The Great Facebook Swindle And What To Do About It
The Great Facebook Swindle And What To Do About It
by

As if we didn’t expect this would one day happen, Facebook is apparently about to blackmail brands even more so than they have to date, ratcheting down organic exposure of brand page content to 1-2% at best. Valleywag reported it last week based on an anonymous and internal source with Facebook marketing. It has since been reported by the likes of Time and others.

Ogilvy & Mather has even tested and found that organic brand page content on Facebook was exposed to about 12 percent of those that “Like” the brand in October. That number dropped to six percent by February. Facebook is basically eliminating the chance your brand’s content will be seen by your Facebook fans. Unless, of course, you pay to have it exposed.

They Set Us Up

facebook-logo-reversedWhen Facebook introduced brand pages in 2007 (then known as fan pages), the concept was about driving corporate use of the social networking site. Your company, brand or organization could be on Facebook, just like all these people, and post content, collect fans/followers and more. But Facebook grew fast and offered company stock in an initial public offering two years ago. That changed the game. No longer are Zuckerberg and company beholden to investors who just want more users. They are beholden to financial investors from the public who want money returned on their investment. A financial model is now a requirement.

The first inklings of trouble came at the F8 Conference in 2012 when Facebook shared the statistic that, based on the number of connections the average person had, multiplied by all the content those connections produce which need to be ranked and filtered and placed into the user’s newsfeed, only 16 percent of a brand’s content was actually seen by its fans. This sent mild shock waves through the marketing community because the concept was always that if a person raised their virtual hand asking for its Facebook content, then they should get that content, right? Wrong.

But back then, the 16 percent could be understood as a natural fallout of the average user having upwards of 250 connections, plus 40-50 organizations or topics they also “Liked” or followed. It was organic. It was natural. It was fair, even if brands didn’t like it. And if they didn’t, they could, as of 2012, support organic posts by sponsoring them, guaranteeing Facebook would force the content on more of the brand’s audience.

But where there are investors, there is greed. And where there is greed, there is willingness to change the rules, even to be unfair, so long as they produce the required revenue streams. So now Facebook sees it can not only control how many of your fans see your content, but also how many of them don’t. Unless you pay.

Why This Is Blackmail

Granted, a sponsored post can actually be targeted to Facebook users that are not fans of your brand. In this respect, it’s just like a paid advertisement in most people’s minds. You, the brand, pay to get your content in front of new people in hopes they’ll like it enough to come be a fan of yours, click through to your deal and so on. But your organic content was never going to appear to those users in the first place. You should pay for them to see it.

Organic brand content that is unsupported by paid placement is intended for and until now understood to be seen by your opt-in Facebook audience. These are users that have liked your page, giving you virtual permission to talk to them through their Facebook news stream. They are asking to see your content. Facebook is now standing in their way, as much as yours, by forcing you to pay for this audience to see your content. It would be like someone subscribing to your email newsletter but Exact Target stepping in and saying, “We’re not going to deliver the email unless you pay us more money.”

Why This Isn’t Blackmail

Exact Target users pay for that email delivery by subscribing to the service. Brands using Facebook for brand pages don’t pay Facebook for that privilege. As a Facebook spokesperson explained to Time magazine in an email, “Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and has always been, paid advertising.”

Facebook is, in essence, admitting that is is a publishing platform and that brands wishing to be involved there must pay for the privilege. As unfair as it may seem since they’ve let us use that service for free to date, there’s no other medium where a brand can communicate in such a fashion with as many people without having to fork over direct or indirect dollars to do so.

Also, Facebook can alter its terms of service and how it handles its users and the content they post without notice or input from us. I’ve long said that if Facebook wanted, it could charge brands $1,000 per day to have a brand page. This isn’t what they’re doing, but it’s not far from it. This was the risk brands took to be involved and build an audience on Facebook in the first place. Facebook owns the real estate. We’re just squatting. Now they’re asking us to pay rent.

Why This Is Bad For Social Media

Facebook’s admission that it is a media outlet on which brands wishing to reach audiences need to advertise means that it is essentially giving up on the notion that social media changes how brands communicate with their audiences. Certainly, the engaging post-style of content marketing is sort of a new mechanism and Facebook is largely responsible for teaching brands how to use it. But advertorial and content marketing plays existed long before even the Internet.

Social media promised a new method for brands to engage and communicate messages to customers and prospects. Facebook championed that notion for a while. Now it’s just saying, “Screw it. Buy an ad.” This also changes your reason and goals for even having a brand page on Facebook. Why collect fans when you’re prevented from communicating with them? Why not just use it as an advertorial placement service and target users that may or may not Like your page?

It also sends a message to content marketers everywhere that says their work won’t matter without a media budget. You can create the most relevant, useful, rewarding content in the world for your audience, but you still have to pay to get them to see it. It will prove to be more efficient to just go back to a pay-per-click model for things like customer acquisition and many content marketers will see their work valued less and less over time.

This move means that to be a successful Facebook marketer, you need to be more of a search engine or pay-per-click marketing expert than a social or content marketing expert.

Why This Is Good For Social Media

The explosion of brand content marketing, especially on Facebook, over the last few years has been mind-numbing. Most of that numbing comes from brands that don’t understand the ethos of social and just spit out ad copy masked as posts. Because brands are reluctant to invest serious dollars on social or content marketing, when they do get the ethos, they have interns, amateurs or inexperienced people driving the delicate nuance of engaging audiences in social channels. Facebook’s pay-to-play switch will force many of these brands back to more traditional paid advertising models for online success because the cost efficiency will be better.

But it will also help weed out the really good content marketers from those that aren’t. Brands continuing to invest in Facebook content will see slivers of organic success (see the how-to tips below) but when you do see it, it will be real, good and strong. Content marketing is no longer amateur hour. You’re going to have to be good or you simply won’t get seen.

How Brands Can Still Win With Organic Facebook Content

So the rules and arena have changed. How can brands still win? Well, let’s consider the factors:

  1. The audience is still one that wants to see the content. They “Like” your page. That’s their opt-in.
  2. Facebook won’t let most of them see it organically in their news stream.
  3. They can still visit your page to see it.
  4. You can still pay to promote it and reach more of them.

That gives you two clear and one less obvious path to organic Facebook success.

1. Direct people to your Facebook URL

It’s no longer enough for us to tell our audience to “Like” us on Facebook. Now we have to ensure they know that we offer great content there but Facebook won’t let them see it unless they go to the Facebook page just like they would come to our website. Facebook pages will be less of a hurdle than sending them off-site to our website or blog, which is good, but they are going to have to type in our brand name or URL to see our content. For your traditional communications, stop using the “Like us on Facebook” call to action and start using the “Visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/yournamehere” one.

2. Share is the new Like

When a user does find your content, intentionally or not, and uses the Facebook “Share” button, it places that content on their timeline as if posted by them. They are recommending that content to their friends and followers. This circumvents Facebook’s brand classification as it sees the post as being from the individual. It is content they are organically recommending. So every single call-to-action must be “Share with your friends.” By building a loyal group of advocates, readers, fans or customers who will go the extra mile to type in your URL or bookmark your Facebook page, plus who will Share rather than like, perhaps even writing a little lead in to tell their friends why they should go see this content, you can still organically reach a lot of people. The challenge is that your content has got to be dynamite and your audience has got to love you beyond their love of most other brands.

3. Pay to play

I know … this isn’t organic. But now you know that in order to achieve organic success you need a highly engaged audience willing to share. When you have content that will attract that kind of user or you can target to find that kind of user, take advantage of the fact you can offer up a little bit of money to get it in front of more of the kinds of people you want to collect. It’s a numbers game, in a way. For every 20 users, you’ll probably have one that really digs you enough to type in the ULR and/or “Share” your content. (Your traction here may vary from 1:20, but that’s a good starting point.) The more users you have the more advocates you’ll have to choose from.

What the future holds

It’s probably too early to tell, but there are several scenarios of what could happen when or if Facebook moves to this model. On one extreme, brands may appreciate the black and white knowledge of how to leverage Facebook content to reach more people, budgets will align appropriately and Facebook Paid Marketing will become its own cottage industry much like SEO or SEM. The other extreme is that a collection of brands take Facebook to court for essentially blackmailing brands and failing to serve its users with content they’ve requested. This could very well wind up in court as the denial of brand content to someone requesting skirts awfully close to violating the user’s trust. When you have 1.2 billion users, governments will take note when you’re messing with them. This smells a bit like the seeds of government regulation to me.

Either way, brands who have always had an uphill battle understanding and properly leveraging social media as a marketing platform just saw their content efforts given a new, steep mountain to climb. Or they’ve just been given the direction to make Facebook a spam-magnet for brand content ads, which is a battle in and of itself since consumer trust is on the line.

Only time will tell who wins, who loses and how much money Facebook winds up with.

What do you think? Is it blackmail? Not? How else can you think to improve organic reach under these circumstances? The comments are yours.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • Betsy A Decillis

    Reading this again and I still love it. My only concern is with, “Share is the new like.” With Facebook’s decision to declare calls to action that include comment, like or share as spam, how do you suggest combatting that? I have some ideas, but I’m curious about what you think. :)

  • Great read, Jason. I’ve been counseling clients for ages to forget about all the liking madness and enable fans to share. A “like” is like a penny with no ROI.

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  • Blackmail? That’s a stretch.

  • llozano

    I don’t go to Facebook to look at ads or corporate Facebook pages. Waste of time. I try to avoid advertising as much as I can so purposefully clicking on an ad is not something I would do.

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  • Well now

    Excellent read. Definitely not blackmail. Last time I looked, outside of the oligarchs, the rest of us are still trying to compete in a capitalist economy. reddit had a good convo on ‘free stuiff’: http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/1m963t/eli5_how_do_free_apps_with_no_ads_snapchat/

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  • Jaume Mor

    Excellent post, Jason. Social Media marketers should take clear advise. Thanks a lot for your pro and against analysis you used in this article. I think that new ongoing advertising focus that Facebook is taking will put to the test the abilities and results of previous years of content marketing practice. Have brands created really valuable content for their audience? Are our customers really engaged with our brands? Whether they do need ambassadors to pull out the brand’s content, are they involved enoguh with us? It’s time to strenght relationships with them.

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  • Thanks for your insight, Jason. I can really see this topic from both sides. I do think it’s more of black mail though, mostly because social media started free and now Facebook won’t be free at all. I think the gradual increase in need for paid efforts is better than a sudden change, but this will certainly challenge marketers to reach their community and connect with individuals in a different way.

  • It’s definitely blackmail and the problem is not for huge brands with multi-billion budgets but for small businesses and start-ups who simply can’t afford consistent and large enough campaigns on Facebook Ad platform. Diverting people to “facebook.com/yourbrand” is cumbersome and won’t work. People are less likely to share content from a brand all the time. The only pages that get consistent shares are the ones who post a lot of memes and quote images and this doesn’t work for every type of business.

    Then again there is a way to do Facebook Ads dirt cheap and I would love to share it with anyone who is interested so feel free to reach me via my Twitter or email me at filip dot galetic at gmail dot com

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  • Jennifer Breton Dearborn

    I read through most of the 60 comments and replies and didn’t see anyone mention Page Feeds. I use Page Feeds to view updates from Pages I have ‘Liked.’ There I see posts from those Pages that I don’t see regularly in my Newsfeed.

    • That’s a cool feature I agree but how many people actually use that. 0.4%?

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  • Great post! I think that this new model for Facebook could easily put small companies that rely on Facebook for their leads right out of business. Looking specifically at all the photographers and small Etsy based businesses. These business models were built almost purely off of Facebook and fan reach. Without reach many will fail – perhaps that is not all bad?

    Thanks for the tips on linking to the facebook/url model and telling users to share with their friends – there is still potential here – but pay to play looks like where it’s going.

  • Jason, you know how I feel about Digital Sharecropping. In this case, what Facebook is doing is not Blackmail — it’s more akin to running the old Company Store.

    Brands were invited to come in and “farm” on someone else’s land. Now, in that arrangement, the farmer would give up some of the harvest for the privilege of farming. But this is something a little more insidious.

    In this case, you’re being offered the chance to till the soil on a patch of land, and build on it. And once you’ve put in the sweat equity to make it valuable, you are suddenly being charged for the opportunity to plow those same fields. “Well, this land is now really valuable,” said the landowner. But part of that value is what I made of it!

    It’s not as though I will be able to export my graph of connections and do anything else with it, right?

  • WebCommons :: Media

    I’ve been of the opinion for at least a year that Facebook is killing itself. As you state, “Why collect fans when you’re prevented from communicating with them?” Twitter and Google+ aren’t doing this with “followers”, as far as I can tell. Facebook should be able to follow Twitter’s model, where you can advertise to get more followers, and advertise to get people seeing a tweet they may have missed in an organic way. But to block organic viewing of content is effectively telling small businesses and minor/local political efforts that utilize pages, “Scram!”. I have personally found Twitter to be far more effective with engagement, almost to the point of me wanting to scrap my Facebook page, or at least converting it to a group where users tend to be better reminded of updates.

    • This makes me wonder about Twitter.

      I mean, we see the updates appear in a time-stamped chronological order, but are we seeing ALL of them?

      Has Twitter slipped in an algorithm of its own, to make its stream a little more sticky, by serving up that which you seem to engage with a bit more?

      If you’re only following 100 accounts, you’d probably notice if some were missing. But if you’re following 1,000 – would you notice a few if they weren’t there? Once you get past two or three status messages per second, you can’t read them all anyway, so what’s the harm in filtering that stream, right?

      Has anyone asked?

      Seriously — now that Twitter is Public, has anyone asked?

      • If that is happening, I haven’t noticed. I think I would have by now. It’s possible some tweets are being filtered out, I suppose.

  • krusecontrol

    What an awesome post Jason! It truly is a swindle and we all knew it was coming in some form once the IPO got settled. There’s a canyon between honestly generating revenue for shareholders and taking advantage of users (brands and people) with greed. It’s a slippery slope and it looks like Facebook is heading for trouble. Users will sniff this out (if they haven’t already like we have) and then what happens to Facebook’s model then…when the users start to migrate elsewhere? And then there’s another issue for small non-profits. In my “spare” time, I volunteer at a horse rescue. We don’t have a huge budget for FB ads. Our content is quite sharable (and does get shared) and now that our organic reach is down, were do we go really? I know that’s an extreme example but there must be a happy medium between full-blown pay-to-play and content with no direction. I do agree with you also that this will most likely separate the wheat from the chaff on content marketers. I think I’m going to have to write a blog post now…

    • Use Twitter. Trust me, it works. It is far more engaging than a Facebook page at this point.

      • krusecontrol

        I use Twitter every single day. However, for my clients it’s not the first platform to go to. And they have a huge learning curve. At least most of them know what Facebook is. Besides, Twitter may go the way of Facebook soon. #couldhappen

        • Understood. But if people can’t see your content at all (or mostly) on Facebook, what’s the point of concentrating on that?

          What I do is post to Twitter and have it reflected on the Facebook page. Twitter gives me the engagement and retweets, while the few Facebook fans who get notifications or otherwise care enough to check the page will still see the content and can comment on it and share.

          • krusecontrol

            I totally agree with you on Twitter, it’s valuable. However, my clients have very different strategies. Content and Facebook ads have been very successful.

          • Fair enough. My frame of mind is with small businesses, non-profits and small/local political efforts that can’t afford to do much, if any advertising.

          • krusecontrol

            I totally hear you. I do social media marketing for car dealers. With the horse rescue, most of the audience doesn’t know a think about Twitter. But I get your point completely. Perhaps in the future, after Facebook has run off all their users, more will start using it.

          • Strangely enough, I have noticed a LOT of new Twitter users in the past six months or so, with all kinds of entities big and small getting on there. I know this because I tweet about local issues, and I’m seeing all these new local entities join and actually start tweeting. One example is Twitter accounts from individual public schools and even a good number of teachers.

  • This is a really great article, Jason. I’m going to chime in and comment on this particular point (“The other extreme is that a collection of brands take Facebook to court for essentially blackmailing brands and failing to serve its users with content they’ve requested.”) from an end user perspective, not necessarily the brand perspective:

    I’m wondering why users have not filed a class action suit about Facebook’s news feed algorithm already. Facebook algorithmically defines what content it thinks I should care about. Problem with that machine learned logic is that Facebook is making me miss a ton of relevant and important data to me. This includes updates from brands, yes, but it’s no different than updates from people I care about.

    I realize your article ties in specifically to the black hole Facebook seemingly introduced to brands by having them join and then effectively forcing them to market Facebook, and now asking them to pay. As a user, not as a brand, and thus from the other perspective, it really agitates me that Facebook is in this mode of optimization, where you either pay or you’re out of luck. And what about the user who wants to know more about his friend who isn’t given the leisure of paying?

    I’ve been making the argument for nearly a year now that Facebook should create its own RSS reader with every single update from friends, and allow me to consume my friends’ content at my leisure. I chose to follow them because I care about them. This applies to brands as well. I can’t see these updates, and while I shouldn’t be expected to see all my updates from friends on a free service, your comment makes me wonder now if a class action suit would hold water from the other end. I bet there are millions of people frustrated by this who would join in.

    • Great points, Tamar. I’m sure the lawsuit is easily avoidable by Facebook when they inject the, “It’s free and you agreed to the terms of service.” But when brands are essentially being baited and switched here, I think there might be some legal precedence or footing for businesses to say, “You can’t prevent an opt-in audience from seeing our content unless we pay. That’s blackmail.” We’ll see.

      • I guess a change.org petition would work for my concerns, but Facebook won’t respond to it so it’s not even worth the hassle.

        • A petition is worth a try. I imagine it would get so many signatures, Facebook wouldn’t be able to ignore it.

      • I don’t see how a brand is any more important than any entity with a page or profile on Facebook. We have all been baited and switched.

  • I’ve written a few articles about this very topic recently based on my own pages. Having spent the last few years building a solid fan base of advocates, having believed in the whole engagement philosophy, I was shocked when none of my advocates could see any of my posts under the new FB. I did a few advertising experiments, and the results were dismal for the expense of them and I canceled them as soon as they stopped performing. While some people recommend that you create ads based on an “agency” model, I was just boosting posts and events, and FB doesn’t allow a great deal of latitude in editing them. I had done a few limited post boosting experiments last year and was quite satisfied with the results overall, so I was extremely disappointed that they have apparently changed whatever algorithm they use for that as well. I suppose that the likes of Coca Cola and General Mills can singlehandedly keep the new banner mill afloat, and as long as consumers can share cat pictures there will always be a willing audience. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • I think you’re spot-on about this eventually ending up in the courts; I’ve maintained as much for more than a year now. That being said and setting aside my feelings as marketer I have to say that this move really sucks for me as a user. In fact, I’m now unclear as to why I should ever “like” another Facebook page since doing so with not result in me seeing regular updates from that page (unless they are paying to reach me, their alleged “subscriber”).

    As a user, I only “engage” with a fraction of the posts I actually read. I read, am informed, and then move on. I don’t always feel the need to like, share or comment but that doesn’t mean I am any less interested in receiving those updates in the future.

    All I know for sure is that somewhere, right now, email newsletter marketers are plotting their triumphant return to the spotlight.

    • Oh but we have never stopped being triumphant, just relegated to the shadows :)

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  • The gatekeepers have come back in full force. I think this is blackmail, but also a bait and switch. They seem greedy and desperate to shareholders. In terms of long term sustainability, very few companies can bite the hand that feeds them and get away with it. We’ll see, though. Content is NOT king. Content marketing / promotion is. You could have the best content in the world, but if hardly anyone sees it, then it doesn’t matter.
    Brands and the average small business owner must master Facebook advertising if they want to maximize reach / profit this year and beyond. We’re still getting under 10 cents / click for our ads. Not sure how long that will last so get while the gettin’s good.

  • venkyiyer58

    Yes. Blackmail.

  • Great post Mr Falls. I could not have said it better.

  • Hey Jason, thanks for this ….great post indeed. I especially agreed with this: “Facebook’s admission that it is a media outlet on which brands wishing to reach audiences need to advertise means that it is essentially giving up on the notion that social media changes how brands communicate with their audiences….” Not only that but it also seems to me that increasingly Facebook is selling “ads” based on traditional demographics. So much for that promise about “targeting” ads and or business based on social connections and graphs. same old same old all the way around. Sort of makes you wonder, when will someone actually figure out a real disruption of the “advertising” model…..

    • Facebook is probably the biggest advertising model disruption in decades. Demos are there as one tool, but the most valuable targeting options are not demos. They are custom audiences, retargeting, social graph, and more.

      That being said, swindle is probably a pretty good word for what is going on here.

      • Jason, perhaps it is the biggest disruption, but not fundamental changing the model of business pays for “access”…..someone will crack that nut wide open some day

      • The thing that FB brings to the table is a proprietary and searchable real-time database of correlated Likes and Interests. Disruptive, but this change is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of those brands who have not figured that out yet — which makes it less likely they will stick around to learn.

  • Facebook always talks about the long-tail and involved they are with small businesses. This is a slap in their face, and completely excludes small businesses, many that rely on Facebook organic reach due to small to no budgets. The long tail of Facebook revenue will become extinct as it would be very difficult to sell Facebook to them.

    Big brands will continue to use since they will not be able to just abandon their communities. It may become more strictly as a CRM tool and less of a focus on content, unless paid promotion will be put behind it. Those companies that can afford paid FB ads will continue to adjust their plans to reach users outside of their market, probably trying to drive them to outside sites or directly to an app for the user to take an action. The Like ads will most likely disappear.

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  • great post. At the end of the day the market will determine if they are making the right move. and most likely they are for themselves but in the long run they will have come with intelligent methods and practices that allow smaller brands to compete, otherwise they will concentrate in other channels and some small brands are simply interesting and innovative.

  • You bring up a ton of really good points, Jason. But we knew this was inevitable. Facebook isn’t really here to “connect the world” — Facebook is a great big ad-supported business that exists to make the founders (and now shareholders) money. We should all study up on Facebook advertising techniques…

  • Hey Jason,

    Thanks for sharing a great post that covers both the pros and cons. I think too often we’re hearing one side or the other of this debate (that is, people insisting “just post better stuff, it’s that easy!” versus angry brands screaming “we shouldn’t have to pay!”), so it’s refreshing to get a full view of the situation.

    I’m just curious, how do you feel about this as a user? Do you follow any Pages that you miss seeing in your feed? It’s honestly frustrating for me to now rarely if ever see the 10-20 band/musician pages I follow in my feed. And sometimes I don’t even see the posts my own agency puts up, which is just… ugh.

    Thanks!
    Nicole Kohler

    • Great question. It bothers me as a user because I know some organizations that do a good job of supplying me with interesting content on Facebook. The ones I really count on, I’ll remember to go to manually, but the others, I’ll just forget about. Ultimately this does hurt the user, so I think there will be some pushback, but there may not be much since this move also gets rid of a lot of content that many users might find spammy and useless because so few brands really understand what type of content is worth posting.

      • Thanks for the quick response! I agree that this does weed out the “useless” content, but on the other hand it’s a little strange when I like a page and realize two weeks later I’ve never seen a post from it.

        This could probably be easily fixed if FB allowed users to say “I want to see more from this page.” Right now it’s only “I don’t want to see this.” I seem to remember there being a “show less of this” option a while back, which may have led to the implementation of this global change, really.

  • John M. Lee

    I am the Director of Social Media for a mid-sized restaurant chain. We have about 106,000 Likes. On average today, our posts organically reach between 2,500 and 12,500 people. However, we had one post last week that organically reached over 52,000 of our Fans. This post had 658 Likes, 1226 Comments and 105 Shares. My question is which of these metrics lead to an increase in organic reach? Your (excellent) post here states that Shares are the way to drive reach, but this Post only had 105 of them. I assume Likes and Comments also show up in my personal news feed that my friends can see too. Please advise. Thanks.

    • Great question, John. Under Facebook’s current structure, you can get organic lift and can actually beat the 16% average that Facebook says see your posts. But if they ratchet the brand page reach to 1-2%, you’ll never see metrics like that again, unless of course your content is just so incredible, that 1-2% that see it light a fire under it. Assuming the reach is 1-2% when/if Facebook sets this treatment of brand pages in, the first challenge will be getting people to see it in the first place (thus the recommendation to promote the URL not just the “Like” us to see our content). The second challenge will be motivating people to Share the content since that organically puts it in front of their friends at a much higher level of reach than your post would get. Make sense?

      • John M. Lee

        Thanks Jason: So a “Comment” does not have the same viral potential as a “Share”? If I took either action wouldn’t both show up in the newfeeds of my friends?

        • A comment is good. A share is better. Comments appear in the person’s feed (and thus in their friend’s streams) as an action they took. It’ll say “John Doe commented on this …” and has at least a link to the article, if not an image and text from the article pulled in. A share, however, is the person posting the article manually to their feed and optionally posting a note that says why they’re sharing it. The more genuine and personal the share, the more clicks and activity it will get. So the share is better.

          • Plus the Share is then seen by their audience…so you get an exponentially larger “reach”possibility that now includes people who are not your fans.

  • Tim Carter – AsktheBuilder.com

    It’s not blackmail. You said it clearly above – “Facebook owns the real estate. We’re just squatting.” I’ve owned AsktheBuilder.com for nearly 20 years and can say that it’s up to Facebook to determine how best to monetize their real estate. The marketplace will determine if they’re offering a great value. As Kenny Chesney said in his hit song, “Only time will tell, but it ain’t talkin’.” FYI – I’ve been saying the same thing about where Facebook was headed for the past 18 months. Great to see others thinking like this.

  • Wondering if we’re going to see “armies” of individuals employed by brands to like and share content as cheaper than paying Facebook….

    • Susan

      Already happening. Facebook is a dead whale. Let it sink…

    • Brand ambassadors for the win!

    • Oh lovely… even more shills on Facebook. Thanks for the nightmare inducement. :) or is it :(

  • You nailed it. It was a trap. Excellent analysis.

    • Malik

      cue Admiral Ackbar

  • Nicole Nash

    It’s not a replacement for organic reach, and might prove to be a band-aid in the end, but I’m having a little luck by tagging other brand pages in our posts (easy, as we work with other nonprofits), and interacting on Facebook as our brand in much the same way one would on Twitter- Liking others’ posts, sharing others’ posts, and commenting on others’ posts (usually with my name added to the end to show humanity). This helps get us in front of new people, although the results are slow. Great tips on how to change the ‘ask’ to work better with the new algorithms. Thanks.

  • Moysten Gorjus

    Did I miss the point at which Facebook became compulsory. If “Brands” – god rot ’em – don’t get the exposure they want then leave. This is “Social” media (NB significantly different from “Commercial” media)

  • The other problem at play is “fake Facebook likes” — If it becomes more difficult for brands to organically grow their Facebook fan base, they’ll need to pay to play, as you’ve stated. Facebook will have to clean up the click fraud and like fraud that’s been going on (http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-advertising-fake-likes-2014-2). Brands are not going to be happy if a portion of their new fans are not actual people — especially if there’s money involved — and that certainly could be construed fraud with legal ramifications. Interestingly, these are some of the same issues Google faced originally with their AdSense and AdWords.

    • Or it will mean a lot more click-fraud- or rather sharing/commenting fraud – as it’s that initial traction in ‘lighting a fire’ under new posts becomes the key to getting it in front of ‘real’ fans.

  • I’m not sure these moves could ever be construed as blackmail if we’re using a standard definition.

    What people want is free and easy. That much seems obvious. They think marketing should be free and easy, but it never has been or will be. They think Facebook should be free and easy. It’s borderline delusional, to be honest. As if anybody on the planet would spend a decade building the most targeted, powerful advertising platform in the history of mankind and then not heavily monetize it, even if it means pulling a few arms.

    There’s a lot of misinformation and pitchfork grabbing, strangely (or maybe not) by people who don’t understand Reach well enough to be complaining. People obsess over reach far too much and I find that odd since most people measure it poorly, incorrectly, or simply place it at the peak of Facebook metrics. It’s not THAT important.

    Most people perceive reach in this fashion: You have 10,000 fans, one of your updates reaches 1,000 people, so you have a 10% reach on that update. They take that to mean Facebook is barring 90% of fans from seeing the update. That’s an asinine method of measurement, yet that’s how the majority of people view reach.

    “So, our reach is plummeting, let’s advertise.”

    Then, of course, you have people claiming Facebook ads are a fraud and a money pit. Yet those same people have never even heard of Power Editor. Those same people are hitting the “Boost Post” button regularly thinking it’s a good idea. Those same people couldn’t define “custom audience” or “lookalike audience”. They shouldn’t be trusted with an advertising budget at all, much less one for an ad medium so new and different from traditional methods.

    And we’re back to the point of people wanting free and easy. People hit the Boost Post button thinking advertising should be cheap and the results should be astounding. People spend 7 minutes creating a Facebook ad thinking it should perform better than any marketing action they’ve ever taken. Why would that ever be the case?

    The point is there are far too many people doing things they don’t know how to do or they’re not good at in this industry. As a result of their failings and frustrations, they make Facebook a scapegoat. Instead of realizing they need to stop, read, and learn, they just keep making the same stupid mistakes and blaming other people for their willful ignorance — willful, because the information is readily available on the Internet to those who seek it.

    The fact of the matter is Facebook an extremely effective organic and advertising platform to those who take on the task of learning how to master it. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to look in the mirror and acknowledge they don’t know everything (a standard problem in an industry where everyone gets to self-label themselves a guru). Most people would rather complain than learn. “Nothing is ever my fault.”

    • I don’t disagree with you at all, Jonathan. But you’re talking about Facebook as an advertising platform and the use of the advertising tools. Maybe blackmail is a bit harsh, but it’s at least bait-and-switch since brands have been led to believe they can not only build audiences here, but also communicate with them, without having to spend money. Ad spend has been optional. Now, it seems, Facebook is going to let you collect an audience, but intentionally block you from communicating with them unless you pay to get that exposure. That’s the rub. It’s about the organic content engine, not paid placement. We’ve been led to the water, then told we have to pay to drink it.

      • I may be in the minority, but I think it’s still quite effective as an organic platform. Call me crazy :P

        I think the people who genuinely care about your brand are still seeing your updates regularly — the data from Jon Loomer seems to support this. Those are the people I care about, because those are the people who will turn into conversions. That’s why I don’t really care that much about reach as this incredible metric a lot of people make it out to be. I don’t care if 2,000 people saw an update if only 10% of them genuinely cared about it.

        I can understand the frustrations marketers have, but I think it requires less complaining and more adaptation than is currently happening. That’s my beef…

        • If Facebook weren’t changing anything, I’d agree with you on that point. But if they’re now going to make it next to impossible for you to have organic reach or success, then it’s a different take.

  • lberezin

    Jason,

    Kudos for a spectacular blog post.
    This is an example of what a blog post should look like…clear, concise, yet an in-dept analysis of an important subject. Plus, I love an author’s “commentary” at the end.

    Would you react differently to Facebook’s “brand blackmail” if it charged brands a membership fee , rather than held our audience hostage?

    Best,
    Larry

    • Thanks, Larry. Based on Facebook’s behavior to date, I think charging brands a nominal fee for the real estate would be a decent approach. $10 for a small business, $100 for medium, etc. You could grade it by number of likes if you want. Or perhaps some other qualification. Add features for higher level subscribers. But for that, brands ought to be able to get their content in front of their fans at at least a normal, organic rate, if not a little better. Certainly, they can then pay for maximum exposure, but giving the little guy a chance is nice. That goes away with this current plan, in my opinion.

      • lberezin

        Well said. I agree, Jason. Best, Larry

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  • Newsfox

    Nice article. I publish a comedy blog which had achieved a decent following on Twitter at around 3k followers. We have got a few thousands dollars which I am thinking of using to for marketing. My problem is where! Twitter’s a great community but users do not really visit the website much. FB sends a lot of traffic but it now seems the costs of raising profile there are very high. Then there’s Google – but I am just looking to build an audience not actually sell merchandise. For small publishers, the landscape is really tough.

    • No doubt about it, this bodes not to well for small publishers and small businesses. If comedy is your game, organic shares on Twitter and Facebook, or perhaps graphic content on Tumblr strike me as being viable. With Facebook, however, you’re going to have to drive users to share the content, not just like it. You need your audience to think your stuff is so funny, they have to take action and share it with their friends.

      • Newsfox

        Right. So maybe worth not really building up likes but instead sharing posts at ‘optimum’ moments?