Facebook is not a free marketing tool anymore. But don’t freak out.
Since the news started spreading that Facebook organic reach has dropped drastically, we’ve had to address these concerns, to our clients and now to all of you. Let’s face it, Facebook is still the #1 social network and as social media managers, it is an important piece of what we do. Like most people who work with Facebook day in and day out, our strategy has shifted since we noticed the steady drop across the accounts we manage. We have to pay to play now, and that makes things different when we are planning our monthly calendars. But what can you really do? Drop out of Facebook altogether? Shift lots of money around? There aren’t easy answers to these questions. Facebook’s answer?
“Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising,” said a spokesperson for Facebook
And really, why would we assume this great marketing tool would be free forever? We had a good long run really, and now things have changed. In addition to the importance of timing and quality content, promotion strategy has moved to center stage. It’s the reality of the situation and honestly, the constantly changing environment of Facebook can make things pretty exciting.
So what should you (your brand or business) do to cope with Facebook just not showing your posts to many people (who already ‘like’ you god dammit!) without you shelling out the dough? Here are the essentials.
In addition to budgeting for content creation, budget for promotion strategy.
We understand every business and every brand has a budget they need to stick to. Content creation is a huge deal. Quality content is what will get your brand noticed. Many social media gurus have been shouting from the roof top, “Content is King!” and we agree but we have also noticed how most have shut up about that. Because the cream doesn’t necessarily rise to the top always. If NO ONE sees your posts (which might happen very soon if you aren’t shelling out some promotion money!), those posts can’t possibly make an impact. Facebook says organic reach will hover around 1-2% (but whose to say they won’t drop it to 0%?) it doesn’t matter how good they are, NO ONE will see them. So, if you have 1000 dollars budgeted for content creation and zero dollars budgeted for promotion, you need to change that. Pulling ad dollars from traditional media (which people still seem to be hesitant to do despite how things have changed) might be your perfect solution. Also, you might want to add more Facebook ads to your strategic mix.
If you don’t have the budget to support a post, don’t post it.
We have been and continue to be interested in creating shareable, interesting and unique content. We spend a shameful amount of hours thinking about posts. Our loved ones get sick of hearing about them. All our posts are created with a target audience and message in mind, and we don’t put them out unless they have what we’ve called in the past “special sauce.” But the last thing you want is for a carefully crafted post to get lost in the ether. So don’t post unless you have a little money to get it going. This might also up the ante for the kind of posts you want to put out going forward. Don’t post flippantly, it’s not worth it, especially now. If you don’t feel really strongly about and can see how your target audience would be compelled to share a post, why put it out? Do you never feel like your posts never fit that criteria? Maybe consider hiring a content creator. Anyway, you really don’t have to put a huge amount of bucks behind something to prime the pump. The exception to this “don’t post unless you promote” rule? News and updates. If you are the hub of info for a given event or subject, people will check back in. You don’t need to promote that post about a slight change to your upcoming fundraiser, especially if you are active on social media and lots of people know where to find you, and know you take the time to share info consistently.
Embed your promotion strategy into your content calendar.
At BRINK, we didn’t always present our clients with content calendar spreadsheets that included a column for promotion. We stuck to the - now outdated - rule that whatever took off (according to a pre-determined benchmark) or had a particular importance (say an upcoming event or website launch) would get promoted out of a chunk of money set aside for boosting posts. Not anymore. Our strategists craft a promotion strategy right alongside the posts that are created. There’s a little money left to fiddle with (to throw another 5 bucks on top of an already-boosted post) but besides that, we go into a month of posts already knowing how we are going to spend the given promotion budget. It’s more planning for sure, but it’s a necessity at this point.
Get active on other social networks.
Facebook is still the top dog. That’s not up for debate. So while FB is a great partner, they are yanking you around and if you haven’t already, it’s time to play the field. But choose wisely! Not every social network is good for everyone. Find your perfect fit(s), and learn the rules of engagement, or hire someone who can do all that for you. Hint: In the travel business? Get on Pinterest. Deal with fashion? Is your message translatable to GIFs? Get on Tumblr. And don’t even tell me you haven’t checked out Twitter. Do it, but use it right. There’s nothing worse than someone messing around with Twitter and treating it like Facebook. AND, cross-promote! Whatever tools you have and have carefully chosen to use, use well. Don’t regurgitate an Instagram post on Facebook, share it. Don’t repeat your Facebook message on Twitter, write a little enticing copy and link to it. (One of my favorite podcasts “Stuff You Should Know” includes a Facebook push on the show, reminding fans that they are probably not seeing all of their posts even if they “like” them already.) Who knows, maybe one day you will be able to quit Facebook and still sleep at night, but that day is not today. They are still too hot. Just don’t tie yourself down.
Keep your eye on analytics.
Have goals and don’t take your eyes off of them. Use all tools at your disposal. Taking your time to crunch the numbers is well worth it. Facebook’s analytics panel “Insights” is aptly named, they really can steer you away from what doesn’t work and towards what does, if you know how to use the information. A surface look shouldn’t govern your strategy; fine-tuning is paramount now that $$$ has moved to the forefront.
So long, “free” marketing tool. No hard feelings.
- Caroline Jackson, Director of Engagement