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Do Facebook Likes Still Matter?

Organic reach on Facebook is declining.

It’s been the discussion point for marketers using social media since the beginning of the year and by now you’re probably familiar with the issue.

If you’re not, here’s a quick catch-up for you: organic reach on Facebook (the number of people who see your content with no advertising) has dropped to just 6%. That means of those 10,000 Facebook fans on your Page that you’ve spent all this time collecting, only 600 of them on average will see what you post.

To reach the rest of them, you’ll need to advertise and promote your content. Facebook organic reach is expected to fall further and many analysts are predicting it will be almost zero by the end of the year. This means no one will see your content unless you pay to promote it.

To me, this raises a big question…

What does this mean for Facebook Page Likes?

Brands have spent plenty of time (and in the majority of cases, money) trying to grow the number of Page Likes they have. That’s because more Likes = more people seeing your content. Right? The people that Like your Page are the ones that see your content and hopefully share it so others see it too. Even with organic reach where it is now, 6% of 100,000 fans will give you more views than 6% of 10,000 fans.

But if organic reach keeps on reducing, particularly if it does end up at zero, what is the point of having Facebook Likes on your Page at all? It seems as if they’ll become largely redundant. If the vast majority of people that have liked your Page won’t see your content organically, then why does it matter how many Page Likes you have? 0% of 100 Likes is the same as 0% of 1,000,000. If you have to promote your content for anyone to see it, then doesn’t it make more sense to put your entire Facebook budget into post promotion rather than increasing Likes?

If you’re advertising to increase Page Likes, you could spend £1,000 on the campaign and at around 30p per Like you’d gain 3,000-3,500 new fans. That only translates to an additional organic reach of about 200 people. Not a great return from £1,000.

So should we give up on trying to increase Page Likes at all and just focus solely on promoting content, even if it’s a brand new Page with zero likes? You’re going to have to advertise to get your content seen anyway, so why pay to increase Likes only to pay again to serve them the content? Isn’t it better just to cut out the middle part and just pay to promote your content directly from the off?

There’s definitely an argument to be had for this approach. You could in theory have a Page with no Likes but spend your entire budget on promoting your posts and you’d be getting your content out there directly in people’s News Feeds. You’d reach significantly more people within your budget through this approach. And really, that’s the main reason you’re on Facebook, to get your content seen.

So why do Facebook Likes still matter?

A key reason for still wanting to have Likes on your Page is for social validation. If we perceive something as liked by others, we are likely to have a better view of it. This particularly helps if the user isn’t familiar with your brand; they might check out your Page to find out more about you and, if they see a large number of Likes, perceive you as more established and trusted brand supported by a higher number of fans.

What’s more, social context helps to make ads more effective. Facebook admitted (if a leaked document counts as an admission) that brands should now think of fan acquisition as a way to make advertising more effective: social context helps increase engagement and reduce costs.

If we’re looking at fan acquisition as a way of increasing advertising effectiveness, then a major strength of having plenty of fans on your Page is Facebook’s soon-to-be-released Audience Insightsfeature, as well as the existing ability to create a Custom Audience based on people who Like your Page.

These tools will help you advertise to the right kind of people through highly targeted campaigns. By creating tailored campaigns, whether the objective is to increase Likes or promote content, hopefully you’ll be able to attract a more engaged audience. And this is the key.

It is far better to have a smaller, more engaged audience than a huge Page that no one is interested in. While this has always been the case it is now even more important, as Pages with highly engaged users and good quality content are still seeing higher reach than the average. Many newspapers for example, which are creating a constant stream of high quality content, have actually seen organic reach increase this year. Meanwhile, for Pages with over 500,000 Likes the average organic reach has fallen to just 2% compared with the 6% Facebook average.

What should you do?

So, I will try and sum this up with a tidy answer…

Do Facebook Likes still matter? Yes. For now. But less than they did before.
Should you still advertise to get Facebook Likes? Yes. For now. But less than you did before.

If you have a Facebook Page, you’ve got to have an advertising strategy to go with your content strategy. You’re wasting your time if you’re not promoting your content. But, Facebook Likes are still useful; you just have to get the balance right. If I was given a budget of £1,000 to spend on promoting a new Facebook Page, I’d assign 25% of that to gaining page Likes and 75% to promoting content. The more you can grow your Likes organically, for example by promoting your Facebook Page on your website and traditional advertising, the better.

Keep an eye on how the level of organic reach changes though, because in a few months it could be an entirely different story.

If you found this interesting, we’d love to hear from you. Tweet us @TheHPSGroup with your thoughts on the recent Facebook changes.

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