Facebook dropped a bombshell by not only acknowledging that Facebook pages’ organic reach was declining but also by telling us we shouldn’t expect them to recover. Facebook’s VP of Product for Facebook Ads, Brian Boland, went on to explain that this is the new world we live in now, that the same thing happened with search engines before and that we’d better get used to it. It’s true that many platforms go through a similar cycle: first, they present a great free opportunity, then more and more people grab it - decreasing the return for everyone until finally, the platform focuses on those ready to pay for play. It happened with Google Search; it happened with Apps (yes, Apple doesn’t sell ads but others do - such as coincidentally... Facebook). And now that all social media are publicly-traded company with ambitious revenue targets to reach, it will happen to social media as well.
So what does the decline of organic reach on Facebook and social platforms exactly mean on a practical basis?
What Boland explains in his post is that more and more brands, businesses and people compete for an attention span which is limited: yes, the time each of us spends on Facebook significantly grew over the last few years but at a much lower rate than the amount of content that we collectively published over there. The result is that every time they log onto Facebook, “there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed” and that the Facebook algorithm mercilessly filters.
What are Facebook’s News Feed filters based on then?
Yes, you’ve heard that before from Google with the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms, right? This is all about pushing the top stories - based on a lot of criteria (“thousands” according to Boland).
(Note: Mark Schaefer made an interesting observation that this is all part of Content Shock - a trend that makes content's impact dilute over time as more people embrace it and that he reported on earlier this year generating a lot of reactions including mine.)
So what can we do about the decline of organic reach on Facebook?
Given an existing reach, the impact we get from social media publishing is the combination of our posts’:
On Facebook, you will clearly see that in the insights of your page but it’s also true on Twitter and whichever social platform you’re looking at using to generate some impact.
Faced with decreasing reach, some could be tempted to solve the equation through a high-volume/low-quality solution but what Facebook’s post means is that you can’t compromise on quality otherwise your content will be buried in the 1,500 stories and never make the cut.
In short, publishing more crap will yield no results.
This leaves us with 2 choices (or the combination of both):
1 - increase volume and quality at the same time;
2 - increase engagement.
As our recent study on its impact for professionals show, content curation is a great way of achieving #1: by leveraging what you already do (read great content; have expertise), by combining it with content curation technology that helps you identify more without spending too much time searching the Web and by making it easy to publish it to all the social networks you want to maintain, platforms like Scoop.it help a lot. As the study showed, 88% of professionals surveyed said that content curation helped them finding the time to publish content while 65% said it improved their SEO rankings.
But let’s also look at #2.
When Facebook (or Twitter) define engagement, they always look at the engagement on Facebook (or Twitter). They define it by the number of likes, re-shares, retweets, favorites, clicks, etc… This is good but to me it’s too restrictive.
Social Media engagement does not only happen on the social network itself. Resharing a link you found on Facebook to Twitter is engagement. But commenting a blog post you found through Twitter is also engagement. Subscribing to this blog is again engagement. Generating leads of all forms is engagement and - as more and more content experts like Barry Feldman point out - one of the best ways to measure the impact of your content.
Ask yourself the question: what’s better for you? That someone likes one of your picture on Facebook or that she subscribes to your blog’s newsletter?
So while optimizing engagement on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ should definitely remain an imperative for anyone who publishes on social media and want to get results, thinking of engagement only in the context of these platforms is doomed.
In short (and as I was highlighting through the slides below in a talk last week): sharing is not enough; you need a content hub.
I don’t care how much you tweet, if you’re just tweeting links, you’re missing out.
Your content is short-lived (the lifetime of a tweet is in minutes; a few hours at best).
You have no or limited opportunity to provide context.
You drive your audience away from you; not to your own site.
No opportunity to convert.
No opportunity to show related content.
No traffic from search.
By having a content hub, now things are totally different:
Your curated content is now archived somewhere and can be discovered and re-shared in the future (I regularly see people tweet my Scoop.it-hosted content months after I published it; this for instance links back to this scoop - published 2 months earlier).
Extra perk if you’re a business: having individuals re-share your content on Facebook has a lot of value since the Facebook News Feed algorithm prioritized people over pages.
Your curated content receives targeted traffic from search (on average 40% on Scoop.it topics).
Even through a simple aggregation but of course all the more if you add specific commentary to your content, you will show more and better context making your content more engaging for the audience you target.
You can add conversion & engagement CTA’s (subscribe, contact me, request a demo, book services, etc...).
Facebook’s move is the end of an illusion: the thought that all we needed was a Facebook page and some cool pictures that made people like us or our businesses. While there will always be example of people succeeding this way, this will now be harder and harder for the rest of us.
Social Media Publishing as we knew it is dead.
But by using curation technology to publish on social-and-search-friendly content hubs, you can not just maintain your social presence: better yet, you can make an impact with it.