WHOSE AUDIENCE IS IT, ANYWAY?
For years we told our customers and clients to “like us on Facebook,” “follow us on Twitter,” or “find us on Instagram.” Social media gave us an inexpensive way to reach millions of people. But, now we should each be asking ourselves, “Can we trust social media as a means for reaching that audience?”
#SMMW18 Puts the nail in the coffin
In February, during his keynote presentation at Social Media Marketing World (SMMW), Michael Stelzner told attendees this is the end of the organic road on Facebook.
Of course, he was referring to the fallout from Facebook’s January 11th News Feed Algorithm announcement. Stelzner shared research conducted by Social Media Examiner and the trends it uncovered.
He shared a graphic, showing average Facebook organic (unpaid) reach for business pages has steadily declined from 26% in 2011 to just 0.5% in 2017. That means, seven years ago, a business page with 1,000 likes could expect an organic post to reach 260 followers. Today, that same post, published by that same business page may only reach five people.
Organic has been dying a slow death for years, and very few businesses owners even noticed.
BLOOD IN THE WATER
Those of us who work in digital marketing communications have seen the blood in the water.
Facebook marketing expert, Mari Smith, was one of the industry leaders predicting the death of organic for many years. As far back as 2009, Smith said, “When the marketers move in, the members move out.”
Four years ago, John Battelle published an article entitled To be clear: Do not build your brand on land you don’t own. The article was highlighted in an episode of Content Marketing Institute’s podcast “This Old Marketing”.
At Sharing the Good, Inc., we published an article last year detailing Facebook’s trial run of an alternative news feed for organic posts from businesses. In it, we recommended building up owned assets like websites, publications, and subscriber lists. We also suggested strengthening two-way relationships with target audiences to discover their needs and desires.
THE SHARK IS OUT OF THE CAGE
This year, however, the buzz at SMMW18 wasn’t based on trends, fear or speculation. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, lit the fire himself.
In January, Zuckerberg said the following:
- “One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.”
- “public content—posts from businesses, brands and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”
- “News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do—help us connect with each other.”
- “…passively reading articles or watching videos—even if they’re entertaining or informative—may not be as good [for us].”
- “…we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook.”
- “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
- “The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
- “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
- “I expect time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”
WHAT DOES “MEANINGFUL INTERACTIONS” ACTUALLY MEAN?
To understand why Facebook is making these changes, read this short blog article. For an expanded view of the two years that led to the changes, read this from Wired. From Zuckerberg’s announcement, it’s important to highlight his use of the phrase “meaningful interactions.” At SMMW18, Stelzner clarified what Facebook means by “meaningful interactions.”
“Meaningful interactions” occur between people, not people and business pages.
- A person commenting on or liking another person’s photo or status update
- A person reacting to a post from a publisher that a friend has shared
- Multiple people replying to each other’s comments on a video they watched or an article they read in News Feed
- A person sharing a link over messenger to start a conversation with a group of friends
- Interactions are longer comments and conversations, rather than one to three-word responses.
Since its January announcement, Facebook has already seen time spent on the platform drop by 50 million hours per day. With organic reach plummeting near zero, the line between social media and social media advertising is all but gone. Facebook is now officially “pay to play.” Businesses who can afford to do so, will continue to see increasing ad rates. Cost per impression (CPM) rose 171%, and cost per click on Facebook ads rose 136% in 2017. The rest of us have a very difficult question to ask ourselves: Can we trust Facebook again?
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
During his keynote address, Stelzner said, “We have been obsessed about numbers and exposure for too long.”
And that’s not all.
Over the past decade, businesses and the marketers within them, made a big mistake. And now they’re paying for it. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reminded us that the audience we built and the content we published on their channel is NOT ours to own. Social media is earned media and paid media. Businesses now have audiences of thousands with no easy way to reach them, unless they can afford to pay. What began as an affordable way to reach a new audience has become an unwinnable war against the social media giant. Their mistake was thinking Facebook—or any social media channel—was theirs. It’s not. And it’s no longer a secret.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW?
For businesses that want to maintain an active presence on Facebook, they have options. They can invest more heavily in paid ads. And focus on video–live video, in particular–where posts see six times the views as standard posts. They can shift their efforts to Facebook community groups, where engagement is shown to be higher. Episodic video shows promising potential. Stelzner would say they should focus on building relationships and on inspiring “meaningful interactions” with a smaller, more relevant and engaged audience. Mari Smith and the folks at the Content Marketing Institute believe organizations should think like a publisher, and look to give their audience value first, pursuing business second.
But, what about the rest of the businesses? The small businesses with minimal advertising budgets? The nonprofit organizations with no marketing staff?
Looking back at the final morning of SMMW18, the Friday keynote focused on Facebook Messenger Bots: An Alternative Future for Marketers and Creators. The panel included Molly Pittman, Mikael Yang (ManyChat), Andrew Yaroshevsky (Chatfuel), and Linda Lee (Facebook Messenger). However, the highlight for many came during the Q&A session that followed.
An attendee asked Lee the question on the minds of many of us for years. He asked, “Given everything we heard in Michael Stelzner’s opening keynote regarding the 2018 industry trends, why should we trust Facebook again?”
And it’s a question you should ask yourself now if you’re still using Facebook as your only online marketing channel.
To discuss strategically leveraging your website, email, social media and events, call us today at (312) 802-6139.