Like it or not, Facebook is no longer the “free” community mecca that marketers with a guerrilla mentality fervently embraced years ago. Just looking at the organic reach over the last 27 months of the many brands Renegade manages, we’ve seen a decline from a peak of nearly 20% in 2012 to a new low of under 5% in 2014. Our data tracks with that of other studies, leaving little room for doubt on this point:
Despite the clarity of the data, many marketers have yet to embrace the reality that as of March 2014, only a meager 1 in 20 of their Facebook fans are seeing their carefully crafted “organic” posts. At the risk of being painfully clear, to reach the other 95% of your fans on Facebook now requires paying Zuckerberg & Co. his due. This of course begs the question, what’s a thrifty and socially savvy tactician to do now?
The answer is to face up to Facebook in one or all of these 6 ways:
1. Reevaluate your Facebook investment
Managing a brand Facebook presence was never free in that there have always been time-of-staff costs related to content development, comment monitoring and responding. Add to these the costs for sophisticated conversation management and analytics tools and you’re looking at thousands a year. Depending on the size of your fan base and their engagement rates, it may be time to scale back.
2. Optimize your Facebook posts for sharing
Assuming you already have a sizeable fan base that is worth supporting, then you have little choice but to continue to “feed the beast” with timely content. That said, break your content into buckets and monitor which type inspires the most sharing (versus “likes” or “comments”). By publishing your most sharable content, you’ll expand your organic reach as far as it can go.
3. Increase emphasis on customer service
For most established brands, walking away from Facebook is not an option because customers leave invaluable comments, complaints and even suggestions for improvement on a daily basis. So rather than looking at Facebook as a marketing machine, recalibrate your content with current customers in mind while listening and responding to comments with renewed veracity.
4. Engage your fans elsewhere
Brands targeting teens have already shifted away from Facebook to other social platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Brands targeting women are pinning their hopes on Pinterest, seeking to take advantage of this platform’s unique ability to drive site traffic, especially for retailers, food and travel companies. And tech and music brands are still finding fans on Google+, albeit intermittently.
5. Build your own communities
While all of the alternative networks are seemingly “free” today, a bit of foresight advises that they too will become “pay to play” platforms in the near future. So just like in the pre-Facebook days, smart brands will once again seek to build their own communities, forums and/or hangouts in which they can nurture and embrace their own fans 24/7 without an interfering algorithm.
6. Or, just pay up
While seeking “free” organic reach via social media is always meritorious, do not confuse this argument with a disapproval of paid Facebook advertising. On the contrary, Facebook is arguably the most potent paid channel ever, delivering extraordinarily well-targeted impressions that rival Google in impact and effectiveness. This helps explain why the world’s largest packaged good marketers keep increasing their Facebook media budgets. So, at least in this case, facing up to Facebook means you’ll get what you pay for.
Drew Neisser is the founder and CEO of Renegade, a leading-edge social media & content marketing agency in NYC. A long-time content creator and social practitioner, you can find Drew’s writings on Fast Company, MediaPost, Social Media Today and TheDrewBlog.com. His monthly newsletter, The Cut, is prized among friends and clients.