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Facebook’s organic reach over and out, what’s next for brands?

What was once a fear of many marketers is now a reality. Facebook has made it official that it will actively cut down on “promotional content” that appears in a user’s News Feed.

Facebook’s declining organic reach is no secret. Read what marketers thought about it here. What is new, however, is that it’s happening now and is forcing marketers to either p(l)ay along or miss out.

Ever since Facebook went public, it has made its stance clear about the saturation of the organic reach of branded content through Facebook pages.

“The point is, why should reach be free on this medium given that brands splurge for reach on every other channel – from TV, print, OOH, search and display banner ads? And mind you, it’s a public company now and it has to report quarterly revenue figures to shareholders,” said Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner of Happy Marketer.

According to Prakash Kamdar, CEO of Isobar Singapore, with all brands now having to pay to have their content seen by their fans and/or non-fans alike, it only makes it all the more important for them to ensure their sponsored content is rich in engagement value to see real ROI from a cost-per-engagement perspective.

But do these recent developments render the years that brands spent amassing fans as a pointless exercise? Kamdar disagrees.

“Let me put it this way – would a brand rather pay to have its post seen by a person who has made an effort to like its brand page (thus suggesting some semblance of brand affinity) or to one who has not?” he says.

As a result, clients will need to review their online digital advertising budgets if they want to reach their audiences on FB, and at the very least, review allocation within the digital spend itself.

“Generally speaking, FB display seems to perform better from a click-through-rate perspective in comparison to other online display platforms/channels,” he adds.

Here are five key points as summarised by Mazumdar on what brands should do about this change:

  1. First, accept the change in regime and objectively compare the social channel with other available options and see if it still makes commercial sense. I doubt there is any other medium out there today that can potentially give you a reach of 1.3 billion monthly active users, who can be targeted using powerful demographic/behavioural/interest-based parameters.
  1. Use Facebook more as an engagement platform to build your brand, listen to your customers and interact with them – measure its efficacy from that point of view as opposed to the usual metrics of clicks, leads and sales. The brand page platform is best suited for it.
  1. It’s a given that to increase reach, brands must pay. Given the money involved, brands will carefully need to decide which posts are important enough to be paid promoted and which ones can survive with its usual organic reach. Brands will be forced to focus more on the quality of the content, the image/video used, the copywriting efforts that could drive higher clicks and readership – essentially the payment regime will drive higher levels of involvement, creativity and discipline from both brands and their agencies.
  1. If brands want to leverage Facebook as a lead generation/sales channel, they should make the most of Facebook’s new advertising products such as custom audience and remarketing ads that allow brands to serve custom ads/messages to its loyal/existing customer bases to drive higher conversion. Even for the normal ads, brands should carry out more A/B testing to see which ones work better. It is imperative brands juxtapose their customer data with the Facebook advertising system to drive higher ROI.
  1. Brands need to make the most of Facebook’s open graph platform to link up their website and microsite assets with their Facebook page using plug-ins – this would help increase the flow of traffic between their website and their fan page and vice versa.

As per Facebook’s Q4 earnings report, the bulk of its growth is being driven by its mobile app users in Asia and it’s critical brands optimise their content engagement experience for the mobile device.

Brands need to get used to the paid regime on digital platforms, choose clear business objectives for the different social platforms, plan their spends well and optimise regularly and continue to measure the right metrics. In my view, Facebook is still one of the better digital channels available for clients out there and far more cost-effective than many other offline/online channels.

It’s up to the brands and their agencies on how they make the most of the organic and inorganic options available.

In an announcement, Facebook identified three kinds of posts it will actively curb. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app; posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context; and posts that reuse the exact same content from ads.

“Beginning in January 2015, people will see less of this type of content in their News Feeds. As we’ve said before, News Feed is already a competitive place – as more people and pages are posting content, competition to appear in News Feed has increased. All of this means that pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time,” Facebook said.

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