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Should Brands Abandon Facebook?
Posted on July 25th 2014
My answer to this rhetorical question is yes - unless you are willing to rethink your Facebook strategy and spend money to sponsor your company page posts. While you do not have to spend a large sum of money, my experience has shown that Facebook organic reach is rapidly diminishing and it is almost not worth the effort to continue with the "free lunch" approach.
This post is based on a couple of articles that I read recently, and my experience with B2B brands where engaging customers is typically harder than with consumer brands and where the number of followers are generally lower and lMy answer to this rhetorical question is yes - unless you are willing to rethink your Facebook strategy and spend money to sponsor your company page posts. While you do not have to spend a large sum of money, my experience has shown that Facebook organic reach is rapidly diminishing and it is almost not worth the effort to continue with the "free lunch" approach.
As noted in an article titled "Facebook Puts Everyone on Notice about the Death of Organic Reach" by Ewan Spence in Forbes.com last month, the conclusion was that "the free ride and access to Facebook’s user base is coming to an end." Ewan also referenced an article from Social@Ogilvy that proves the point in a dramatic way. Ogilvy has analyzed the organic reach of 100 brand pages on Facebook and identified that the average organic reach has dropped from 12% in October 2013 to 6% in February 2014. Based on this trend line, the organic reach should be near zero by the end of 2014.
In the accompanying whitepaper, Facebook Zero, Ogilvy notes that the "power in Facebook remains its potency to generate earned (organic) conversation and engagement", and concludes that you should not over commit to a single social platform while offering specific recommendations for action based on the "new world order" in the Facebook channel. Anyone interested in maintaining their edge in social media needs to read this whitepaper.
Real Life Experience
In my experience over the last 2 1/2 years for managing the social media accounts for a $1 billion staffing company, I have had a first hand view into the declining reach of Facebook - especially when compared with the rising influence of LinkedIn Company Pages. Since I have been analyzing my analytics every week during this period, I had a front row seat able to the steady decline. For both LinkedIn and Facebook, I was posting at least 5 times per week - and both accounts had increasing numbers of Followers. In March 2013, the number of impressions were fairly close for both channels. But over the next 15 months, impressions in the Facebook channel dropped by half while the impressions in the LinkedIn Company Page channel increased by nearly 4 times.
So, What Should Brands Do?
The short answer is to "pay up" as it is becoming clear that efforts to achieve organic or free traffic from Facebook is probably not worth the effort any longer. And if you really want to reach and engage your most loyal customers and potential prospects, you will have to pay. If you are not willing to pay up, then I recommend that brands refocus their efforts on the LinkedIn Company Page channel or other social channels, and de-emphasize the efforts for Facebook.
In an experiment where I spent just $10 of my own money to sponsor two different Facebook posts in two consecutive months, I proved that paying even a little can have a dramatic impact on overall reach. In the 2 months where I did my testing, I spent $5 to sponsor 1 of 20 or so total posts for that month. My experiment yielded a paid reach that was 3.5 times more than total monthly organic reach and paid impressions that were 4.7 times more than the total monthly organic reach.
Imagine what you could do with even a relatively small budget and sponsored several paid posts each month! At the very least, knowledgeable social media managers need to understand the new dynamics of the Facebook channel and recognize that they should run their own experiments to see what works best for their brands and their budget.