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 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! 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 well (according to a pre-determined benchmark) or had a particular importance 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, 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” uses their podcast to promote their Facebook page. Specifically telling people to visit their URL reminding them that just because you have “liked” their page, you still might not see all of their - super awesome - posts.) 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 them. 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 

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 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! 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 well (according to a pre-determined benchmark) or had a particular importance 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, 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” uses their podcast to promote their Facebook page. Specifically telling people to visit their URL reminding them that just because you have “liked” their page, you still might not see all of their - super awesome - posts.) 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 them. 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 

Does social marketing have to seem sincere to be successful? 

 Yesterday at Beyonce’s concert in Antwerp, a Belgian advertising agency introduced the Pepsi Like Machine

. The concept is simple. Provided you are in the vicinity of the machine, you just have to like Pepsi’s Facebook page and you get a free can of soda.

Kinda clever? Sure. New? Nah. Domain registrar Domain.com did it with this adorably homemade, Twitter-powered candy machine at South By Southwest.

Social media is a relatively new concept, and marketers (especially ones who are used to doing the old media thing) are still trying to figure out how to really make it work for them. Both of these companies are exploring a relatively cheap way to engage, but the problem is often with their audience’s perception. Domain.com is a small internet company that (we assume!) had to figure out a cheap way to avoid getting lost in the muck of South By Southwest. And while one could argue that candy has nothing to do with domain names, next time the average SXSW attendee needs to start a website their mind might just drift back to that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

But Pepsi used their very expensive Beyonce endorsement as a launch paid for what in this instance looks like a ploy (especially to cynics) to exchange their product for Facebook ‘Likes.’ When you can afford Super Bowl ads - any attempt at the DIY aesthetic is going to be perceived as trying too hard.

Then again - won’t the average person be simply stoked to get a free Pepsi for a tiny ‘like’? And then you got a bunch of people walking around with your branded cans, taking some sips and who knows, maybe deciding to convert from Coke to Pepsi.

For those unaware, whose day jobs don’t require the production of vast amounts of high-performing, creative social content, Facebook changes its design and policies ALL THE TIME. Agile marketers have to keep up with the shifting tides. One of the latest is a rule about text overlays on images. Facebook says:

“Images in your ads, sponsored stories and cover photo for your Page can include text that meets our general Advertising Guidelines. Images may not include more than 20% text.
Examples of promoted content this applies to include:

Promoted Page posts


Offers


App install ads


Cover photo of your Page


Other ad or sponsored story with placement in News Feed

For example, event ads use the event’s photo for its image, so your event’s photo should not have more than 20% text if you plan to promote it in people’s News Feeds.”
We’ve found adding text overlays really does pump up posts, making them quickly-consumable, sharable nuggets. Add a paid promotion to that and you get a huge boost to overall impressions and PTAT score (people talking about this). But now, you can only pump up your carefully-crafted posts if they comply with this 20% rule. To catch any schemers trying to slip text-filled images by the social media Gods, Facebook runs promoted posts through a little grid test. Text that takes up to 5 squares passes, cross into 6 and you’ve got a no-go.
So how do you test posts? To make sure text only takes up 20% we created a PNG of their same grid overlay to slap onto images in Photoshop, then we toy with the text and any logos or watermarks (they count too, remember) and ultimately decide how an image will look its best. If it fits, it ships, to quote that wonderful shipping tagline. 
We have made this nifty tool available for you. Download the PNG.
Because this 5 boxes good, 6 boxes bad system does not exactly really mean 20%, it can mess with design in irritating ways. Text done in the same font size and style can be moved slightly (maybe to a more attractive position) and suddenly become out-of-line with Facebook’s 20% rule.
If an image uploaded to Facebook is square, it’ll the whole image will be smooshed down to fit in a 403 x 403 pixel block in Timeline view. But if it is not square, FB crops it to 403 x 403 pixels, lopping off the sides (landscape images) or top and/or bottom (portrait images). That means, you could potentially upload a portrait or large image (FB’s max photo size is 2048x2048 pixels) add a bunch of text in the center of the image (maybe even taking up 403 x 403 pixels!) and create an image that would crop to look as if it was all text. Of course, it would still have to look stylish in all viewing formats (note: most people will see your posts in their news feed, mobile is huge and only first time viewers and hardcore fans will check in on your timeline - sandboxing is key!) but we think there is some room for experimentation here.
There is another proviso to the rule, in that “The 20% text policy doesn’t apply to pictures of products that include text on the actual product.” That means you can showcase a retail bottle of shampoo, not that you can artificially edit the product with your tagline, smart guy. But then again, what if your product is an image created by text? Those possibilities are cool, and Facebook has yet to slam the gavel down on that one. Anyway, these things are ever change, the only thing we are sure of it that Facebook will throw out even more stipulations and make content creators like us scramble, and then innovate. For those unaware, whose day jobs don’t require the production of vast amounts of high-performing, creative social content, Facebook changes its design and policies ALL THE TIME. Agile marketers have to keep up with the shifting tides. One of the latest is a rule about text overlays on images. Facebook says:

“Images in your ads, sponsored stories and cover photo for your Page can include text that meets our general Advertising Guidelines. Images may not include more than 20% text.
Examples of promoted content this applies to include:

Promoted Page posts


Offers


App install ads


Cover photo of your Page


Other ad or sponsored story with placement in News Feed

For example, event ads use the event’s photo for its image, so your event’s photo should not have more than 20% text if you plan to promote it in people’s News Feeds.”
We’ve found adding text overlays really does pump up posts, making them quickly-consumable, sharable nuggets. Add a paid promotion to that and you get a huge boost to overall impressions and PTAT score (people talking about this). But now, you can only pump up your carefully-crafted posts if they comply with this 20% rule. To catch any schemers trying to slip text-filled images by the social media Gods, Facebook runs promoted posts through a little grid test. Text that takes up to 5 squares passes, cross into 6 and you’ve got a no-go.
So how do you test posts? To make sure text only takes up 20% we created a PNG of their same grid overlay to slap onto images in Photoshop, then we toy with the text and any logos or watermarks (they count too, remember) and ultimately decide how an image will look its best. If it fits, it ships, to quote that wonderful shipping tagline. 
We have made this nifty tool available for you. Download the PNG.
Because this 5 boxes good, 6 boxes bad system does not exactly really mean 20%, it can mess with design in irritating ways. Text done in the same font size and style can be moved slightly (maybe to a more attractive position) and suddenly become out-of-line with Facebook’s 20% rule.
If an image uploaded to Facebook is square, it’ll the whole image will be smooshed down to fit in a 403 x 403 pixel block in Timeline view. But if it is not square, FB crops it to 403 x 403 pixels, lopping off the sides (landscape images) or top and/or bottom (portrait images). That means, you could potentially upload a portrait or large image (FB’s max photo size is 2048x2048 pixels) add a bunch of text in the center of the image (maybe even taking up 403 x 403 pixels!) and create an image that would crop to look as if it was all text. Of course, it would still have to look stylish in all viewing formats (note: most people will see your posts in their news feed, mobile is huge and only first time viewers and hardcore fans will check in on your timeline - sandboxing is key!) but we think there is some room for experimentation here.
There is another proviso to the rule, in that “The 20% text policy doesn’t apply to pictures of products that include text on the actual product.” That means you can showcase a retail bottle of shampoo, not that you can artificially edit the product with your tagline, smart guy. But then again, what if your product is an image created by text? Those possibilities are cool, and Facebook has yet to slam the gavel down on that one. Anyway, these things are ever change, the only thing we are sure of it that Facebook will throw out even more stipulations and make content creators like us scramble, and then innovate.

For those unaware, whose day jobs don’t require the production of vast amounts of high-performing, creative social content, Facebook changes its design and policies ALL THE TIME. Agile marketers have to keep up with the shifting tides. One of the latest is a rule about text overlays on images. Facebook says:

“Images in your ads, sponsored stories and cover photo for your Page can include text that meets our general Advertising Guidelines. Images may not include more than 20% text.

Examples of promoted content this applies to include:

  • Promoted Page posts

  • Offers

  • App install ads

  • Cover photo of your Page

  • Other ad or sponsored story with placement in News Feed

For example, event ads use the event’s photo for its image, so your event’s photo should not have more than 20% text if you plan to promote it in people’s News Feeds.”

We’ve found adding text overlays really does pump up posts, making them quickly-consumable, sharable nuggets. Add a paid promotion to that and you get a huge boost to overall impressions and PTAT score (people talking about this). But now, you can only pump up your carefully-crafted posts if they comply with this 20% rule. To catch any schemers trying to slip text-filled images by the social media Gods, Facebook runs promoted posts through a little grid test. Text that takes up to 5 squares passes, cross into 6 and you’ve got a no-go.

So how do you test posts? To make sure text only takes up 20% we created a PNG of their same grid overlay to slap onto images in Photoshop, then we toy with the text and any logos or watermarks (they count too, remember) and ultimately decide how an image will look its best. If it fits, it ships, to quote that wonderful shipping tagline.

We have made this nifty tool available for you. Download the PNG.

Because this 5 boxes good, 6 boxes bad system does not exactly really mean 20%, it can mess with design in irritating ways. Text done in the same font size and style can be moved slightly (maybe to a more attractive position) and suddenly become out-of-line with Facebook’s 20% rule.

If an image uploaded to Facebook is square, it’ll the whole image will be smooshed down to fit in a 403 x 403 pixel block in Timeline view. But if it is not square, FB crops it to 403 x 403 pixels, lopping off the sides (landscape images) or top and/or bottom (portrait images). That means, you could potentially upload a portrait or large image (FB’s max photo size is 2048x2048 pixels) add a bunch of text in the center of the image (maybe even taking up 403 x 403 pixels!) and create an image that would crop to look as if it was all text. Of course, it would still have to look stylish in all viewing formats (note: most people will see your posts in their news feed, mobile is huge and only first time viewers and hardcore fans will check in on your timeline - sandboxing is key!) but we think there is some room for experimentation here.

There is another proviso to the rule, in that “The 20% text policy doesn’t apply to pictures of products that include text on the actual product.” That means you can showcase a retail bottle of shampoo, not that you can artificially edit the product with your tagline, smart guy. But then again, what if your product is an image created by text? Those possibilities are cool, and Facebook has yet to slam the gavel down on that one. Anyway, these things are ever change, the only thing we are sure of it that Facebook will throw out even more stipulations and make content creators like us scramble, and then innovate.