebook reach. Things, “Facebook is out to get small business,” and, “Facebook is just out to make us buy ads.”
This blog post is specifically inspired by a recent Time article
: “The Free-Marketing Gravy Train Is Over on Facebook.” The article is relatively unbiased, but I’ve seen people on social media get outraged. Maybe you’re one of them; maybe you’re not. Either way, let’s take a step back and look at a few things.
Organic Facebook Reach is Dropping
No one will dispute you on that fact. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, and other Facebook marketers have seen it—it started in October 2013. If you haven’t noticed it, you’re either not paying attention to your Insights, didn’t have good reach to start with, or are posting great content.
Why is reach dropping? It’s caused by a variety of factors that have been made public, along with reasons we aren’t privy to.
The biggest reason for cutting organic reach is that users could potentially see 1,500 pieces of content every day, just on Facebook. I’m a Facebook user, and I definitely don’t want to see that much content. That’s what Twitter’s for. Facebook’s algorithms now show content based on post recency, type of content, quality of the content (Facebook marketers are still trying to figure out what this means), and individual preferences such as engagement level with the page.
You may think, “I have 1,000 likes on my page so every post should be reaching that many people.” Not necessarily. Some users don’t log in every day (shocking, I know); some have purposely hidden your content; and not everyone wants to see that template cat meme you posted in a feeble attempt to get engagement.
I understand that a drop in organic reach is upsetting—we’ve come to expect Facebook to be free. But Facebook would go out of business if it didn’t change.
Facebook Was Never Free
I remember in a first-semester college class—macroeconomics—learning that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Everything has an opportunity cost. I’ve held strong over the last few years that Facebook is not free…it’s “free.” It provides the illusion of being free, but what does it really cost you?
If you’re a small business owner, when you’re spending time doing Facebook marketing, you’re not spending time performing other essential business functions (besides marketing, of course). If your employees run your page, you’re paying them to do that, whether you realize it or not.
Just like any other marketing medium, Facebook marketing is an investment—as it should be. If you do Facebook marketing correctly, you’ll get more out of it than you put into it (assuming you set goals and tracking mechanisms ahead of time). If you’re not happy with your return, get help. Some of us spend our whole lives figuring this stuff out.
Facebook is a Business, Not a Charity
Before its IPO, Facebook offered a lot of value for little to no cost. That was deliberate. They used that approach to increase the number of individual users on the site and the businesses trying to reach those users. At 1.2 billion users, I’d say their plan worked.
Now that they’re public—heck, even if they weren’t public—they need to make money. Saying, “Facebook is ripping us off by making us buy ads on their platform,” is an unfair statement. You can still make a Facebook page for free, right? Right. You can still try to get as many likes as you can without paying, right? You don’t have
to run ads on Facebook to be successful. No one is forcing your hand.
I’m not necessarily defending Facebook; I’m trying to look at it from an unbiased view (which, trust me, is hard when I want 100% organic reach too).
As a business, you don’t even have
to be on Facebook. If you say, “but I do have to be on Facebook because that’s where my customers are,” then you’re just helping me make my next point. So thank you.
If your customers are watching the local news, you’re going to look at advertising during that program. Would you expect to get those ads for free? I didn’t think so. If you’re trying to reach your audience with Google Ads, you don’t expect Google to offer that for free, do you? Me neither. Then how is it different with Facebook?
To me, Google and Facebook are a good comparison in this instance. There are low-cost (I’m hesitant to say free…see above) options to reach your audience—organic search optimization on Google, organic page reach on Facebook. But there are paid options to supplement your organic efforts—Google AdWords and Facebook ads.
You Are Facebook’s Product
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but assuming you’re a Facebook user, you are the product that Facebook is selling. They’re not selling a platform or a place for social connection (that’s all free, remember)—they’re selling businesses the ability to reach targeted users.
Users are the product, so Facebook has to keep us happy, or it won’t survive. There are already rumors that youngsters aren’t getting on the network (that’s a whole other rant).
So how does Facebook keep users happy? At this point, their strategy is to allow anyone to post content (keeping businesses on the platform) without annoying users (filtering out the bad content). Note: “bad” is a relative term based on the individual user.
If Facebook showed all possible pieces of content to every user—imagine Twitter plus all the social stories (this friend liked this, that friend commented on that)—the average user would get overwhelmed pretty fast. If users get overwhelmed and flock away from the platform in bulk, Facebook suddenly loses its “product,” and therefore its revenue.
This Can Be Good News
I know most people this affects think this is terrible news—the worst news ever for people who use Facebook for marketing. However, I feel very differently. I’m actually kind of excited about it. Here’s why:
It’s a Challenge
I have to step up my game to get my content seen. Bring it on; I’m ready.
Higher Quality Content
Sometimes I see some absolutely terrible content come across my newsfeed or monitoring tools. Some posts make me think, “Who on earth posted that and what was going through their head?”
Higher quality content will happen one of many ways: 1) terrible content just won’t be shown, 2) marketers will step up their games and post better content, or 3) people posting bad content and not seeing results will leave Facebook.
More Engaged Users
This is kind of hopeful on my part. If there’s less content clutter, and only higher quality content, engagement should increase, right? (Only if you’re putting out good content, of course.)
As a Facebook marketer, it’s hard for me to see businesses half-assing it on Facebook. If you want results, you have to invest (again, not just financially)! I’m hoping this Facebook change helps businesses see that it truly is a marketing investment, and if you’re not willing to invest appropriately, don’t bother at all.
Let’s agree to stop wasting our energy complaining about the drop in reach, and put that effort toward making great content that beats that 6% average mentioned in the Time article. Let’s look at Facebook as a marketing investment, not a free ride.
If you’re committed to using Facebook as a business driver—which may or may not make sense for your organization—we know what we’re doing. Get in touch
What Do You Think?
I know this post will spur different opinions in different people. I want to hear those opinions. Share them in the comments, or shoot me an email