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Can Marketers Keep Facebook Free?

One of the most frustrating aspects of social media marketing for businesses of all types and sizes - particularly those managing their Facebook Pages -  is that a small percentage of people who have indicated interest in them actually see what they post (articles, images, announcements, etc.).

They have earned the Likes, but cannot get their content to those people (without paying for the exposure). Facebook has its reasons - almost anything can be explained away under the ambiguity of "quality control" and "too much content" - but more than ever, Page admins are experiencing record low levels of organic reach.
facebook-despair
Social@Ogilvy reported the rapid decline of organic reach a few years ago. By Feb. 2014, organic reach for Pages with more than 500,000 Likes was a measly 2.11 percent. Its prediction of "Facebook Zero" is panning out. Since then, Facebook has made myriad updates to its News Feed algorithms such as ranking friends' posts higher than Pages, which causes a further decline in reach and referral traffic. On top of that, publishers continue to see their already dismal organic reach be cut in half. In other words, Facebook is now a paid marketing channel.

Despite Facebook working against Page admins looking to capitalize on the organic benefits of the social network, some savvy marketers are finding ways to keep Facebook free (we suggest reading, "Social Strategies for Time-Strapped Marketers").

As part of Website Magazine's upcoming social media feature in our September issue (subscribe now to get the issue delivered to your inbox or mailbox), our editors interviewed Yellowball Marketing Manager Jessie Moore to get her thoughts on organic reach and strategies for social. For your benefit, we've included the transcript below:

When it comes to organic reach on Facebook, what trends are you seeing?

Jessie Moore, Marketing Manager at Yellowball: By far the most prevalent trend to have dominated the Facebook landscape of late is video. There has been an immense shift in our news feeds, from a heavily image and text based display to the intense proliferation of video. It’s simple: brands who have embraced this trend are the ones eschewing a dip in organic reach and engagement.

The trouble is that a lot of small businesses hear the word ‘video’ and despair. Many brands avoid adopting this trend due to a misconception that it requires high production values and therefore an extravagant budget. How many videos on your news feed display these attributes? Some of the most successful videos are shot off the cuff with smart phones or in the living room at home. Videos posted for organic reach should be first and foremost about the content, not the production value.

Although a contradiction to the topic of organic reach, we simply have to mention the increasing shift toward paid reach. Too much content and too little space, combined with the more cynical realization that Facebook ultimately wants your money, has resulted in a trend for paid advertising. If Facebook advertising is not already a key part of your social media strategy then you are missing a trick. It doesn’t mean that organic reach is no longer important or necessary; rather, a healthy combination of the two is the most effective method of leveraging the marketing potential of Facebook.

Many brands are experiencing dismal organic reach; what advice do you have for increasing organic reach on the social networks?

Moore: As more and more businesses have realized the marketing power harbored in the use of social media, there has been an over-saturation of content. Too many businesses competing for visibility has pushed Facebook to be more selective of the content it shows to users. The result is a greater emphasis on relevancy.

This means that brands need to be more tuned in to what their customers want to see. No more posting for the sake of it; quality over quantity will win the relevancy game. Businesses need to adopt an agile approach to their social media strategies, being in a constant state of trialing and adapting. Paying very close attention to what works is absolutely key if brands want to elevate their organic content above the competition.

We have all seen an overall decline in organic reach as Facebook has tweaked its algorithms over the past few years. However, this does not mean that achieving high levels of organic reach and engagement is no longer possible. It just requires a little extra thought and consideration to ensure that content is carefully curated and the best it can be in terms of what the users want to see.

Do you have any predictions for the future of organic reach on some of the most popular networks?

Moore: The two key trends of 2017, video and a shift toward pay to play, will continue to dominate. Unless there is a sudden and dramatic decrease in the amount of content being posted to social media (unlikely) then over-saturation of content will continue to be a problem. Facebook will be more selective over the organic content that gets seen and the focus will increasingly be on quality and relevancy, much like their big competitor Google just the other side of the tracks.

+ Editor's Recommended Reading: Ranking on Link-Less Channels

If more brands begin to realize the importance of integrating paid advertising into their strategies then it could mean that the overall cost of social media advertising increases. It’s not all about budget though. Facebook ultimately wants to provide the best possible experience for its users and that means only showing them what they want to see. Brands who use social media with the user persistently at the forefront of everything they do are the ones who will see results.

What new strategies or social networks are you intrigued by and why?

Moore: The one to watch in the world of social media marketing is Stories. Originating on Snapchat and successfully adopted by Instagram (Facebook not so much), Stories represent a new way for brands to interact with their customers. Brand personality is more important than ever before and Stories offer a way of building more intimate relations with social media users and providing continuous content updates.

Stories provide customers the chance to gain behind-the-scenes insights into their favorite brands. They have also become integral to influencer marketing, particularly on Instagram. Influencers are more inclined to include shameless product plugs in their stories so that their feeds do not become saturated with sponsored content. Plus, with the ability to utilize photo, Boomerang, video, filters, drawings, stickers and links (only for verified accounts), the creative freedom is tempting and alluring to both users and businesses alike.

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