The demise of Facebook is a regular topic (most recently due to a report on teen usage see here and a counter argument here and some alternative stats here), yet it continues to grow with 1.3b Global users and more than 2.3m Irish users.
To continue to deliver growth and increases in user activity and satisfaction, Facebook is, and will continue to change and evolve and as marketers we have to be alert to the changes happening with Facebook and what that means for us.
In a lot of cases I believe Page and Community Managers are still adopting an old view of how they manage their pages (post it and assume it will be seen/get likes/comments…).
Just as SEO and Google have evolved from been just about meta tags and descriptions, Facebook is no longer about pumping out content and hoping for likes, comments and shares.
In my opinion factors that Community Managers need to be aware of are:
- Reach: There is an assumption out there that once you post your content to your Facebook page, it will be seen by all those who like your page. Wrong. Facebook said itself that your reach is probably about 16% and a number of December reports and articles are showing that your reach is declining. Releasing more content is not the solution, it comes back to the challenge of driving engagement. If you don’t have it, you won’t have reach!
- Pay the piper: How do you drive up your reach? Relevant and interest content that will engage your followers is an answer but Facebook also suggests that you invest in advertising to drive visibility of your posts. There is a backlash against this from some commentators and I tend to disagree. Think about it this way. You have a platform (Facebook) to host your Page and community, the potential to reach an audience of 2.3m Irish users/1.3b Globally, free analytics and engagement tools and you expect all of that for free? Facebook, like most companies, needs to make money and they have to balance the needs of their users and brands. Therefore you are going to need to pay to play (or at least to play well). You will also need to advertise your posts and page to stand out from the crowd, even to your existing friends, which leads me to my next point. You pay to advertise your website and drive traffic there!
- Clutter: Think about the amount of content in an average person’s news feed (average Facebook user has more than 160 friends and likes multiple pages). Now some pages and friends will post a lot of content, others might not post at all. On top of this you have ads appearing in their News Feed, it is crowded and we have a skimming and browsing culture. You need to stand out and you need to differentiate yourself. Easier said than done but this is at the crux of my point. If you are adopting the same approach to Facebook, that you did 12 months ago or even 12 weeks ago, you will be falling back and missing out. The internal resource that is running your Page or the agency that you are paying to run your page will not be delivering a return for you.
- Types of content: An old one but really you have to have a variety – text, image and video. With the introduction of video into Instagram and the integration of Facebook and Instagram, you need to mix it up. Video is a large factor driving growth for digital and should be in your armour.
So what do you do?
The above are factors which will continue to surround Facebook as it continues to be a mass-social media player. No doubt there will also be more. The challenge is that as marketers we need to manage our channels, rather than let our channels manage us.
What do I mean?
If you don’t manage how you use Facebook, then you are letting Facebook manage you so you can’t complain when your stats fall off a cliff. Marketing is hard and you have to work at it, so you will have to work on your content and your social strategy.
You can continue to churn out content and support this with a little ad spend and yes, I believe you will address the decline but I think you are adopting a single view on Facebook – your view. That strategy is all about you. As you well know, your marketing and communications strategy has to be about your audience.
What do you need to do? In my view, you need to start considering that your Facebook page is a destination and a destination that your audience will want to visit.
In the same way that you built a website (may be you haven’t built one of these???) and thought about what content and sections you should have there, you need to view your Facebook page in the same way.
Your News Feed is a single promotion channel to get people to your page and engage with you. It is a channel that needs investment, in terms of resources, time and budget. You also have numerous other ways to get traffic to the Page (from your press ads, emails etc) and organic traffic will be key, especially as they have decided that they want to visit the page. Once you get this traffic, you need to ensure they are coming back, again and again, just like your website.
Why would currents friends or potential friends want to visit that page? What is there to pull them back there again and again…and again. This is the challenge for you.
Posting 3-5 times a week or monitoring posts 9am-5pm Mon-Fri is not a strategy or an approach, these are merely just elements of what you have.
Your Facebook page must offer a benefit and be of value, otherwise you need to either dramatically increase your Facebook budget or settle to only reaching 2.5-3% of your Friends.
So, my suggestion. Spend more time thinking about changes to your Facebook page rather than criticising Facebook’s changes.