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Is Facebook Alienating Brands?

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Late last Friday, Facebook announced that starting in January any promotional posts from brands would receive zero organic reach. So if your brand is hosting a sweepstakes or driving customers to a sale or asking users to install an app, you need to be prepared to pay your way into your fans’ News Feeds. The press used a clever picture of Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, shrugging her shoulders as if to say “sorry, not sorry” – but in reality, this has been trending this way for months.

Social@Ogilvy released a study earlier this year showing that organic post reach had declined substantially after a publicized algorithm change. It appears our prediction was correct. Recent reports say that most organic posts are already reaching only 1-2% of your fan base. Therefore, the cut isn’t that deep – just two percent.  However, brands will certainly need to adjust their social strategy based on this for three key reasons:

  1. Despite promises to the contrary, consumers stand to be overwhelmed with too many brands buying their way in to their News Feeds. Many users feel that way already. But let’s be fair, since most people are just scrolling through the feed on their phones, it is not that cumbersome to just swipe right by something you aren’t interested in.
  2. With more demand on ad inventory, ad prices will definitely increase. They already have in many competitive ad unit instances.
  3. There are plenty of other social platforms to choose from and engage an audience. For example, we already know that Pinterest drives more sales than other channels for many brands. And they are just about to make promotion a lot easier.

Forrester also suggested that brands reconsider their strategy based on such low engagement across key platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  In fact, they go as far to suggest that those channels should be used primarily for customer relationship management, rather than engagement (or advertising) . They also tease a return to increasing engagement on websites. That begs the question: should we be “fishing where the fish are?”

In addition to adjusting your overall strategy, this is also a reason to reevaluate how you are measuring success for social media. We’ve always believed that the objectives should be no different than your overall marketing goals , demonstrating how social contributes to awareness, traffic and sales. Perhaps these changes at Facebook (and beyond) force the conversation beyond increasing likes and more about activating and engaging advocates.

As a personal Facbeook user, one thing I wish Facebook would do is ask users what brands they want to hear from. I hate that I see promoted posts from some brands just because a distant friend likes it, but I see nothing from J. Crew and Anthropologie – brands that I have purposefully liked because I DO want to see what’s new. I guess that is what Instagram is for. (And there’s the problem for Facebook.)

Image source: ansonalex.com

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