Social Media: Your Facebook Marketing Efforts Aren’t Working. Here’s Why

By Agency 33 associate Matt Givner

For quite a while, Facebook marketing represented one of the best (and least expensive) ways for companies to build a following of fans, serve them interesting content, and engage with them in real time. Brands leapt at the opportunity to promote their messaging to an interested audience, and companies began chasing Page Likes like it was nobody’s business.

On Friday, May 18, 2012 all that changed. What’s so special about that date? That’s the day Facebook held its initial public offering, became a public company, and suddenly had to prove to its shareholders that they had made a good investment by providing them with returns.

Over the next few months, and especially ramping up towards the end of 2013, social media marketers and companies began to notice a freefall in their organic reach. In March of this year, Social@Ogilvy analyzed 106 country-level brand pages and found that the organic reach of content had dropped from 12.05% in October 2013 to just 6.15% in February 2014. For pages with over 500,000 Likes, the number for February 2014 was a measly 2.11%! Similarly, ZDNet announced in April that only 4% or less of people were seeing page updates in their newsfeeds. Unsurprisingly, as organic reach continued its precipitous decline Facebook’s ad revenue has surged, hitting $2.27 billion this March (82% higher than a year ago).

Even more recently, Simply Measured released a report that showed the total engagement for the Top 10 most followed brands on Facebook has declined a whopping 40% year-over-year, despite the fact that those same brands have increased the amount of content they publish by more than 20%!

Facebook engagement decline

Source: Simply Measured

So what does all this mean? It means that Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform for brands hoping to reach their audience. It is no longer enough that you cultivate a large following of users and deliver great content to them. In order for your fans to see your content, Facebook demands its pound of flesh in the form of paid advertising and paid promotion.

Don’t believe me? Ask Eat24, which posted a Breakup Letter to Facebook before switching its social media marketing activities to Twitter. Or ask Charity Engine, which blogged about why it quit Facebook in August 2013 after discovering that nearly a third of the Likes it received after running a paid advertising campaign originated from Pakistan (a.k.a. they were fake). You could also ask Sim Partners, a provider of local and social marketing technology, which saw drops in organic traffic between 69% and 83% after it turned off its own Facebook ad campaign.

Given these facts, what are brands to do? For those companies with large advertising budgets, the answer is simple: go along with it. If you have the money to pay for it, then there’s no reason not to utilize the truly robust targeting features Facebook provides its advertisers (well, maybe there’s one reason). For small companies with little to no advertising budget, it may be time to turn your social media marketing focus elsewhere, for example to Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or Instagram.

For those companies that don’t have a massive budget, but aren’t willing to give up on Facebook yet, we here at Agency 33 recommend the following:

  1. Do not buy Page Like Ads: If your Page only has 5 Likes people probably won’t take you as seriously as they would if you had 5,000 Likes. But paying Facebook to help you reach that number is a waste of money. Why? Along with the rising cost per Like, a lot of the Page Likes you’ll end up getting will be from fake users, which Facebook estimates represent between 5.5%-11.2% of all Facebook users (or between 67 million and 137 million accounts). And, to top it all off, once you’ve paid for those Page Likes you’ll have to pay Facebook again to serve your content to those fans you just paid to get!  Instead, embrace the fact that a lot of your Page Likes will be fake and just outright buy Likes (type “buy Facebook Likes” into Google and shop away). Also, you can always drive users to Like your Facebook page in more traditional ways, for example, with a monthly e-mail newsletter.
  2. Post Engaging Content: Although this recommendation sounds like we’re telling you to just “do better”, the kinds of content you post are still very important. Although Facebook has been reducing organic reach to boost ad spending, this is only partly true. The other reason for Facebook’s culling of organic reach is that a lot of your fans simply don’t visit your brand page or engage with your posts. Facebook sees this, determines that your fans just aren’t that into you anymore, and stops showing your content in their newsfeed. Therefore, you need to go back and rethink your content strategy. Facebook published this post on its small business blog explaining how it distinguishes “high quality content” from the rest.
  3. Create Targeted Campaigns: While paying for Page Like ads is no longer a good idea, that doesn’t mean you should abandon the targeting tools Facebook provides brands and advertisers. Design a campaign around a specific promotion with a specific goal or call to action. Choose one of the other seven types of ads Facebook offers and use the targeting metrics to focus on the audience segments most relevant to your brand and to your promotion. Some of the best promotions include photo contests, quizzes, giveaways, etc.
  4. Build Your Custom Audience: More likely than not, your business has built up a list of customer email addresses and phone numbers over the course of operations. Facebook lets you put those to use by creating a Custom Audience for your advertisements using the email addresses and phone numbers you’ve collected. This way, you know that the people who see your Facebook campaign will find it relevant to them and, therefore, will likely engage with it. More on Custom Audiences here.
  5. Get Help: Social Media marketing was never easy, and these changes to Facebook’s algorithm are only making it harder. For many small- and medium-sized businesses, it is often best to enlist help when it comes to creating and managing an effective social media marketing strategy, and integrating social media into a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes website, blogging, e-mail newsletters, search advertising, and more. At Agency 33, we are constantly following changes on Facebook and other platforms that affect businesses and designing new and innovative strategies to make those changes work for our clients rather than against them. Contact us today so we can start helping you make the most out of your social media marketing and advertising.