If entertaining an increasingly attention-divided online audience wasn't already difficult enough, Facebook has made a strategic move that forces brands to invest in advertising. Brands, it's time to pay up or get lost in the digital noise.
Social media marketers and Facebook users alike will be frustrated to learn that Facebook's latest algorithmic changes will not weed out spam or non-engaging content based on individual needs. Instead, it filters out brand pages that haven't paid for organic reach.
That's right, no matter how sparkling and relevant your brand's posts are, fans will not get the chance to like (or even see) what you're sharing unless you back it up with some bucks.
Because Facebook says so
A Facebook sales deck obtained by AdAge
states the facts bluntly, straight from the horse's mouth: "We expect organic distribution of an individual page's posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site."
Previous algorithmic changes aimed to minimise spam and brand posts which the user hasn't liked or engaged with. Now, a "meaningful experience" will be one which is paid for by the brand, or no experience at all.
Where's my favourite brand gone?
It's not only brands that are losing out. A Facebook user who likes a brand's page and wishes to engage with its content will only see updates if the brand has forked out a pretty penny for advertising. Facebook fans can expect to see a lot less of the brands they've liked actually showing up in their newsfeeds.
Ignite Social reports
that while brand posts used to reach about 16% of their fans organically, the new algorithm's organic restrictions will result in an approximate 2.5% organic reach. And this is just for large brands with a hefty fan base. Highly niche social media markets on Facebook can expect fewer eyes on their content and an even lower organic reach.
If your brand's social media marketing strategy has depended primarily on Facebook, it may be time to dig deep for advertising spend. Alternatively, it has also been suggested that brands might need to reassess their reliance on Facebook and rather investigate their potential on other platforms - including Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.
The bar has been raised substantially for brands to bid for a share of paid attention on Facebook, and niche brands who haven't earned a great deal of organic attention now have the chance to buy it. Social media managers who have worked hard to create strategies that speak to their audience's content preferences will find that building a large fan following and maintaining high engagement figures has never been more difficult, or expensive.
Brands can keep debating whether forced payment for their online presence in fans' newsfeeds amounts to an abuse of power, but they will soon become invisible unless they make the algorithmic change work for them.