Hang on there, marketing folks: the Facebook Reach ride isn’t free anymore.

If you know what organic Facebook Reach is, you’ve probably already heard that Facebook is throttling the results for brands.  This doesn’t mean that they’re turning it off entirely, but if this Valleywag article is to be believed, your brand’s content will now only reach 1-2% of your followers.  (If you want to know more about Reach or why our Swedish Facebook expert thinks it’s the most important metric on Facebook, the hyperlinked article will help you out.)

To put it simply, Facebook Reach is the same thing as “impressions” in a traditional media source.  It’s the number of people exposed to your content – and it’s how you get Engagement (and on Facebook, Engagement’s by-product is word-of-mouth marketing).  In the past, Reach was earned media: we were able to get those eyeballs in the Newsfeeds of the folks who Liked us on Facebook, simply by posting content on our own owned media (our Page).  And the more people who engaged with the content, the more other folks saw it – not just through the shares and their specific activity feeds (which is more earned media for us, i.e. the holy grail of social media marketing), but because Facebook Story Bumping rewards content marketing engagement by keeping popular content up at the top of relevant user Newsfeeds.

Now, I have long been of the opinion that social media marketing is a relationship marketing discipline (and this article on social media ROI will explain that).  And so I am, perhaps, less troubled about these changes than some other marketers are.  There are, after all, still two ways to get your content in front of a relevant audience, and they are:

1) Pay for placement.

2) Engage good influencers, and they will share your content.

And the truth of the matter is that both of these tactics force us to be better at content marketing.

And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Organic Facebook Reach – It Ain’t Free Anymore

This is what everyone is moaning about: yep, Facebook wants us to pay for real estate that we used to get for free.  And, to be fair to the brands here, Facebook has put on a real dog and pony show over the past several years to convince companies that building up their followers is a great idea and that the big payoff is the earned media that we were getting in those Newsfeeds.

That being the case, Facebook has somewhat pulled the rug out from under the brands.  This could have been handled better from a communications standpoint, and I question why there wouldn’t be a threshold for SMB’s and/or nonprofits who haven’t necessarily had a chance to maximize their Facebook presence and understand how Reach helps them.

The reality, though, is that all free rides are bound to end.  Facebook is a business, and it’s going to monetize wherever it can.  The big question that brands are going to have to ask themselves now is whether or not they’ve seen enough evidence that Facebook as a marketing channel is actually worth a spend; Facebook, obviously, feels that its value has been proven.

There is a bright and shiny side to this coin, though: Facebook placement is really, really cheap compared to other channels.  I have a consultant friend who works with a charity, and they saw their organic reach tank by 90% (from a reach of 750 to about 75) with the recent changes.  They then spent $200 for promoted posts, and they reached 4500 people.

Now, whether that $200 was worth 4500 to reach is up to them to decide; this was an awareness campaign and their metrics are up to them.  Doing a spend on Promoted Posts is advertising, friends, and while we have more tracking on this spend as compared to a billboard campaign, unless you’re actually prompting a click you’re taking a leap of faith that brand awareness is a worthy endeavor.  (The social marketing ROI post explains that, too.)

But there is a truth that we marketers who are bummed out by this change (and I most assuredly am one of them) need to admit to ourselves:

Marketers know from experience that people don’t value free things as much as they should.

And this includes us.  So, perhaps – if we’re really honest with ourselves – we’ve been a little more lax than we need to be in our own content marketing strategy.  After all, until now we could just throw up pictures of cats (um – those actually work – keep doing that) and any other thing we so chose, and if it didn’t work – *shrug.*  Facebook was great for content experimentation for that reason.  Now, we’re going to have to consider where we’re putting a spend – and that means we’ll have to start to ask ourselves questions like “Is this post worth paying money to promote?”

And, if the answer is no, perhaps the next question we should be asking ourselves is, “Then is it worth the disruption to someone’s activity feed in the first place?”

Now, perhaps I’m just overly optimistic to think that better content will come out of this change, but hey: I’m an upbeat girl.

Influencer Marketing is the New Organic Facebook Reach

In the last few months, we’ve been talking a lot about influencer marketing – and our earned social media article is now the underscore to the article you’re reading.   Now that Facebook Reach is primarily a paid advertising channel, influencer marketing becomes more important than ever: your Page’s content may not show up in your followers’ Newsfeed without your dollars, but an actual person’s content will still show up to their followers, even if it’s yours.

Using influencers in lieu of paid placement isn’t a bad thing: people are much more likely to pay attention to something that’s shared by an actual person in their network anyway, and social media marketing is a discipline that’s best done by real people acting like real people.  That being said, it is of course more work to build up a personal network of influencers and lobby for spend dollars and really track that spend and make sure that the content you’re putting out there is actually worth (1) money, or (2) an influencer’s time…

And all of that should lead to better content marketing.  And better content is never a bad thing.