The Answer to the Organic Reach vs Advertising Problem on Social Media Channels

Hint: It’s Not Advertising

by Nichole Kelly |

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. 


About the Author

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