Since its launch in 2007, Facebook’s Pages have promised businesses a free online presence with which to connect to customers, offering the opportunity to publish updates and promotional content directly into their news feeds. Yet for the past year, SMBs have seen the organic (ie. unpaid) reach of their posts diminish significantly.
The data supports this conclusion. In fact, Facebook has been slashing organic reach for years. Research conducted by Ogilvy & Mather shows that changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reduced the average exposure of unpaid posts from 12% in October of 2013 to around 6% in February 2015. In April 2015, eMarketer published data collected by Adobe showing an average organic reach of 4.3% for posts by retailers, which lead all other industries surveyed (tech, hospitality, and financial services all fell below 4%).
In a blog post from last November, Facebook acknowledged this trend and noted that it will continue.
This squeeze is part of Facebook’s overall monetization strategy and applies across the board. It doesn’t matter whether you are a major brand with millions of followers and millions more in ad budget or a small business that has depended for years on Facebook to reach a loyal customer base in the hundreds or thousands. Going forward, brands that want placement will have to pay for it.
The precipitous decline in organic reach means that SMBs should reevaluate the place of social media in their overall marketing strategy, and consider other methods for managing customer relationships.
- Publish content through your own site and maximize reach by adding social tools. Your own website can still be a powerful tool for publishing branded content. The key to maximizing the reach of your self-published content is to add social tools to your site that allow for easy sharing through Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Facebook’s move to cut organic reach also grants extra weight to content shared directly by friends. The value of a customer sharing your content will increase, and you want to give them as many opportunities as possible to do so.
- Email marketing still works. Businesses that turned away from email marketing in the advent of free social publishing services like Facebook and Twitter may want to rethink their strategy. Not only is email still an effective method for reaching customers, there is plenty of data to indicate that it was always more effective than social in the first place. In contrast to a facebook post, which gets delivered to a consumer’s feed around 2% of the time, emails are received 90% of the time and opened around 5%.
- Host FB-based videos on your own site. Facebook now allows you to embed videos from Facebook on your own site. This move by Facebook has industry observers clamoring about the social network’s renewed competition with YouTube. The truth is, this competition is great for SMBs. Videos shared on Facebook already have the pedigree of being vetted by an audience’s social network — sharing them on your own site can boost your content offering and deepen engagement.
Ken Swanson is CEO of AffinityX, the leading white label creative and marketing services provider for companies that serve small and medium businesses (SMBs).