Recently, it came out that Facebook plans to decrease the organic reach of Facebook pages in an effort to boost ad revenue. They say it’s to improve the experience in the newsfeed, but let’s not kid ourselves, this is about ad revenue.
Even though a brand may have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to acquire those Likes in the first place, the business will need to set aside more money for ads in the future to reach those people.
These changes will supposedly result in a newsfeed experience with more posts from friends and family, and less from brands (that don’t buy ads).
What Facebook Wants To Happen
Brands everywhere will realize that the rules have changed and begin buying ads to acquire likes, ads to promote content, and start creating video content for the new autoplay video ads coming to Facebook.
Social Media Managers will make the case for a Facebook ad budget and will strategically boost the most important posts through sponsored updates.
Users will rejoice that they see more of their friends and family in the newsfeed, pay no attention to the fact that the brands they chose to follow are invisible, and will ultimately accept the intrusion of ads as a necessary evil of an otherwise “free” platform.
Hooray! Stock prices soar, investors smile!
Brands get mad because of the time, money and effort already spent creating a stream of relevant content for their audience. They may have even hired a community manager. Now, in addition to paying that person’s salary, they now have to purchase ads.
Social Media Managers are frustrated because it’s no longer about content or knowing how to game the Facebook algorithm, as Facebook had been training them do all along. They are left wondering what they are supposed to do. The smart ones ultimately realize that Facebook is not worth the time and effort and encourage their brands to go elsewhere.
Users begin to wonder why they don’t see anything from certain pages. They remember hitting the like button but never see anything in the newsfeed. This leads to less Likes for brand pages, which means less data for brands to use in targeting ads. In the meantime, the number of ads that users are exposed to increases, but because they are less relevant, effectiveness of the ads decreases and users begin to feel bombarded by ads, making networks with less advertising seem more attractive.
Here’s what could happen
I have a theory of how to deal with this so that everyone wins…maybe even Facebook.
How Brands Win: Become a Social Business
Post your last message on the Facebook page to the effect of:
“Facebook has decided to decrease the reach of Facebook pages. This means that we are being forced to buy ads to reach you, even though you have chosen to hear from us. We will not be extorted, or force our way into your news feeds through ads. If you want to hear from us, please follow us on ________ or subscribe to our email newsletter here: http://yournewsletter.com”
After that, brands should cease all posts on Facebook immediately. Do not purchase $1 worth of ads. Choose another platform that doesn’t restrict organic reach. Or best case scenario, start that company blog.
Next, encourage all employees to go on Facebook as themselves. Recognize that your people are your best asset and are the pathway to the greatest social reach.
Ensure everyone knows what the company goals are, and provide both a policy and a strategy in simple straightforward terms for all employees. Create an internal stream of content that employees can choose to share.
- Provide guidance and encouragement, NOT control.
- Advocate for employees to BE SOCIAL, connect with other people, and leverage their networks to accomplish tasks and find information.
- Open up the company to be more transparent and connected.
- Invest money in giving employees what they need to succeed, rather than ads.
Profiles will not be affected by the changes to Facebook pages other than potentially getting additional reach. So lean on your people that are willing to use their profiles for the benefit of the company.
How Social Media Managers Win: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken
Social Media Managers finally get the ability to be themselves instead of a nameless, faceless, corporate logo. This allows community managers to build their own brand while simultaneously helping their employer.
How Users Win: Less brands, less ads, more people
If brands do their job and don’t purchase ads, and instead mobilize their people, users should expect the volume of ads to decrease dramatically. Furthermore, the number of posts by friends and family should increase. Finally, Facebook can once again become a SOCIAL network as people can interact with people instead of logos as brands shift their strategy towards their people, instead of their corporate brand pages.
How Facebook Wins: Forced Integrity
Well…in the short term, they don’t. As their ad play backfires, Facebook is forced to reconsider its monetization strategy. But the best lessons are often the hardest to swallow. Facebook has become the epitome of a short-sighted, public company. Every new update is simply a money grab, and often at the expense of one, or more, of their key stakeholders. Once Facebook went public, shareholders replaced all other stakeholders.
The users are still the only real asset that Facebook has and with all of the other alternatives that currently exist for us to connect with one another, Facebook would be wise to learn their lesson now. Luckily as brand interactions decrease and user interactions increase, Facebook can relish in their status as a SOCIAL network and perhaps take some comfort in the fact that they have helped the world become more “open and connected,” even in spite of their own efforts to the contrary.