If you use Facebook for Business then I’m going to assume that you’ve already seen the fallout that it’s had on the organic reach of your page (affectionately known as ‘NewsPocalypse’ amongst my peers).
Organic reach had been diminishing anyway, but this seems to have been the death knell that we’ve anticipated for a some time. And while it’s obviously had an effect on Organic Facebook Marketing, the effects on Ad Cost and Cost Per Lead are only now really beginning to become apparent.
Costs are up, because competition for every single Facebook Asset is up.
To start with, there’s less ‘Real Estate’ to advertise on – the News Feed had become a behemoth, full of irrelevancy and noise that was crowding out Facebook’s original function of being a place where friends and acquaintances told each other their news. Before the changes, while scrolling through my newsfeed one evening, I realised that 90% of it was ads (usually videos) or content from pages that I was following. Hardly anything remained that had been posted by personal contacts.
Is the Golden Goose dead?
So, seemingly with the intention of stopping themselves killing the goose that was laying their golden eggs, Facebook started stripping out the Organic Content of its Business Pages.
All of a sudden, the hard work (and years of advertising spend, lets be honest here) of building up Page Likes was for nothing.
As an alternative, Facebook offered businesses the opportunity to Pay to Play. From now on, if we wanted to get access to the people who had liked our Page (with the specific intention of seeing the content that was displayed on them), we were going to have to pay. Every. Single. Time.
… all of those likes that we built told Facebook who was interested in our Pages. Data that they then turned around and sold to other advertisers. Want to know who has taken an interest in Tibetan Throat Singing? We got you! Want to know if they also like Macrame? We STILL got you!
Now, this isn’t a moan – I benefit from the pixel and other data that Facebook collects about its users just as much as the next agency owner. The fact of the matter is that Facebook HAD to change or the User Experience would become untenable. Which meant that eventually they wouldn’t have any Users upon which to sell their advertising.
If you don’t pay, then you’re the product
From a Facebook User point of view, it seemed that things would return to ‘Normal’, and the Newsfeed would clear out to show only the things that they wanted to see.
From a Business Page user point of view, never before had it been so obvious that ‘If you don’t pay, then you’re the product’. The Product being both the Facebook Users, and the data that we helped create about them through our previous Ad Spend and organic marketing.
Before Thanksgiving, and during the Christmas period, costs always shoot up anyway – the seasonal demand drives the auction process that decides how much it costs to advertise. The difference was that this year, the costs didn’t really normalise afterwards.
So, where does that leave your average advertiser?
Well, it leaves us with the choice to grow different assets. Currently Organic Reach from Groups is holding steady, so growing Group Members would seem to be a good direction to move in. But a couple of things about that… you can’t ‘officially’ drive people to join groups by using Facebook Ads. And as well, there are rumours that quite soon, we advertisers will be able to target Groups as Interests (the way we can target Pages with enough Followers right now).
…Which is great from a targeting point of view, but it does beg the question how long it’ll be before Facebook has another algorithm change that reduces Organic Reach to their Groups, but then offers Group Admins the opportunity to advertise directly to them?
Careful where you build that…
What it DOES do, is remind us of the folly of building our Empire on someone else’s turf.
Another alternative is to use Facebook to build your Empire somewhere that you own – a website say. Email marketing is beginning to look like a really inefficient way to contact your clients with low open rates and new legislation such as GDPR in Europe. But bear in mind you can upload Email lists into lots of other Social Media platforms that aren’t quite as mercenary (yet) as Facebook. So contacts that you make using Facebook adverts can become subscribers, or Twitter Followers, or LinkedIn contacts, the list goes on.
You can still go old-school and load them into CRMs that you can then use to provide nurture campaigns, but a list of names (rather than Facebook User IDs) are a tangible asset that you’ll own and you can port them to wherever you want.
And as the person paying the money, you get to decide where that is.