Decrease of organic reach on Facebook – what businesses should expect

For a few months already many users have been discussing significant decrease of organic reach in Facebook. Facebook finally acknowledged it and even distributed explanations to its partners. No illusions anymore. Do you want your posts be visible? Then pay for that.

Lately, Facebook has released a couple of updates on what type of content is more welcome in the news feed.  Facebook makes it obvious that marketers should pay money to cover their audience while promoting business on this social network. If they haven’t done it yet, they will soon experience decrease of organic reach of their posts in Facebook, and this time Facebook acknowledges it. In the sales reports to their partners Facebook clearly stated, “We expect that distribution of posts in personal feeds will decrease gradually, and we consistently work to make sure that people get full-featured experience with the site”.

This is a serious shift from initial standpoint that Facebook took a year ago, when its agencies (including GroupM) declared that posts of their clients reach fewer fans.

At that time Facebook representatives stated that algorithmic changes have been applied to avoid spam and to prevent poor content creation but they stated it hadn’t affected average reach. In particular Facebook argued the accusations that these changes aimed to get marketers invest more money into advertising and restore lost reach.

However, Facebook confirmed those statements now and this was exactly what they did revealing some Facebook marketing secrets. A document titled «Generating business results on Facebook» contains a paragraph describing organic reach decrease, and the paragraph is ending with notification about paid ads; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution aiming «to maximize delivery of your message in News Feed».

This document has 3 pages and contains also a section in which marketers are told how they should perceive new fans acquisition: it should be a tool that can make paid advertising more efficient.

As for free distribution of content, this documents sets low priority to it and contains it as a third business benefit for companies after «improve advertising effectiveness» (with the help of ads with social context that are available for all fans») and «lower cost for paid distribution» (because Facebook decreased the cost for ads with social context).

In other words, the main reason for fan acquisition is not an opportunity to build a channel for free content delivery and expand Facebook target market, but a task to improve efficiency of future Facebook ads.

«Your brand can fully benefit from having fans when most of your ads show social context, which increases advertising effectiveness and efficiency», this is what is stated in the document.

The fact that branded content will be visible by less and less number of fans can be explained by increased competition on a limited space because «content that is eligible to be shown in news feed is increasing at a faster rate than people’s ability to consume it». The competition is now more severe and publishers are first in the firing line because Facebook declared about a week ago that links to news articles will get the most attention. This becomes even more important with mobile devices due to algorithm changes.

Facebook representative confirmed that overall organic reach of branded posts in Facebook is slowly decreasing. He said that people are ready to share more things now, so the best way to maximize the reach of your posts would be to pay for that.

The decrease of organic reach continues and still remains delicate question for brands, especially for those ones who invested money into fan acquisition. They will have to generate more content to fight their way to their fans’ News Feeds beating lots of other posts. They also have to consider paid distribution as one of Facebook advertising options if they want to keep current reach, the reach that they got when Facebook was a young social network, its users had not so many connections and brands were able to literally bombard them with content.

“If brands continue attracting attention of their whole fan base, Facebook will give them preference”, Alex Jacobs (Digitas) said. “The long and short of it is further development of the platform and the amount of content to be posted”.

We asked Russian experts on a digital segment about what they think about such innovations in Facebook.

Maxim TadevosyanCEO at Progression

This statement of Facebook dispels the myth that having created a group with a substantial size of audience (a million and more) you no longer need to invest money into the promotion but should focus on content development within this group and your current fans will be a channel for new fans acquisition. There are no doubts anymore. Those brands who started investing into Facebook quite long ago and who already have a lot of active participants as well as those ones who are just starting their activities in Facebook should understand and accept that they will have to invest into the promotion on a constant basis. Otherwise all their efforts in content development will be in vain.

In fact, Facebook has to earn money like any other business. The romantic times when it was a startup within a university, a country, a continent are over. Facebook is a huge business now. It’s time to admit it and to have no illusions that the primary goal of this company is monetization through various formats. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Facebook monetization policy (at the cost of decrease of organic reach) is somewhat illogical in terms of industry development and general trends of social networks (retention/acquisition of new fans via quality content and not via investments into active promotion). I’m sure it will take some time and Facebook (like it was done by Russian social network Vkontakte) will try to monetize branded/commercial content, which is more natural and commercially capacious in terms of monetization potential.

Mihail KazakovSocial Media Director at Pichesky

Facebook is primarily a business. This business is based on communication with the content. It would be very strange if the network would not interfere in building of organic and paid traffic inside itself.

They realize that all global brands are already present in this network (in one form or another), and it is logical that Facebook wants to convert organic reach into paid one. Especially taking into account the fact that most of the brands will not leave this network (even if they wanted to) because they have their audience there and some of the brands have their audience exclusively there.

On the one hand, the decrease of organic reach is surely bad and no one will like it. On the other hand, it may motivate brands to a more quality communication and it will cause price increase for this type of communication with agencies. Though it is possible and not mandatory. In fact, those brands that showed insufficient performance will fail totally and pages with good content will only lose some part of their audience. So this story with Facebook speculations on algorithm looks not quite ethical in general, although no one should be bitter about it because when the brands entered Facebook they realized their subordinate position. So it’s quite strange to be angry now.

Official Facebook, of course, reasoned its actions with mechanisms of giving priority to a quality content that supposedly allow you to save money while promoting posts. But we honestly did not notice any savings in practice. Good posts are already ranked high by EdgeRank only.

I believe that Facebook will continue to put pressure on brands, increasing its income from advertising, and it is quite normal. But it will do it gradually, only when its influence as a media channel will grow.

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