Facebook’s new features – who’s paying for them? You are

Any brand on Facebook will tell you that their organic reach has declined dramatically over the last few years. The cynics among us – myself included – tie this News Feed algorithm change to Facebook’s ever-increasing profits. After all, in the last three months of 2016, Facebook’s ad revenue hit $8.6 billion – a 53% increase from the same time the year before. Facebook made $26.9 billion in ad sales for the whole of 2016 – 57% more than they made in 2015!

Facebook issued a statement saying that the drop in organic reach has nothing to do with those surges in profits. Of course, it’s just a happy coincidence.

Facebook insist that more and more content is being created and shared every day, no doubt due to the prevalence of smartphones. Facebook claim that there is more content being made than there is time to absorb it. The average Facebook user could be presented with 1,500 stories in their News Feed every time they login. And if you’re really popular, that number of stories could be as many as 15,000.

In addition, people are liking more pages these days. That makes space in the News Feed even more competitive. Facebook uses a complex web of factors to whittle down those 1,500 stories to about 300. And that, folks, is why your brand’s organic reach is dwindling.

Your Facebook strategy no doubt needs a reboot. And we’re here to help.

Facebook don’t charge you, but is not free

While often lauded as a free service, Facebook is definitely not free. There are three things that users give to Facebook that are much more valuable than any subscription fee – your time, your content and your personal data. These things have been cleverly monetised, making users both the consumer and the product.

And on top of this, brands are the ones who are actually footing the bill in real cash terms. When brands first started using Facebook, there was genuine excitement around the idea of building a community around your brand. People advertised to accelerate their growth or to be more targeted. But these days, even talking to that community is going to cost you money. Today, that group of people you spent endless hours cultivating is left to languish if you don’t boost your posts.

And what about those businesses who paid for their page likes?

Unfortunately that audience you paid for doesn’t really belong to you anymore. Any continued contact with them is going to cost you. Facebook have tried to put a positive spin on this, however.

Facebook fans still have value, even if you can’t talk to them for free anymore. For instance, the more fans you have, the more effective your ad campaigns will be. Also, you can use fans’ demographic data to inform decisions about current and prospective customers. Higher numbers of fans give your business credibility. Yes, there’s no denying that these are all good things. But what most businesses wanted from those big numbers of page likes was web traffic.

“Fans can help you achieve your business objectives on Facebook, but having fans should not be thought of as an end unto itself,” says Facebook’s vice president of ads product marketing, Brian Boland. Why then were businesses encouraged to buy ad campaigns with the sole purpose of increasing their page likes then? One can’t help but feel like this was the long-term strategy all along. Get the brands onboard by giving them a taste of what Facebook can do, then close the doors and make them pay. It’s certainly worked.

Facebook’s new features – who’s paying for them? You are

Of course, Facebook is re-investing some of those big profits back into the business and have developed some truly remarkable ways to reach audiences. There’s the Facebook pixel, which allows you to reach audiences based on their behaviour on your website, as well as discovering new audiences that look similar to yours. They’ve launched Facebook Live video, and soon audio too. A new discovery News Feed is currently being tested, which will display content from sources that Facebook thinks you’ll like (interesting that Facebook say they don’t have the space to display everything in your News Feed, but they do have the space to create a second News Feed full of things you didn’t ask to see). Facebook have also launched a crowd-funding platform, which will surely put a dent in the likes Kickstarter and GoFundMe.

So while Facebook is becoming a bigger, shinier and more diverse platform these days, there is no denying that it has moved further away from the idea of community and closer towards being a marketing machine. Yes, Facebook might be free in some senses of the word, but certainly not for businesses anymore. Perhaps groups are a better fit for those brands who want to build a community, rather than a branded page? This means surrendering some control over the content, but for some brands, that just might work!

We wonder what changes Facebook have in store for brand pages? No doubt some companies – particularly those with small marketing budgets – are at the point where they’re wondering whether Facebook is worth the investment anymore.

Of course, how you answer this question has a lot to do with your overall strategy and goals. Instead of doing away with Facebook entirely, some brands most certainly need to rethink their approach. The goal posts have shifted, but the game still continues. Do you feel like your Facebook is stagnating? We can help you re-work your strategy to ensure you’re getting the slice of the social pie that you deserve! Contact us for a free Skype consultation.


Christian Taylor is a writer and digital marketer and a member of the VKN Digital team. VKN Digital is a digital marketing agency in Hertfordshire, UK. We aim to help SMEs overcome marketing hurdles and create compelling digital content that drives results. If your website needs a refresh, new content, a rebrand, some general housekeeping – or perhaps you’re looking to build a new one from scratch – please get in touch via our contact page for a free Skype consultation. We can also help with SEO, design and social media.

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