Has the free ride for brands on Facebook come to an end?

The organic reach of posts made by Facebook business pages has been slashed further still. Is Facebook set to become a paid-media channel for brands?

A new report has been published by Ogilvy showing that the average Facebook Page Post reaches just 6% of fans, dropping to 2% to pages with 500,000 or more fans. This is a significant decrease from the figure confirmed by Facebook in 2012 of 16%, a figure reduced further still by last year’s round of changes. With organic reach set to hit zero sometime soon, we believe it’s important brands understand that success on Facebook requires exciting, creative and unique content that resonates with your target audience. We also recommend brands prepare to put their hands in their pockets, rethinking their media spend.


Why is Facebook angering marketers?

Whilst organic reach has been declining for a while, few marketers rejoiced at this latest news and it’s implications. However we don’t believe it’s time to abandon Facebook just yet.

These latest changes were made amidst reports of users abandoning the leading social network in their droves. Regardless of the truth of these claims, Facebook knows that in order to retain users in the long-term it must offer them the best user experience possible.

Whilst it stands to benefit from the increase in brand ad spend that is inevitable as brands clamber to maintain the results to which they have become accustomed, Facebook maintains that these changes have been made as part of their continual drive to “make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site”. Users want their newsfeeds to be filled with content relevant to them, not content pushed out, often unthinkingly, by brands and businesses. By reducing the organic reach of posts, Facebook is forcing brands to think harder about their output; if you’re going to have to pay for something, you are more likely to take the time and effort to ensure that it is audience-relevant.

The so called ‘death of organic reach’ has led to many to ask: “Will 2014 will be the year Facebook is re-classified as a paid media channel?”


Should brands stop chasing likes?

What does this all mean for brands? At least one thing is very clear: Facebook likes are no longer the holy grail. Just because a Facebook user is a fan of your page does not mean that they will see your updates in their newsfeeds.

With organic reach set to become a thing of the past, brands must do two things

1. Rethink their media spend

How are you going to reach audiences if not organically? As you may be aware, Facebook offers some very attractive paid services to brands. For agreed spends, brands can carefully target their ads towards users with relevant interests or demographic information. Brands can also pay to push updates out to portions of their accrued fanbase. It is rumoured that soon page owners will be able to target individual posts in a way similar to how they can target ads.

2. Place additional emphasis on creating top quality content

Interestingly, the Ogilvy report points out that not all business pages have suffered in light of organic reach plummeting. Many publishers of original content such as newspapers, radio stations and content-savvy brands, as well as content curators such as Buzzfeed have actually seen an increase in reach. Facebook, it seems, is keen to support those who create unique, meaningful content of the kind that users like to watch, share and comment on.


Ad costs to rise

This week there have been reports in the marketing press of Facebook ads cost rising by 10% across the board from Q4 (2013) to Q1. This is unsurprising, taking into account the increase in demand resulting from the reduction in organic reach. Increasing budgets is certainly one way brands can maintain their reach. It goes almost without saying that to simply throw money at the situation would be unwise. Big brands and small businesses alike must rethink their strategies. How are they best to reach their audiences? Is their content working for them? Is it time to ramp up activity on other channels? Should they concentrate their efforts on owned media?

Whilst it was inevitable that competition would drive up prices, the fact remains that Facebook still remains a very cost effective way of reaching a highly targeted audience. As marketers we should be happy that Facebook is ensuring that ads are kept to a minimum within user’s newsfeeds. Whilst this may make reaching users more expensive, it does mean that users are more likely to respond well when targeted with top-quality content.


If you’re unsure of how best to adjust your strategy in line with these changes, our social media team would be happy to discuss this with you.

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