Brands: Facebook wants your money, and you’re going to give it to them. Here’s why
According to a widely-quoted story from ‘Valleywag’, a source at Facebook has leaked the news that FB will soon reduce the visibility of Page posts to 1-2%. According to the un-named source, the social networking giant has decided that it’s about time that they made some money from the brands who have been using their platform as a free marketing channel for 5+ years.
In a nutshell, it means that if you have 100,000 fans on Facebook, any content you post will likely only be visible to 1,000 of those fans – meaning of course that the incentive to pay to ‘Boost’ your content is a lot stronger than it ever has been.
Naturally, this news has got the social marketing community up in arms. Reactions have been ranging from the horrified (“How could they do this to us?”) to the accepting (“The free ride is finally coming to an end”) to the just-plain-nonsense (“Quick, everyone over to Google+ NOW!”). But the reality of the matter is that like it or loathe it, if Facebook DO start throttling the visibility of our content (and there’s plenty of arguments to say they won’t – more on that later), there’s very little we can do about it.
It’s where your audience are.
Regardless of your demographic or niche, the majority of your fans are on Facebook, and their membership numbers possitively dwarf all other channels. Fair enough, you might be getting some ‘good traction’ on Google+, or maybe you’ve cracked how to use Pinterest to engage your fans. But the vast majority of them are also on Facebook, so jumping ship now isn’t a realistic option.
Users are going to love this change.
We marketers might be fooling ourselves into believing that this signals ‘the beginning of the end’ for Facebook, but in reality this change is going to mean users’ feeds are a LOT less cluttered by branded and corporate content – which most people will consider to be an improvement. Fine – they may have ‘Liked’ your page and shown an interest in seeing your updates, but at present (due to sheer logistics) they’re only seeing updates from a fraction of the pages they Liked. So thinning out the volume will mean more even content updates from a bigger percentage of their Likes.
Paying seems to work.
If you’ve already tried ‘Boosting’ your Facebook content, you’ll know that it’s a lot more than just paying to get the content seen by more of your fans – the paid options actually open you up to a much wider audience, and allow targeting to a very complex degree. I hate to say it (because it’s SO not the ethos of social media) but for Facebook posts at least, paying to promote seems to work.
This will clean-up our feeds.
There has been plenty of debate in recent months about the prevalence of ‘content farm’ Facebook pages, as well as viral-sharing sites like Buzzfeed and ViralNova. Whilst Buzzfeed might have pockets deep enough to promote their content, the average spammy content farm won’t – so we’re going to see a lot less of that content in our feeds. Which can only be a good thing, right?
Facebook is a business.
As we aluded to earlier, Facebook have been giving brands a free advertising platform for around 6 years now, so anybody in their right mind will have guessed that the party HAD to end eventually. Facebook share-holders and investors need to see the business making money, and charging the users isn’t viable – so the reality of the situation is, we brands and marketers are going to have to shoulder that burden.
Personally, I can’t actually see Facebook reducing content visibility to as low as 1% – my theory is that they’re showing you the ‘worst case’ scenario, they’ll weather the arguments and compromise on something in the middle – and we’ll all feel gratitude to them for showing mercy.
But even if it does happen, and we’re all forced to dig-deep to get our content seen by all our hard-earned fans, the reality is that we have to get used to it and adapt to the change.