This week, I was talking with a prospective marketing client who asked me what we, as their agency, would do to increase the number of fans and followers that they have on Facebook. Social media is an incredibly effective marketing channel, and Facebook is probably the most popular of the major social networks. It's natural, as a business about to invest in a marketing agency, to wonder how that agency is going to leverage social media channels such as Facebook.
My answer to this question might surprise you.
What I told this particular prospect was that we as their agency wouldn't do a whole lot to increase the number of fans and followers they have. Want to know why?
In this week's video, I explain why Facebook fans and followers don't matter. Watch the video (just over four minutes long) to learn more.
Why You Shouldn't Care About Facebook Fans and Followers
Here at Quintain, we established our presence on Facebook back in 2008. While that doesn't seem like a long time ago, it was early days for social media - and REALLY early days for companies looking to establish a corporate presence on social. Back then, the key to success was to build a following and get people to "like" (or I think back then they called it "fan"?) your page. The more likes/fans/followers you had, the more people would see your posts.
It was pretty simple, really.
And then everyone started to catch on, and what was once a niche marketing channel that only the most digitally savvy businesses participated in became a very mainstream form of marketing communication.
Today, there are more than 40 million businesses with Facebook company pages, and each one of those pages is posting content hoping that the audience they are trying to reach will see it.
Facebook's business is built on delivering interesting content to its users. Given the virtual firehose of business content we as marketers are pumping out, it was inevitable that they would curtail how much of our content actually gets seen. Starting in 2012, Facebook began to deliberately suppress business content in order to provide its users with a better experience. These restrictions specifically target organic reach.
Facebook defines organic reach as "how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your Page." The reason they are suppressing organic reach is "there is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it."
Let's be honest - who wants to go on Facebook and be inundated with company posts in their news feed? Not me, and I'm a marketer!
How Many People See Your Company Facebook Posts?
Today, companies that post on Facebook can expect to see organic reach in the single digits. No one is sure exactly what percentage of your company posts will organically reach your fans and followers, but organizations like Edgerankchecker, SocialFlow and Social@Ogilvy have researched this and generally concluded that organic reach is now down to between 2% and 10% of total page followers.
For companies that have spent years building a following, this can be hard to swallow. Even worse - the rumors are that organic reach could ultimately drop to zero.
What Is the Best Way to Reach Your Audience on Facebook?
The Facebook organic reach "train" has left the station and companies and brands need to recognize that building a large base of fans and followers is no longer the solution.
Given the decline in organic Facebook reach, what should companies interested in using Facebook for marketing do?
The good news is that there ARE ways to reach your audience on Facebook, and do it in a way that is more targeted. The bad news is that, for the most part, you have to pay to play.
Here's what we're doing for our clients on Facebook:
- Post less: Back when you could hit a big audience through organic reach, businesses used a "spray and pray" approach to posting. What I mean by that is that they posted a lot and hoped that one or two of their updates would reach the intended audience. Volume was important. Today, less is more and I think that is good news for marketers. It means less time wasted on posting random articles and useless third party links, and more time spent thoughtfully crafting messages around brand-sponsored content. When the content is good, the chances are higher that you will actually reach your audience organically (because Facebook's goal is to serve up the best content to the right audience), so this is great news for inbound or content marketers.
- Help your most ardent fans help themselves: Most businesses have some percentage of fans and followers that are what we as marketers call "evangelists". These are your most loyal fans - the ones who really want to see your content and who are most likely to promote it to friends, family and colleagues. For these fans, we provide simple and clear instructions that help them to ensure they'll see your branded content on Facebook. This includes showing them how to go to a page directly to see the feed of posts, as well as how to update notification settings. We also like to remind them to share and promote the content they really like. Sometimes a direct "ask" or call to action is the best way to get the result you're looking for.
- Use video: Video is all the buzz in the marketing world right now and for good reason. Videos that are uploaded natively to Facebook have a 1000%+ greater share rate than videos linked to from other sites and Facebook users spend three times more watching Facebook Live videos than other formats. These are great stats, but the bottom line is that video works, so we encourage clients to create marketing videos and share them on Facebook.
- Invest in paid Facebook ads: This is probably the easiest way to see more bang for your buck on Facebook. Having a budget to promote your Facebook posts is a good way to dip your toe in the waters of paid Facebook advertising, but if you're really serious, there are quite a few more advanced Facebook ad strategies that have shown incredible results for our clients. Either way, you'll need to set aside a portion of your marketing budget for paid Facebook promotion.
Facebook isn't going away and the decline in organic reach shouldn't deter companies and brands from investing in a Facebook marketing strategy.
What it SHOULD do it cause you to rethink how you approach social.
Gone are the days when posting a few interesting articles, polls and questions would deliver marketing results. We're now in an era when you need to treat Facebook like any other advertising platform. Set aside a budget and think strategically about the type of content you are going to promote and the audience you want to reach.
Either way, don't waste your time worrying about the number of fans and followers you have on Facebook.