In early 2014, Marshall Manson predicted Facebook Zero in his widely circulated paper Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach. If there was ever a question about if or when this would actually occur, algorithm updates announced by Facebook earlier this week seem to be the answer.
What are the updates?
Facebook announced three changes with the latest algorithm updates:
- To improve the experience for people who do not have a lot of content available to see, users may now see multiple posts from the same source in the News Feed.
- Because people have expressed a concern with missing updates from friends, the photos, videos, and links from friends will now appear higher up in the News Feed with news from pages you interact with ranking next in priority.
- Because of the prioritizations listed in #2, stories about friends liking or commenting on posts will now appear lower down in the News Feed, or not at all.
While this shift back to prioritizing friends and their content is aimed at improving user experience, the knock on effects for brands are undesirable, to say the least.
What are the implications for brands?
On the question about how this will affect pages, Facebook has said, “The impact of these changes on your page’s distribution will vary considerably depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity. In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline.”
Or in more direct terms, do not expect any organic reach to those outside of the current fan base; and unless fans consistently engage, they are unlikely to see content from pages they have followed.
The outcome: Facebook has become another paid channel for brands, even to ensure reach within the existing community base.
How should brands now use Facebook?
As stated in Manson’s Facebook Zero paper, the end of organic reach requires a shift in brands’ approach to Facebook. He writes:
Previously, brands were using “owned” to fuel “earned”. Going forward, they’ll need to use “paid” to fuel “earned,” but that doesn’t make the earned any less valuable. Success will require deploying paid differently – in smaller increments of both target audience and spend, and optimizing in real-time to ensure that spend is efficient and effective.
Remember, the power in Facebook has always been its potency to generate earned conversation and engagement. The requirement to now distribute content via paid should not change that. If content is interesting and engaging enough, people will react and pass it on.