Facebook shut down the “Like Economy” in December 2013.
You do remember the like economy: businesses large and small would encourage – or even bribe with promotions – their customers and prospects to “like” their Branded Facebook Page. Going forward businesses could then keep in touch with their fans through clever posts, content and promotions that would appear in the communities’ news feed and timeline. The content would have to stay good or the brand page might slip in priority or be de-Liked, of course…but there was the hope of a continuing link to a community.
But in December Facebook made another change to its news feed algorithm (the algorithm formerly known as “Edgerank”) which dramatically lowered the visibility of branded page posts. According to a study by Ignite Media a post by a brand’s Facebook page could expect to reach 16% of its fans a year early; after the algorithm change that figure seems to be 2.5%!
Of course Facebook has a solution for the problem caused by the algorithm change: paid posts! An article in Ad Age praised Facebook for being more open about the algorithm change this time than the change last year, noting that the last time it modified the feed and de-emphasized brand pages it had denied any effort to promote ads. The Ad Age article goes on to say that under the new scheme “the main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make future Facebook ads work better. ‘Your brand can fully benefit from having fans when most of your ads show social context, which increases advertising effectiveness and efficiency'”
A consultant who works with social causes told me that he has advised his clients to immediately cease efforts to increase FB page likes. He noted that he views the primary benefit of Likes going forward is to grant paid access to the fans’ friends with an implied endorsement. Since most of his clients are not comfortable with that approach, he sees no reason to promote likes.
At least on Facebook, organic alone is not going to be sufficient for brands. It will be a combination of paid and organic efforts. The increased importance of promoted posts along with the demand for more and better content has led Entrepreneur Magazine to predict that social media with be more expensive this year.
This leaves me pondering some questions about social media marketing going forward:
- Is the purpose for organic social media marketing going forward primarily to COMPLEMENT paid posts and ads, as well as SEO efforts?
- Will small businesses be priced out of SMM?
- Does the decline of organic combine with a newly proclaimed “Content Shock” (Mark Schaefer) to fundamentally alter what we mean by social media marketing?
I SEEK YOUR THOUGHTS!
[For more information I would direct you to the four articles linked in the post.]
This is a superb article Gary and the questions you pose here could easily be inserted into the end of the Content Shock post I wrote too. The end of the Like Economy came about precisely due to Content Shock. Here is what a FB exec wrote about the change: “On a given day, when the average person visits their News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show. As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Pages will likely see changes in distribution resulting in a decline in organic reach.” That is the problem and the challenge.
Thanks for your comment and kind words, Mark!
I agree that content shock and the FB changes are complementary and correlated. But the algorithm shift is clearly part of the Facebook monetization strategy. So I believe that it is fair to call content shock and the end of free access by brands TWIN forces changing SMM.
I eagerly look forward to more of your thinking of what is ahead!
I (we) started a Facebook page as a business because as a business you “ought to”. Not being on Facebook might be perceived as not having a website a few years ago.
So I am not an expert on proactive marketing on Facebook, and I probably didn’t “get it” anyway – I wouldn’t post anything on Facebook (or write anything on my business blog) if I wouldn’t consider that fun in its own right. It would way too much work to do that just for strategic reasons.
I have noticed the declining numbers – but I also do know that the “fans” who are really interested still visit actively from time to time, I guess irrespective of posts shown in the feed or not.
Actually, I don’t think those recent changes in FB’s strategy are much different from what happened to the good, old static websites (which still make a lot of sense in my opinion, not every business has to share something exciting and new every few days…): In the old days you could have a PageRank of 4 with a home-grown page and be no. 1 on Google – today you should have something blog-like.
All those trends demand that you post updates consistently – and probably the time invested into creating that “content” is more expensive than paying for ads anyway.
Many businesses, small and large, have been in touch with customers through their feed – so this is a big change for them.
Traditionally friends don’t often return to FB pages like they would to a blog or sometimes a web page. This brings back the arguments about “digital sharecropping” raised earlier.
However, the bigger issue may be the glut of content that you describe and Mark Schaefer has labelled “content shock”. Can we continue to engage when there is so much stuff out there???
Thanks! These will be big issues in 2014!
The public sector may be priced out as well. Innovative public sector professionals – There are a few of us out here! – depend on SMM for public engagement and to be good stewards with taxpayer funds vis-a-vis not over-spending on communication, PR and marketing. Often the public sector must be largely “organic” as far as marketing is concerned. This change may impact our effectiveness as well.
I agree – small business, non-profits, and governmental agencies may have to rethink SMM efforts.
But so will business!
Let’s see.. if I could dropkick one social network on a professional level, it would be Facebook. I’m spending much more time with Google+ and other than increasing “likes” on the pages we manage, we do not place ads and we do the bare minimum ($5 a day) even then. I think Facebook has shot themselves in the foot and as I’ve thought for a very long time, it will eventually go the way of MySpace, AOL, etc. I don’t even enjoy it on a personal level anymore.
Thanks for your insight Kristen!
I am in the camp that thinks FB is a dinosaur…and despite their success with mobile ads, I think it is not mobile-friendly. But it still is the biggest thing out there.
I would like to here more about the G+ experience!
Thanks again for your thoughts!
Hi Gary, thanks for the excellent post. “Likes” will still have value, at least for a while, as a sort of “social validation,” even if they no longer provide the exposure value they used to. Google and Facebook look invincible now – but so did, as Kristen alludes, AOL and MySpace in their day. If they give users strong enough reasons to leave – and potential competitors enough ammunition to replace them – their methods of monetization may be their downfall. Interesting times indeed.
Hope you are right about the competition coming in…
Gary, this post is fantastic. You have to hand it to FB, they are trying to figure out THEY make money on all of this and I think the Schaefer article on content shock is a nice lead in as to why this is taking place. Getting likes on FB never seemed to be a genuine form of marketing to me. I am not a B2C expert by any means, but I think brands need to segment the market and speak to tribes of people not masses. Remember your favorite rock band back in the day? I would have followed anything that U2’s Bono told me to do in 1988. Imagine a brand pulling that kind of weight?
How do they get social tribes?
I think that content shock and monetization (why SHOULD FB allow companies to talk to customers for free???), are twin forces that will reshape what social media marketing and indeed marketing is all about.
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