Facebook posted an entry on its Facebook Studio blog last week refuting the accusation from two WPP advertising executives that Facebook intentionally manipulates brand posts on user news feeds. The executives intimated that the squeezing of brand reach was intentioned to promote paid options for posting. In response to that specific question, Facebook wrote:
“While we make changes to news feed occasionally, the fundamental way it works has not changed.”
Or interpreted less adroitly (in an indignant tone that implies “no”):
Yes, but we’ve been doing it all along so why are you making a big deal about it now?
And I agree with Facebook’s tone in their post – it’s surprising that advertising executives are just now finding out what pretty much anyone with a Facebook Page has understood all along. You need a massive audience to make the exceptionally inefficient Facebook Page work for you. Or you need to pay to advertise on the platform.
The fifth stage of grief: acceptance
Every business should know the following (IMHO):
- As high as 99% of fans may not engage your Facebook page (source)
- Organic (free) posts are seen by less than 16% of your fans…. (source)
- Engagement decreases up to 67% when posts are originated from a third party platform (source)
- Percentage reach may decrease as your fan base grows (source)
- There is evidence that Facebook is significantly hindering the capability for organic (free) posts to go viral (source)
Here’s Facebook’s elaboration on the reach problem (from the above referenced post):
“To address the fact that not everyone sees every single message from a friend or a Page, Facebook offers ads to businesses to help them increase the likelihood that people will see their message in their news feed…”
You may find slightly different statistics or stories, but this is reality of managing a brand presence on Facebook.
A grown-up conversation about digital budgeting
The mythology that brand pages will be a efficient marketing platform or customer service vehicle for the discount price of elbow grease and moxy is false. The preponderance of evidence of Facebook’s inefficiency is overwhelming, capped by Facebook’s backhanded admission on their blog.
In order to make Facebook marketing more efficient you will have to spend money. That revelation should spur a bigger conversation about whether Facebook is the best place to accomplish what your business wants to accomplish. It may be.
But for companies with a small budget or with a high expectation of immediate return there are platforms such as AdWords that may offer a better return on their investment.
What do you think? Do you pay for reach on Facebook? Is there still an opportunity for brand engagement without paying?