At Social Media Marketing World there was an interesting debate over how to handle the decrease in organic reach on Facebook. As marketers, we all knew this day would come but it doesn’t change the need to find a solution.

I was part of an ROI panel with Scott Gulbransen, Lewis Bertolucci, and Nick Robinson where we took a look at the reality of what this means for each of their respective companies. Using the incredibly useful tool Chris Penn created and published on the Shift Communications blog, I was able to calculate what these changes would cost them and trust me it was no joke. Find Chris Penn’s calculator here to figure out how much it will cost your brand to reach your fans.  These numbers were calculated based on the number of fans as of March 25, 2014.

Humana Main Page

With over 37k Likes, your Facebook budget to have 1 post(s) by your page seen by 100% of your current Likes is $187.80 per day.

Plan to spend $52,584 for the remainder of 2014 on Facebook Promoted Posts at 1 per day if you want all of your current Likes to see your Promoted Posts.

Humana Medicare Page

With over 53k Likes, your Facebook budget to have 1 post(s) by your page seen by 100% of your current Likes is $267.64 per day.

Plan to spend $74,939 for the remainder of 2014 on Facebook Promoted Posts at 1 per day if you want all of your current Likes to see your Promoted Posts.

That’s over $127k for just two of their primary pages from now through the end of the year.

SAP Main Page

With over 237k Likes, your Facebook budget to have 1 post(s) by your page seen by 100% of your current Likes is $1175.20 per day.

Plan to spend $330,232 for the remainder of 2014 on Facebook Promoted Posts at 1 per day if you want all of your current Likes to see your Promoted Posts.

Over $330k to reach all of your fans once a day through the end of the year!

H&R Block Main Page

With over 377k Likes, your Facebook budget to have 1 post(s) by your page seen by 100% of your current Likes is $1886.98 per day.

Plan to spend $528,354 for the remainder of 2014 on Facebook Promoted Posts at 1 per day if you want all of your current Likes to see your Promoted Posts.

Over $528k to reach all of your fans once a day through the end of the year!

Social Media ROI Just Got Real

The biggest challenge for marketers is that it is unlikely there was budget set aside for this in the beginning of 2014, so that means many marketers will have to make the case for budget reallocation or an increase to support the type of organic reach they traditionally saw. If you weren’t able to show social media ROI before this happened, that is probably going to be a difficult pill to swallow.

We could get into a pretty heated debate around whether it is right or wrong, whether or not marketers should have known this was coming and a variety of other angles. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. This is reality. I believe the highest value this post could bring is a solution that could allow you to save some of those marketing dollars. Fair?

Is spending more money on Facebook posts going to return the highest ROI for your budget? Probably not.

Brands Talking at Facebook Fans Isn’t the Answer

I would argue that a brand continuing to try to “reach” their fans isn’t the best answer to this challenge. As you see, it’s expensive and the ROI may be nominal at best. Ultimately, our content strategy on Facebook shouldn’t be talking all about our self and sending self-promotional salesy messages. With the multiple challenges of broken attribution models, longer relationship building cycles and disconnected tracking systems it doesn’t seem feasible to track the real ROI. So we are facing a double whammy. We’d need to increase budgets significantly to reach our fans and we likely won’t be able to tie it to a direct ROI immediately.

I’d be remiss not to mention, that if you want to solve those problems I hope you will reach out to us at SME. We have solved the measurement challenges for several of our clients. But again, solving the measurement conundrum isn’t what this post is about either.

We need a short cut to a complex and ever growing problem. We paid a lot of money to build a following on a rented space and now we have to pay to keep reaching our audience. Facebook was one of the first to try and reach deeper into the proverbial pocketbook, but it won’t be the last. So how can we fix it, quickly.

Personal Facebook Profiles Might Be the Answer

You’ll notice that all of these organic reach restrictions are happening to brand pages. Facebook argues that Facebook users don’t want their news feed clogged up with your brand’s posts and you can feel free to leave if you want. And while we might not like it, I’m pretty sure Facebook has data to back this up. So if you start sponsoring more posts to clog up their feed, you could be doing exactly what your fans don’t want and hurt the already frail relationship you have with them leading to an even bigger challenge in generating ROI from your bigger Facebook ad spend.

However, I see a short cut to all of this. Facebook isn’t limiting the reach of our personal pages. They know their users want to see content from their friends and they continue to try to make that experience better. So instead of focusing on our branded “corporate” pages, what if we instead focused on empowering our employees to share really great content for us?

Are Employees the Short Cut to Beating Forever Changing Brand Reach Challenges?

If you think about it, our employees are already representing our brand in social channels whether we like it or not. Their friends and followers likely know they work for your company. Everything picture they post, every status update they publish and every comment they share is a reflection on your brand. If you are concerned about how that reflects on you, I’ll be the first to say social media isn’t your problem. You have a hiring and culture problem. This came up in the keynote panel at SMMW with Jeff Rohrs, Ted Rubin, Jay Baer and I. My response was and still is, “social media policies can’t cure stupid.” Instead of running away in fear, we need to embrace our employee’s role in representing our brand. And we can. We can do this intelligently and with elegance.

We can share the content we would’ve posted with our employees and allow them to share it seamlessly on their own social profiles. It can be an opt-in program and we can even reward them and gamify the experience. That’s not only smart, it makes it fun for your employees and can be a morale booster when done right.

You could do this through a manual process, you could build something or you could use a tool like SocialToaster to have an out of the box solution.

But whatever you do, please, don’t ignore the power and the reach your employees have. They could just be the answer to the problem you are desperately trying to solve.

What do you think? Are employee profiles the answer? Are you willing to pony up the dollars to get reach on your fan page? How are you dealing with the challenge of owned versus rented social audiences? Leave a comment and let’s see if there are other short cuts. 

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Steve Hubbard

    Q: “Are Employees the Short Cut to Beating Forever Changing Brand Reach Challenges?” A: No way! Facebook personal profiles are a person’s life, their business/work is just one element.

    The answer is more likely to be in localised business pages rather than Brand pages. Using the H&R Block example, many people seeing the brand turn up in their home feed are likely to regard it as spam. However if their local H&R Block branch targets a message/offer to them, they are much more likely to be receptive. Hence they’d be better off having 377 branches with 1000 page likes (and a Facebook ads budget) than the brand page where they can’t target offers and are just repeating the same old ‘mass marketing’ tactics of other days gone by communications channels.

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Hi Steve – Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. While I agree that companies can’t force an employee to use their profile, we are finding that many are willing to opt-in to such a program. It all comes down to what type of information the company is sharing. If the content is compelling, not overly self-promotional and has value for their friends they are more likely to opt-in.

      I haven’t seen any research that shows that people are more receptive to a local office versus the larger corporate brand page, but logically I can see how we could make that connection.

      Personally, I rarely respond to any messages or status updates from brands, local or national. In either case, whether it is a corporate page or a local branch page they will have the same challenges with organic reach. Not sure if you saw this post http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-measurement/social-media-roi-is-nothing-but-a-numbers-game/ but if you reverse engineer the numbers with the new 1-2% reach 1000 page likes, even scaled across 377 branches won’t get very far in terms of ROI.

      I’ve seen success with opt-in employee programs, personally. I think both options are worth trying, but based on what I’m seeing the employee program is the way to go. Again, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      Nichole

  • http://kayakonlinemarketing.com/blog Randy Milanovic

    Thanks for the numbers. I agree, FB isn’t likely the best place for ROI.

    • Nichole_Kelly

      You bet Randy! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Everypost

    Great article Nichole, these statistics are very useful. I also really liked your point about how employees can become brand ambassadors both on and off the clock if you’re employing the right kind of people.

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Thanks so much. I’m thrilled that you liked the post. :-)

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  • http://socialnworldwide.com/who-we-are-map/ Lonny Dunn

    So now you Censor people? That’s a Liberal Move. The thought police and speech police? Your idea of “Fair” is what you call Fair? And if it doesn’t match your narrow minded view of the planet, then it’s not fair? Why do I even bother. Keep losing money for your clients.

    • http://jasonfalls.com/ JasonFalls

      Lonny – Why would you jump to conclusions that we censor people? Your comment was caught in a spam filter. It triggered automatically. We didn’t censor you. The post included sensitive phrases about buying followers and included a pimp-ish line at the end about where to find you online. I’ve reclassified the comment. All you needed to do was ask, not accuse.

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  • http://maverickmotomedia.com/ Maverick Moto Media

    My blog’s page currently has nearly 46,000 fans, while I’m certainly not reaching 100% of my fans, I’m averaging between 75k-450,000 views per week with completely organic reach and no black-ops social media tactics. As ever, content matters and posting a variety of compelling, engaging and original content will tweak your edge rank and ensure that you reach the widest audience possible, with minimal expense. If you have to pay to reach an audience, you’re doing something wrong.

    • Nichole_Kelly

      I would agree that content strategy has a lot to do with whether or not a company can get edge rank to swing in their favor. But that could be a whole different post, huh? Thanks so much for commenting!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Lonny – I’m so sorry about the issue with your message being flagged as spam. I’m so glad Jason was able to correct it.

    The question of which channel is best for a business really comes down to who their audience is and where relevant conversations are happening. We do a lot of research on where conversations happen that are relevant to companies using Netbase and the interesting thing we find is that a lot of the time it isn’t on Twitter or Facebook. Although Facebook data is always skewed because we can’t and shouldn’t have access to private conversations. Actually we find more often than not that the top channel for conversation volume is blogs and forums. Yet, we don’t hear a lot of conversation about building a sexy blog and forum engagement strategy. I think it’s awesome that Twitter is working for you. We have some clients that it makes sense for and others that it simply doesn’t when we prioritize channels where the conversations are happening against the resources they have. At the end of the day most companies are looking to transition at least some portion of their following into website traffic and conversions. Obviously, there is a lot that goes into making that happen from messaging, to timing or even visuals.

    The biggest challenge I see with Twitter is the life of the message. When you follow a lot of people, it’s pretty likely that the tweet is in their stream for a minute at best before it gets shot down below hundreds of other tweets. I’d love to know how you measure the “opened” tweet stat you mentioned. I haven’t found a tool that does that accurately yet.

    Thanks so much for commenting. You definitely added a lot of food for thought. Have a great day!

    • http://socialnworldwide.com/who-we-are-map/ Lonny Dunn

      We generate over 20 million hits per month from Twitter, about 500k from FB. Twitter is the more efficient URL destination mechanism.

  • http://socialnworldwide.com/who-we-are-map/ Lonny Dunn

    I took quite a bit of time to posit my thoughts and experience. Hedging your comments, and deflecting your actions onto some “Spam” Filter is just too cute by about half, or three quarters.

    Adding a Twitter Handle is NOT spam, and that shows exactly what I mean. You are judgemental and fear free speech. The day I need some comment thread to get new followers? HA! You have to be joking.

    I put my handle in Posts for Credibility. I do it, so you know you are not discussing intelligent topics with a poser, or some self styled know it all. By putting a direct link to my own personal handle, and not one of the Companies I own? This gives you the site owner, and the reader confidence that the words typed are coming from a specialist, or at least someone who has “been there done that” if nothing else.

    My lesson? I won’t be back, and certainly won’t partake in any more conversations here on this site.

    I wonder what lessons you have learned, if any?

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Lonny – Oh my, I can see you are really angry. I apologize for your frustration. The thing is we don’t control the spam filter. It was created by Disqus and as they say on their site “Disqus uses its own anti-spam software to smartly combat comment spam.” There is nothing in your original comment that would have made us remove it. Frankly, we’ve had many spirited debates here and welcome them, provided people are treated with respect.

      I know you believe that someone here removed your comment, but that simply isn’t the case. If we manually removed it, the comment would have posted and then disappeared when we flagged it, which frankly would’ve been hours later. This didn’t happen, as you know. If this happens to you again here or on any other site you can tell why your comment was not posted with these instructions from Disqus. http://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466223-who-deleted-or-removed-my-comment-

      You can be angry at us, if you would like. Or you could take your censorship accusation over to Disqus, the engine that actually flagged your comment as spam. We’ve done what we can to explain and recategorized your comment once it came to our attention. There is nothing else we can do at this point as it seems that all efforts have been met with more accusations and no desire to accept what happened.

      The lesson I’ve learned? It’s cute that not all social media “pros” understand how commenting engines work.

      Have a great day.

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    Can I get an amen?! My team and I have been talking about this for a while now, and I believe this even goes further than Facebook. It’s so much more powerful hearing from an actual person, especially your direct connections! I love Social Toaster. They sent me a free T-Shirt for driving a threshold of clicks to their content :)

    • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

      Quick update: Social Toaster sent out the tweet to this article for me already. Score!

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Amen! I agree SocialToaster is an awesome option for engaging and empowering employees. We should discuss this more. ;-)

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  • http://www.stephaniesammons.com/ Stephanie Sammons

    Great info Nichole. What’s unfortunate is that the small business owner with few employees and the independent business professionals (doctors, lawyers, financial advisors) are really going to be shut out from a budget perspective, outside of developing their personal profiles obviously. Any thoughts on what you advise for these folks? Any strategies for building a personal following (beyond the 5k friend cap) via the personal profile? Thanks!

    • Nichole_Kelly

      You are 100% correct Stephanie. Small businesses will be the biggest ones to suffer with these changes. They can do a similar approach, but instead leverage their relationships with customers, prospects, and friends. They can build a psuedo brand ambassador approach to recruit people to help spread the word about them. If they gamify it, I would think they would have better success, i.e. become part of our VIP program (which incorporates social sharing) to get exclusive access to content, discounts or whatever they want to offer. They can also work into their emails and offers status updates with a share link to encourage the recipients to share their messages on their profiles. I wish SocialToaster would release a self-service product for small businesses! Unfortunately, all of the other tools I know are built for enterprises, but this is definitely a growth area for the right company to capture the small business market. I wish I had more solutions, but the reality is that it is going to be a challenge. I hope someone will comment with some other alternatives.

    • Ashley Carty

      Hire someone to sit on these outlets all day every day and engage with people. Social media outlets are not meant to be this free for all advertising outlet. People respond to brands that feel real and don’t sell sell sell. Try logging into your business page and reaching your target audience through brands you know they already engage with. Ie: Health and wellness companies will want to like comment and share things from whole foods, search hashtags like #holistic then go through and like and comment on those photos. Make your brand social and you will see more results.

  • http://www.infusionsoft.com/ Heather Dopson

    Great article Nichole. We use a tool to facilitate employees to not only share content we push to the, but to also curate content THEY are interested in. This makes it simple, efficient and productive for them. Also, it puts all employees in the position of having a hand in the reputation of the brand.

    While it is completely an opt-in decision, we have found that by gamifying it makes it even more attractive and more people want to participate. They care less about the prizes and more about their platforms gaining followers, increasing their social influence and having bragging rights over their coworkers. It works exceptionally well with execs. ;)

    • Nichole_Kelly

      That sounds amazing Heather! I would love to see this in action when I come to AZ. :-) I’m especially excited about this curation aspect and seeing how that works when in motion. Keep rockin’ the awesome!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    I wanted to take the time to post an interesting update. SocialToaster actually shared this article with their “ambassadors” who signed up to share SocialToaster’s content on their social networks. As a result, this article was posted 735 times on other people’s social networks, reaching 122,997 impressions, a 38% share rate and drove an additional 150 engagements from the friends of their ambassadors (retweets, likes, comments etc). No advertising required. The power of publishing content people want to share on their social networks is pretty awesome, wouldn’t you agree?

  • vniven

    Interesting idea. “Employee advocacy marketing” is a hot topic – and a hot software category – right now.

    But it doesn’t seem like a reliable marketing strategy to me, long-term. The problem I see boils down this:

    What % of employees will agree to promote their company’s content on Facebook – on an ongoing basis? Once or twice, sure. Around big events, maybe. But continuously/every week? I’m guessing not many.

    In fact, the problem with ALL influencer/advocate marketing is that they are INDIRECT means of communication between a company and its market. You’re going through a third party.

    Perhaps the simple truth about organic social media marketing is that we just ended a 5-year ride on free traffic paid for by VCs.

    Now, the free ride is over. All the big big networks have gone public, so we have to pay. Just like we did before the Facebook boom.

    For that same reason, ROI is now Facebook’s problem, too. They will be compared to every other media buy for now on.

    As a CEO (and former CMO), the question I’m asking right now is:

    What value does organic social media management and the people that do it provide to our company, now that media buying is the primary way to generate traffic, impressions and engagement in social media?

    • Ashley Carty

      It’s important to take time and be social as a brand page online. Facebook doesn’t want you to know that if you like and comment on other business pages this is also a great way to reach targeted audiences and engage with customers. It’s also important to have your team like your posts so you are ranked higher in the algorithms. If your post gets 0-10 likes out of the 400 people it showed it to it’ll stop showing that post, if most people engage, they will continue to show it to people. By interacting with other brands and having those brand pages share and like and comment on your brands page, you are reaching their audience and you are ranking higher.

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