The First Step of Declining Organic Reach Is Acceptance

by Chris Baccus on Nov 03, 2014

It feels as if a contract was broken.

When discussing the declining organic reach of Facebook posts this is a common sentiment heard when talking to people who manage Facebook brand pages. It’s usually followed up in one of two directions.

One path is acceptance with an understanding it’s Facebook just trying to earn more money. The other path is disgust for Facebook and a desire to move to other social channels to show Facebook there are alternatives.

Which response is correct?

Both.

Both approaches have merit and let’s look at why addressing the decline of organic reach isn’t going away and what you should do about it as a social media manager.

Social Media Is Paid, Get Over It

Social advertising has been around for quite a few years now. What is new is how paid is used. It used to be a way to attract new fans that one could then engage using posts that would be shared to the community one built and usually paid for to build.

I used to track automotive brand page growth on Facebook for 26 U.S. automotive brands back in 2008-2011 every month. What I found very quickly back then is that any growth in fans above 6% meant the brand paid to attract fans, usually with Facebook ads or contest Like-gating. Brands that had a lot of fans on their page definitely did it using media dollars to drive fan acquisition.

One of the worst fan acquisition strategies I ever witnessed is when I went to work for a company and they were giving new fans a free $50 credit at their stores for becoming a fan. The kicker… the data showed that for every fan who joined to get the discount code 43% un-fanned the page within 48-hours!

Paid has always been a component of Facebook strategy. It’s nothing new for sure. The issue is the contract was broken according to some because the fan acquisition model of buying fans meant you could then message to those fans. You still can but only about 2-4% of them see a post now. That decline is real and I looked at organic reach across several fan pages to see what reality looks like over the past year.

organicreachchart_8_2014

There has been a large decline since last summer. It does appear to be stabilizing, but stabilizing around 2% isn’t anything to brag about.

Paying for reach is the new game where fan counts no longer matter even to the point that one recent study concluded, “increasingly Facebook is saying that you should assume a day will come when the organic reach is zero.”

This year the question many are asking is should they stop doing organic posts and move to a less frequent content model on Facebook where only a few posts are done, every one of them sponsored? It’s a fair question and one every brand should evaluate as they consider impact of their social media resource dollars spent on Facebook.

There’s a Bigger World Than Facebook, Really

Many of us who have been in the social media marketing game since the beginning can appreciate the focus on Facebook, but a singular focus on just Facebook or a focus where 90% of social media marketing dollars go has always been a flawed strategy. Social media is more than one website.

Of course the most important thing to do is consider the audience you wish to reach, what message you want to communicate, and how you want to engage people. Facebook might make perfect sense, but considering only Facebook is to miss a lot of potential opportunities to connect.

The positive of Facebook’s declining organic reach is brands that used to be solely focused on Facebook — sure they had a Twitter account, Google+ presence, or maybe even an Instagram account — are now reevaluating ways to use more than Facebook in their social media efforts.

Instagram is gaining in significant popularity since a lot of engagement is happening there. Engagement on Instagram for brands is 58-times more per follower than on Facebook and 120-times more than Twitter, according to Forrester research.

Its audience demographic is maturing with 46% of 18-34 and 27% of 35-54 year olds in the US on the site.

Paid is creeping in and it’s no surprise as it is owned by Facebook and, like every business, Instagram needs to make money. This past weekend, I received a sponsored post from LL Bean.

It caught my eye because I do not follow nor have bought anything from LL Bean in my life, but here they were in my feed with a dog hanging out a car window.

What’s a dog out a car window have to do with selling roll neck sweaters and parkas (is that what LL Bean sells???)?

Regardless, people loved the image and likely left with a brief positive feeling about the brand.

instagram_llbean_10_2014

 

Unfortunately, Instagram posts do not provide clickable links (yes you can click a link on a profile screen, but not at the post level.) So the value it provides is minimal.

Brands are experimenting and some are finding ways to connect without a heavy marketing push and hopefully gain followers along they way.

Value is evolving with extensions like Curalate’s Like to Buy that provides a way to increase transaction from images followers have engaged with that they can later go back and hopefully convert to purchase.

Paid has also arrived for Pinterest and it has been around for years on Twitter. The good news is only Facebook has massively dropped organic reach for now.

Time will tell if Twitter’s coming filtered feed will cripple brand organic reach.

pinterest-paid-ads

The good news is a diverse social media content strategy using brand posts, brand engagement with fans, and working with influencers is key to having a more impactful social media marketing approach.

All have paid elements, but organic reach is alive and well when one looks beyond just Facebook.

What we know for sure is that free social media never really existed unless Ello or some other network comes along to save us all from paid marketing…cough…cough…

—-

Contributions from Ikeda Goro, Golin, Digital

 

Post Author

Executive Director of Digital at Golin. On a life mission for the perfect Gas Station Tacos....

  • rmadala

    That’s a very good post Chris, and I completely agree with you regarding Facebook alternatives, its time to move onto other social media accounts, as Facebook is trying to make more $$$, but losing out on its user base and popularity.

  • Thanks rmadala. We are definitely seeing some defection to other channels with the younger audiences and with brands shift content priorities too.

  • rmadala

    Thanks for the response Chris.

  • LVC

    Nice article, but we need more information about this graph. Please explain the different colors and where the data is from. I’d love to reference this in a report, but without any source data or labeling, it’s extremely flimsy.