August 19, 2014

End of Organic Reach: Not Necessarily a Negative Thing

When Facebook Inc. tweaked its algorithms in 2012, there was a lot of consternation among marketers. After the algorithm changes, brands weren’t able to get nearly as many views on their posts without paying Facebook to promote them.

In a white paper from digital consultancy agency Social@Ogilvy, managing director Marshall Manson argues this trend isn’t going away any time soon – in fact, he says the organic reach among brands using Facebook will probably hit zero sometime in the very near future. So near, in fact, that back in February, organic reach for brands was around just six per cent, a fall of 49 per cent from October 2013, when organic reach was at its peak.

Unfortunately, marketers can’t just abandon using Facebook, even if organic reach is no longer as high as it once was. Facebook matters because users of the social network who have ‘liked’ a brand’s page tend to be loyal to it, and they tend to be more willing to purchase from that brand after they’ve seen a campaign. They’re also more likely to remember their friends have ‘liked’ different pages, or to trust recommendations from those friends.

Plus, Facebook allows brands to get to know their users. Using its application programming interface (API), a brand can see when a user became a fan of its page, what content the user liked, commented on, or shared, and when they last engaged with the content. The API can also show the user’s age, interests, and so on, making it easy for brands to figure out what their communities look like and to divide fans into different categories. The more they know, the more they can target their content towards these groups.

That means reaching out to Facebook users – and paying for the privilege – is still worth it, Manson says.

“The power in Facebook remains its potency to generate earned conversation and engagement. The requirement to distribute content to community members via paid shouldn’t change that,” he writes, adding Facebook’s model has now shifted from “owned” conversations to “earned” conversations.

Now that Facebook is demanding payment for the right to broadcast content to fans, the most important thing is to keep generating content that people will like and share with their own friends. Content needs to be delivered in-real time, it needs to be planned, and there has to be ‘moments’ that are exciting for Facebook users and fans.

So while the end of organic reach means brands will need to be pickier about the content they create and promote, Manson argues this is really a good thing – that pushing out less content will give marketers the chance to focus more on the content that’s deserving of engagement and interactions. For marketers who do want to push out a constant stream of content, platforms like Twitter and Instagram may work better for that approach, he adds.

“The prime lesson … is to avoid overcommitting to a single platform. The right recipe for social starts with clearly defined business objectives, folds in a strong understanding of what the audience wants, and a few measures of clever storytelling designed to facilitate engagement,” he writes.

-Candice So / ITBusiness

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