Is Facebook Still Good for Brands?
Practically every B2C has a presence on facebook because it’s always been a free and efficient way to target an engaged audience. But the algorithm changes over the last year have meant that brands are questioning their investment in the site, and some have even left… and been better off for it.
Are Brands Really Leaving Facebook?
In October 2013, brands typically reached 16% of their audience when posting an update. In February 2014, this number halved, so brands with a huge following and consistent presence suddenly found themselves scratching around for ‘likes’, losing traffic, and ultimately feeling like they were wasting their time on the platform.
A lot of pages have started openly asking for likes, shares, and comments to ensure that their posts appeared in news feeds more often. Others have followed facebook’s preference and paid for reach. Either way, brands have had to seriously rethink how they use the site and what they expect from it.
For some, that was just too much. Eat24 closed down their page in early April this year despite being liked by more than 70,000 people. Their break up letter to facebook went viral, with thousands of people sharing and tweeting a letter that really hit home for a lot of companies who were struggling too. Statements such as
“Truth be told, your actions make us feel like you don’t respect us. Maybe you think our food-related pick-up lines and sexy tater tots memes come out of nowhere, but we spend a lot of time trying to make people happy. Seriously, we dedicate at least an hour a day to finding a word that rhymes with Havarti because we want to write the first-ever cheese Sonnet.”
“But the bigger picture issue is that we can’t trust you. You lied to us and said you were a social network but you’re totally not a social network. At least not anymore.”
hit home for a lot of marketers who were trying and failing to reach followers who wanted to see their updates. For many, this seemed to be the beginning of an exodus, but it never really happened.
A few others jumped ship – Copyblogger famously pulled the plug on their page after stating that
“As of today, the page has 38,000 “fans,” but Copyblogger’s presence on Facebook has not been beneficial for the brand or its audience.”
The truth is, most brands are still using the site – some flourishing, some struggling – because it can be an excellent lead generator. As with any change, you need to work with it if you want to succeed.
Should You Follow?
Probably not. We’ve grown complacent – we expect a lot from social media platforms with no real consideration of what they’re about or why they’re allowing us to use their service for free. We haven’t expected them to act like businesses because they were busy building up user figures and working out a business model, but now they’re done. We know their value, so now we have to figure out whether we’re willing to pay for what they deliver.
If you’re already on facebook you should look at your engagement figures and review your strategy – if it’s working for you, then why delete it? If not, it’s worth tweaking a little before giving up entirely. If you can’t get it to work for you it’s probably best to scale back the amount of time that you invest or try to duplicate from other sites to work more efficiently. Deleting your page entirely is an extreme step, and something that shouldn’t be done on a whim.
If you haven’t set up a page yet and you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it, you have some research to do. Facebook used to be a given, something that every brand had to do (on a par with getting an email address and a telephone line). Marketers today need to be smarter and far more critical of the social networks they invest in. Is your audience on facebook? How are they using it? If you run a B2B or want to reach younger customers, it’s probably best to spend your time and money on other networks.
How to Make Facebook Work for You
In the early years, the main work on facebook was building up your following. Whether you did it via ads or organically, once you had a decent user base, you could confidently post on your page knowing that it would reach whoever was online at the time. Unfortunately, that’s only half the battle now. Once you’ve built up your audience, you need to ensure that your posts reach them. Here are a few ways to get your posts on more news feeds:
Work out when to post
Luckily, facebook provides plenty of information on your users – you can see when they’re online, when they’re most likely to engage, and even which posts have worked best. Make sure you’re following the data when you’re posting. Services like Hootsuite can do this for you by automatically scheduling your posts around the busiest times.
The more often you post, the more opportunities you have to appear on news feeds. This doesn’t mean that you can post junk content, it just means that you need to post stories more often and make the most of peak user times.
Share old content
News outlets and magazines like Time and Huffington Post frequently repost articles with different status updates. It’s a fairly simple approach but it ensures that you reach more people. It also offers you the opportunity to test different approaches, images, and status updates with the same content.
If want something, ask for it
Followers are more likely to see your updates once they’ve commented, liked, or shared a status. You know this, but they probably don’t, so why not ask? The taboo around asking for likes has almost disappeared since the latest update, so make sure your followers know what they can do to see more of your content.
Bump older content
Popular stories get bumped to the top of the news feed, which is why you should respond to comments as much as possible. Your responses can increase the reach of each story and improve engagement – after all, social media was made for conversations.
Post more pictures
Visual content gets shared far more often than simple text-based updates. Image posts also have a wider reach than status updates with links and previews, so why not create mini-ads for your facebook page and post them without links to your site. Most followers are savvy enough to find your website if necessary, and if you have a request you can add a link in the comments (bumping your site in the process).
Make sure your content is engaging
Facebook cares about the time spent on your website and uses that metric to assess how useful your content is. That’s why clickbait is getting less and less exposure, and why in-depth stories are gaining more traction on the site. Give your followers more reasons to stay on your site – create useful content, add images, provide navigation to similar content at the bottom… anything to keep them engaged.
Do what facebook asks
Ultimately, facebook wants brands to pay to promote their posts. So why not do that? Experiments do not need to be expensive, but it’s a good idea to start small to see whether your visitors are engaged and find out what sort of status updates work best.
Free vs. Paid: It’s a State of Mind
Facebook is free for users because the site is collecting their data. Brands need to start paying to benefit from that data. Rather than expecting to use the site in the same way as personal users, brands need to understand that you need to pay to use it for commercial gain. Once brands shift their expectations from ‘free’ to ‘paid advertising’, the changes will make far more sense and we can continue using facebook to generate leads and traffic.