Brands will have to leave Facebook.
This was the general sentiment not all that long ago. For the longest time, Facebook was encouraging brands to build Pages, chase likes and engage with consumers on their platform. Brands could not resist, as the number of Facebook users grew without end. It was a veritable free-for-all for a long time. On one hand, it was great for brands and the Grand Prix race for millions of likes. On the other hand, there was a huge erosion taking place. Brands - who could publish, post and reach everyone they were connected to - did so with reckless abandon. It was all about quantity over quality, and the Facebook users were feeling it. No joke. Brands would post a stock photo of the sun with the gripping copy of "like this is you like Thursday!" An impression was a free impression. Brands never met an impression that they didn't like. A "like" was the perfect vanity metric to push brands to spend more on Facebook. The like acquisition business was a healthy one. Still, consumers are not stupid. It was terrible and wasteful content, and it was turning them off. It polluted the Facebook experience, and was pushing people away from the platform because they believed that Facebook was becoming less about friends, and more about being marketed to. Never a good thing.
Then Facebook did both the best thing and the worst thing possible.
Not that long ago Facebook began throttling the content from these brand pages. The reasoning was sound. Perhaps the less content that makes its way to the user, the more content they would see from real friends. Perhaps the less content that makes its way to the user, the more a brand might think about what they're posting, to make it count. Perhaps, now that Facebook, is controlling the distribution of content, they can charge for it. Charge, not just for the distribution, but a premium amount for an increase of reach and targeting. Some might argue (I would), that they created a very powerful (and lucrative) advertising platform. A few years in, and take a look at their advertising sales. Brands can like it (or not), but it's impressive. Impressive beyond words.
The final straw?
Once Facebook amped this strategy up, organic distribution of content dropped drastically (for the majority). Next to nothing was making its way from brands on Facebook to the people who actually liked the brand. Brands worked super-hard to get likes and followers, and now Facebook is letting nothing through. It's pay to play. The general consensus was that brands would now leave Facebook. They would not concentrate on Facebook any longer. They would bail. Facebook would lose revenue. Facebook is just another paid channel. Brand and media companies have options.
The brands did not shy away. Facebook wins.
The lack of organic reach has had zero effect on how brands operate on Facebook.
In fact (and maybe most surpassingly), brands are spending more time creating content on Facebook (and paying for it). That was the general message from the Social Times piece titled,
Is Facebook Dead to Brands? Not So Fast... that was published today. From the article: "Daily post frequency rose by 36 percent on Facebook and by 14 percent on Instagram, while slipping by 2 percent on Twitter. Instagram posted the highest follower growth among the three social networks in 2015, but it peaked in February and began trending downward, while Facebook and Twitter were more stable. Instagram topped Facebook and Twitter in terms of engagement rate, and brand with the smallest followings (1,000 or fewer) on all three social networks boasted the strongest engagement rates."
What can brands learn from this?
- Brand are spending a lot more time on Facebook.
- Brands are posting much more frequently.
- If you think Facebook is slowing down, it is not.
- Photos and videos will engage your consumers more than text.
- The tighter your community, the better your engagement will be.
- Brands are paying (more than ever) to be active on Facebook.
Don't assume it's all paid media.
Content still has value. Creating something that people will talk about, share and connect with has value. Content is now a tale of two cities, when it comes to Facebook. Some of it must be created with more of an advertising angle (something to inform or sell with the impetus that money will spent against it), while a lot of it should still be created to add value, insight and connections with your consumers (and yes, you can still boost these with some dollars to get more attention). Facebook is still a great place to create a more human connection, let's not forget that. Let's also not forget that Facebook is a growing advertising platform. How Facebook tweaks the algorithm will forevermore have massive brand implications.
Still, with 1.65 billion users (plus their ownership of Instagram), etc... Facebook is calling the shots, and brands are going along for the ride.