By Jeff Bullas
Has Facebook got you fooled?
Are you chasing likes for your brand page? Paying for fans? Maybe it’s time to stop.
In 2008 I joined Facebook. It was the first social media network I decided to place a stake as my online social media home. It was fun and frivolous. Everyone was discovering the power of multimedia sharing of their life with friends and family. Facebook obsession was apparent and addictive. It was the new digital drug of choice and 6 years later it is the worlds largest social media playground.
What made Facebook cool was that you saw “all” your friends updates. It was hard to miss a “what I had for breakfast” share and see the latest drama and joy in a friends life. What you shared appeared.
The Facebook “liking” frenzy
The success of personal Facebook profiles opened up the idea of Facebook for brands. So Facebook “pages” were launched! It was the start of Facebook becoming serious about monetising its business. Brands piled in and started to build their profiles on the big social network. Chasing fan “likes” became the new shiny marketing toy and tactic.
A big list of fans drove traffic and brand awareness for free. It is called “earned” marketing. For this blog it became the second biggest social media traffic source behind Twitter.
Then something changed.
Facebook decided to filter your updates
In 2013 Facebook floated. It became a public company and the shareholders demanded a return. The pressure was on. It had to make money from its advertising. It started to become pay to play. Facebook is deciding what updates you see and don’t see. It’s called a “News Feed algorithm”. It extends to Facebook pages and personal profiles.
Facebook is pushing you to advertise. To promote your post is now just a couple of clicks. Easy but it costs. One of the motivators to use Facebook as a page is now almost zero.Is there any point to chasing likes except for “social proof”. Some research is showing that only 4% or less of people are seeing your page updates in their newsfeeds when you post on Facebook. Here is some research from the 4129 agency on ZDnet.com showing the decline in just 12 months from 2102 to 2013.
It appears that in 2014 that organic is still in freefall. Zero is maybe not an unrealistic expectation. Is that possible? Jason Loehr, director of global media and digital marketing at Brown-Forman who owns the brands Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort thinks so.
The Ignite Social Media agency did an analysis in December 2013 and saw a 44% drop in brands organic reach in just 12 days.
Are big brands ignoring Facebook?
Beyonce announced her new album launch on Instagram not Facebook. This is despite having over 60 million fans on Facebook and only 8 million Instagram followers on Instagram. Maybe the advice by her digital agency was that it would receive more organic reach and visibility than Facebook.
This big drop in organic reach is making brands such as Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort concentrating more on their “owned” channels such as websites, blogs and email.
Some companies such as Charity Engine are quitting Facebook. Is the age of free social media traffic from building fans and followers over?
Facebook is a leased digital property. You’re at their mercy and their aggreively tweaked newsfeed algorithms
So what can you do?
There are two key strategies that you can pursue.
So if you are a blogger or marketer that doesn’t have a big brand budget and you want to earn your traffic by persistent effort, engagement and creating content then you do have some other options. So you may have to forget Facebook if you don’t want to spend advertising dollars to reach the fans you have spent time and effort to acquire.
How to earn free earned and organic traffic
Here are some specific tactics to create online traffic and brand awareness without paying the new gatekeepers such as Facebook to reach your own fans.
1. Search engines
Before hitting publish on your blog make sure that you have optimized your post for search engines so you will be building your SEO. Make sure you know what your key words and phrases are that customers will be using to find you. Then create content that includes them in the headline, content and meta description. Plugins such as Yoast can provide easy guidance on those tasks.
Then continue to create and market content that covers the range of 20-50 keywords and phrases that you want to be found on Google for when potential customers start looking for answers to their questions and research.
2. Email marketing
Brands both big and small are growing their email lists. You should do this from day one. An email list is something you have control over. The simplest tactic is to offer something for free such as an ebook, an online video tutorial or some form of premium content.
3. Switch your social media focus
There are many other social media networks that will drive traffic to your blog and website that you don’t have to pay for. These include Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ and Pinterest to name a few. There are a couple of channels that have surprised me over the last 6 months. They are Flipboard (is starting to drive more traffic than Facebook) and even the often forgotten Stumbleupon.
Twitter is not filtered and its focus as a place for breaking news means that it very unlikely that it will ever suffer the same fate as Facebook. Twitter for me has been my biggest social media traffic source and that came from focusing on building and using my followers from day one.
If Facebook push this too far there is a real possibility they will push brands advertising into the arms of Twitter, Google+ and other social media and digital channels.
Maybe its time to forget Facebook for your free earned traffic?
What about you?
How are you reacting to Facebook’s filtering? Have your tactics changed? Are you focusing on other social media networks, email and content more?
Look forward to your feedback and insights in the comments below.