Facebook Brand Reach Dwindling: What To Do Now

Facebook Brand Reach DwindlingAre managing your client’s brand page on Facebook and feel like you have done everything to share great content, but still not generating the level of engagement you were enjoying a few months back? You’re not alone. Facebook recently made changes to its algorithm and the reach of brand pages has been negatively affected. According to Jim Tobin, President of Ignite Social Media, “Ignite analysts reviewed 689 posts across 21 brand pages (all of significant size, across a variety of industries) and found that, in the week since December 1, organic reach and organic reach percentage have each declined by 44 percent on average, with some pages seeing declines as high as 88 percent. Only one page in the analysis had improved reach, which came in at 5.6 percent.”

He also noted that brand page reach is now often under 3%. About a year ago, Facebook contended brand page posts could potentially reach 16% of the brand fans. Ignite’s analysis shows that’s not the case any more. In fact, according to Ignite, the average post on popular brand pages reach only 2.5 percent of their fans. This is bad news for brands who have invested a lot of effort and resources building an audience on Facebook. We all know the importance of organic reach and that organic content and engaged fans is the holy grail when it comes to success at social media marketing. Organic has always produced better results than paid post. And who really wants to pay Facebook to boost posts with a best case scenario reach of 3%? At what point do brands just figure out that there’s got to be a better, more effective, more cost effective way?

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Facebook Changes And The Implications To Brands

Facebook stated recently that it’s necessary to favor “high quality articles” over “the latest meme” to keep users coming back. I think that’s a crock actually, and the latest in Facebook’s ever-changing methodology and quest to be even more profitable. High quality articles that have a reach of 3% don’t do much of anything for a brand, now do they? And sometimes, a Grumpy Cat photo is actually just what your brand’s fans want to see.

But what are the broader implications for brands? We all know Facebook is in business to make money. One way to increase revenue is to encourage brands to pay for reach. In the past, organic reach was based on EdgeRank. Simply put, this meant posts with the most number of likes, shares and comments received better position in the newsfeed. This encouraged brands to create high quality content that was more meaningful for their target audience. In addition, many now brands supplement their organic content with paid promoted posts. According to Tobin, it may now be harder for brands to justify paying for a promoted post when they still only reach such a small percentage of their audience – and one that they’ve worked hard and spent a lot of time and money building.

What to Do Now — Own Your Data

Brands need to seriously rethink their strategy when it comes to engaging with their audience. Social media has been great for brands in helping them reach more customers, deliver better customer service, identify influencers and the like and a host of other things. But whether you’re a large company or a small one, putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket is a risk. Nowadays, most brands use social media to promote their products and services and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. When those same companies rely only on social platforms, like Facebook, instead of creating and growing their own databases, there’s a disconnect in the marketing department’s strategy. You can spend a ton of money building a fan base on Facebook and other social media networks, but the reality is that you don’t OWN access to those fans. You don’t have access to their data, they’ve not opted into your email list and you don’t have any way of reaching them that’s not ultimately controlled by those social networks.

As an aside, this is where I think LinkedIn is so valuable. At least if you spend your efforts building a LinkedIn group you can interact with them (at no charge), you can market to them via emails and you can potentially get a lot of value out of the time, effort and money you spent building that group. Conversely, you can build a huge community on Facebook and not have any real access to them — other than by paying to promote your posts and/or advertise.

If you’re smart and using your power on Facebook to drive fans to opt in to a newsletter so that you can market to them outside of Facebook, that’s terrific. But in all too many instances, that’s not something we see that’s an integral part of a Facebook strategy. This is where we pause and pay our respects to MySpace, Friendster and GoogleWave. As those former greats remind us, it’s also really important to understand that the world, especially as it relates to the Web and technology, is constantly evolving and changing. What happens when you’ve not made any efforts to connect your Facebook (or any other social media) fans to you in a way that allows you to reach them, outside of the realm of the social network?

Use social media channels, by all means, but know that the greatest value they can provide you is when they can help you drive prospective customers to landing pages where you can convert them to leads, when they can drive traffic to your website or blog where they’ll find such good stuff that they can’t live without that they’ll opt into your enewsletters or, even better, fill out a contact form because they want whatever it is you’re serving up.

Conclusion

It’s hard to deny that it’s still important for brands to have a presence on Facebook with its 1.19 billion users, but will there come a time when Facebook strikes a balance between making users happy and rewarding brands’ efforts? Facebook should be looking out for brand marketers and business owners who want to use and leverage the site to grow their businesses, connect with their fans and, of course, sell stuff. After all, they’re the ones who buy advertising, spend money on campaigns and keep Facebook profitable. We agree with Jim when he said that the changes to the algorithm should be based on the strength of the brand’s content and not on the assumption that everyone suddenly wants to see more news articles in their newsfeed. I certainly don’t want to see news articles from brands, I want to see news articles from trusted news sources – don’t you?

I met Jim at Expion’s Social Summit this past fall and his presentation converted this data geek to an instant fan. He and his team are definitely one of our go-to resources for social media marketing insight and if you’re smart, you’ll stalk them on a regular basis. Here is Jim’s original post on this topic: Facebook Brand Pages Suffer 44% Decline Since December 1. Jim is also the author of Earn It. Don’t Buy It. The CMO’s Guide to Social Media in a Post Facebook World. If you’re a CMO and charged with integrating social into your marketing strategies, this is quite likely a must-read.

What’s going on for you on Facebook? Has the reach of your Facebook brand pages declined recently? What’s your take on the recent changes? Will the changes affect your marketing strategy and campaign plans for 2014?

Other resources on this topic:

Business Insider: Facebook Screws Social Media Marketers

AdAge: Facebook Admits Organic Reach is Falling Short, Urges Marketers to Buy Ads

SearchEngineWatch: Facebook Admits: Expect Organic Reach for Pages to Continue Declining

photo credit: rishibando via photopin cc

  • http://malharbarai.com/ Malhar Barai

    Great points about ‘Own Your Data’ Shelly!

    I had written on the same topic few days back and also feel that it would be disastrous for Facebook if it doesn’t go back to the drawing board and does something to improve the reach of the pages.

    The way it’s algorithm is running now, pages are seeing a drastic reduction in their reach and that could make brands jump to the next best platform.

  • http://janetfouts.com Janet Fouts

    One thing we’ve seen over and over is that promoting a post gets a big spike in post views, comments and even new likes, but after the promotion expires views of any new posts drop like a rock. The duration of this flat line varies from page to page but seems to be directly related to how engaged users were on that page before it was promoted.

    Bottom line that’s telling us NOT to promote posts on pages with good engagement. Probably not what Facebook was thinking would happen.

  • ShellyKramer

    Very interesting, Janet. And disheartening, really. We’ve done lots of promoted posts for clients in the past and quit doing them awhile back because of diminishing returns. But your data, re other views after a promo? Even more reason not to do it! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://blackbirdesolutions.com Bryan Coe

    Great post. I have been telling my clients to “own their data” for years. Social media sites and other trends come and go, but you need to get people to where you do your business and have control of the platform. Your website!

    Social media platforms are great ways to promote your business, but they are a tool not a all in one solution.

  • ShellyKramer

    Thanks Bryan! Preach it!!!!

  • http://www.cmchatlive.com/ Jessica Northey

    This has been very frustrating and made me almost want to quit my facebook brand page…HOWEVER even though my physical “engagement” on the page is down, my website traffic is way up and google analytics says 50% of traffic comes from facebook. Which is amazing. I am so frustrated.
    It’s such a your damned if you do, damned if you dont situation. Ughhhh

  • George Iovchev

    It’s disheartening, yes, but things are changing all the time…We’ll see!

  • ShellyKramer

    Those are great results, Jessica. I have a lot of traffic from Facebook, too, but I think we are different – I don’t have a brand page, I have a personal page with a lot of connections. Is that the same for you or are you speaking about your branded pages? Do you pay for promoted content on those branded pages (or even on your personal one?) I’d be curious to know that. In any event, lots of traffic coming to the site from FB is awesome. It also helps that you have a ton of friends and people who help support what you do. Makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it??

  • http://www.cmchatlive.com/ Jessica Northey

    It’s kinda frustrating cause the content for cmchatlive.com is ALL country, right…so I have to balance Country Music Content on my personal facebook page and then put all country music news updates on cmchat facebook page. I try to balance. I have done promoted posts on personal for country music stuff that makes sense, know what I mean. Then once and a blue moon I’ll spend a few dollars to promote a high profile chat on the branded page if there is a sponsor attached to it.

    I was all set to just quit facebook then my SEO/Google Analytics wiz friend pointed out that even though I wasn’t seeing “results” from all the time I was spending on the branded Cmchat Facebook page (like my personal page #s) that I was getting up to 50% traffic from it. The website is only 3 months old and I don’t really know what to compare “how were doing” to sell it to advertisers in the “universe of country music news blogs” I can say that we are 8th in Alexa ranking (in comparison to other CM News Blogs) coming in around 70,000 in the US. Which seems good and were doing better and better every day.

    It’s just a new thing for me. Having an Entertainment website focused on all things country with 6 writers is different from just “being jessica Northey who does cmchat” and doing fun content.

    I dont’ know. I’ll let you know when I figure ANY of this out! It is an interesting case study at any rate, I am thinking.
    anyways…..Love ya Shelly!

  • ShellyKramer

    I think that’s GREAT results from a new site, Jessica. Please let me know how I can help you – I didn’t realize you were doing this – and I’m all in whenever you need anything!!

  • http://www.cmchatlive.com/ Jessica Northey

    I’d LOVE to talk to you about this sometime. It’s a labor of love for sure. I kinda started this all backwards. #Cmchat, Twangout, Twitter, FB, G+ and never really had a website “home base”. I really should have know better, but I didn’t know what I wanted all of “this” to be. It’s kinda been a dream in motion. So I am trying to bring it all together. I’ll facebook you some stuff. XO

  • Julie Pippert

    As you know I’ve been beating this drum for a while, but also I think my overarching goals within social media are more means than end anyway. Still, I’ve been working on organic methods that have improved somewhat though can’t really exceed that new average reach. Nevertheless, this combined with other efforts has generated conversion success.

    I am so glad you wrote this and yes, 100% drive to landing pages and conversions (love that paragraph).

    So to answer: yes, I’ve seen this, but I have adjusted and yes do have new plans that are evolving in 2014.

  • Julie Pippert

    Janet I’m curious if you have any comparison data between promoted posts and advertised ones. I’ve found more promise in advertised but admit I use it in a very limited way, usually for events.

  • Fran Stephenson

    Shelley: thank you for making sense of all this for me and many others. I have a handful of FB pages I manage for clients and the effect of this has completely run the gamut. I have one client with engagement scores which are normally in the 5-8% range and their numbers have dropped like a rock. On the other hand, I have another client with average engagement scores in the 11-17% range who has had enormous jumps in December, the same timeframe in which the analysis was conducted. They have always had high engagement, and December is a peak time for them (for many reasons too numerous to share here) but last month they had at least 6 posts which reached engagement scores of higher than 30%. This was a real shocker to me, because I have been watching this issue the past 90 days so I was not expecting anything but losses for this particular client. Those are my best and worst case scenarios of my bunch, but counseling clients to move to more of their owned media is really hard. Some feel it’s a commitment as big as the Grand Canyon and with finite resources, they are not ready to jump. I hope we can move them in the right direction as the year unfolds.

  • Jacquie Fisher

    I belong to a few blogging groups and we’ve all discussed how FB reach has decreased over the past few months. And it’s so sporadic – you really can’t get a good read on whether a photo post vs. a photo with a link post will get a better reach. It seems that pages with smaller followings have a larger reach (percentage-wise) but then as your page grows, your reach decreases.

    Personally, I think FB has made an error on their end in that the ‘Like’ button no longer has a significant meaning — it seems to be more of a fleeting like rather than an endorsement of the brand or brand’s page. Yes, I along with many of my colleagues have diversified a great deal with regards to social media. Having more direct and consistent access to our community is one of our goals for the coming year so we will continue to work across social media platforms along with continuing to build & use our newsletter lists.

  • http://www.baldhiker.com/ Paul Steele

    Great points Shelly, love how you always get everything across concisely and we always come away with something.

    I have always been wary of FB and the more I see of this the more I stay convinced every network is not a basket for throwing all ones eggs in :)
    A tool for promotion, a tool for networking, a tool for connection with friends etc.

    Times will change with every network every few months. Brands will throw thousands at one and ride the wave while its up but I find they all ebb and flow until the end readers get saturated with rubbish and crave for something fresh. I am one of those that believes that the only reason FB is still big is that it was the first for people to get ALL their friends on and the only place they can keep that without losing many connections as ALL their friends won’t change to the same network.

    P

  • http://theryancox.com/ Ryan Cox

    Reach has definitely changed, and Jim + his team are people that absolutely get it. I look forward to talking about Facebook marketing in general with you more offline.

  • http://janetfouts.com Janet Fouts

    Julie,
    I’ll have to do a case study on that. It really is confounding.

  • http://brianvickery.com/ Brian Vickery

    Pinning and stumbling this one, Shelly. I am *REALLY* rethinking my Facebook Fan Page strategy. We are B2B anyway – with a software development, BI, and social monitoring focus – so our target audience would rarely be wearing their “business hat” while on Facebook. And our very limited reach plummeted further after the recent algorithm changes.

    I’m probably going to continue growing our Google+ presence, and I *REALLY* need to bump up our LinkedIn presence. I’ve been resistant to it because I rarely go to LinkedIn to consume content…I prefer Twitter/Google+/RSS feeds of great blogs like yours.

    Speaking of blogs – I’ll continue to build out our own blog presence. Have a nice backlog, but still working through the “review process” with some folks.

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  • ShellyKramer

    Sorry for the delayed response, Jeff, and I absolutely agree. We collectively ignored the obvious for too long. At least many marketers have. I’ve never understood putting so many eggs in the Facebook basket – but now people who have done that and expected a lot for nothing are getting, really, kind of what they deserve. It all goes back to the “if it’s free, you’re the product” so while FB fine-tuned algos and the like and brands and small businesses went along for the ride, the inevitable happened. Facebook needed to make money – which is what any businesses’ goal should be. Looking forward to reading your post.

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  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    An interesting post. We need to be less reliant on social media. I guess that comes down to developing your own websites and not forgetting about real-life personal interactions outside of the social-media space.

  • ShellyKramer

    I agree with you there :)

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