Research published today by Social@Ogilvy shows the downward trend of organic reach on Facebook that a post published on a brand page can expect. From 16% of followers of a brand page being shown a piece of content in 2012, the percentage of organic reach has dropped to roughly 6% in February 2014 for an average page, and just 2% for large pages with more than 500,000 likes.
And the unofficial advice from Facebook sources to community managers noted in the report? Expect it to approach zero in the foreseeable future.“
The research goes into more details, but the implication is clear. The free ride for brands on Facebook is coming to an end, and Mark Zuckerberg’s network should now be moved into the ‘paid channel’ in the marketing budget. The end game here is that a message posted on a brand page will not be shown to anyone unless it gathers a notable number of likes from a user’s friends. If their friends like a post, if there is a visible adoption of the post by the community, only then the post has earned the right to be shown organically.
For the moment there is certain amount of organic reach that can start the process of gathering likes, but the tweak to the business model for third-party brand engagement will mean ‘paid for’ promotion will have to be employed to kickstart the life of a post, which will then hopefully gather enough likes and social capital to earn the right to be shown for free.
Brands are going to have to be more strategic in their use of Facebook, and think carefully about the content they are creating, when they post, and how they promote that post across Facebook’s network.
What I find interesting is that Facebook is creating scarcity. There are only a limited number of promotional moment in each user’s timeline, and the competition for these spots will only increase as brands bid against each other to build up enough traction to gain enough momentum and likes to be show organically. When there is scarcity, there is profit.
It also means that Facebook will be competing for marketing budget against other properties (both online and offline). Before, Facebook could be considered an ‘always there/always used’ option for every campaign which would happily tick away in the background. That is no longer the case. Facebook is going to have to justify each and every paid for post in a marketing budget, and that means delivering results. By slowing down the adoption and the organic promotion of posts, Facebook is asking brands to spend more money to get equally or less value than they are just now. Because of the size of the social network, I suspect brands will pay up in the short term, but I will be interested to see if the use of Facebook rises or falls as the organic reach approaches ‘Facebook Zero’.