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Posts by Adweek and Valleywag today are saying that Facebook is throttling down the already very low organic reach of brand pages down to 1 or 2 percent. This follows on the heels of previous drops in organic reach over the last year. This is a huge drop from the 16% of several years ago. However, for many brands this may be the straw that broke the camel's back.

What is the big deal?

Simply that Facebook is forcing brands to double pay for access to it's users. First, brands pay to develop a fanbase on Facebook using Page Like ads. Depending on where these users come from, this can cost from $0.02 to $0.40 per fan. With this community established, the brand then develops relevant content to be seen by all these fans. But, the News Feed is now being throttled so that only a small percentage of them will see the content at all. Unless brands pay once again to "boost" that content to those fans. Boosting content makes a huge difference in reach, which affects engagement and desired outcome. Boosting content was already a good idea for "key posts" for a brand. But, going forward, it will be a necessity.

It gets worse!

Boosting content to fans still might be a great idea if it resulted in the results brands want. But, there are two things working against that

  1. Up to 11% of all Facebook accounts are false or duplicates.1
  2. Facebook boosts for reach, not for engagement

The effect of the fake accounts can be huge, especially depending on where you have bought your likes. If you used Facebook's ad platform to fill likes from "developing markets" like India or Turkey, then you are much more likely to be showing these ads to fake accounts. And, since boosting considers only that someone "could" have seen the content, rather than engaged with it, the cheapest way that Facebook can fulfil the boost is to show it to the fake account holders. (I can imagine that their news feeds are just brand posts at this point, as they only have 10 or so fake friends that never post).

What should brands do?

Given that this situation is only going to get worse, brands should:

  1. Stop buying likes. You could be careful and only buy from "developed" countries to avoid some of the fake accounts, but since you have to pay again for them to see it, it is better to just "boost".
  2. Use targeted News Feed ads instead. You can specify exactly who the audience is and pay based on engagement - clicks to a website, installs, etc - rather than "views".
  3. Explore other platforms again. We have heard many people talking about giving Google+ another try. In my own experience, the engagement is less in number, but higher in quality. It reminds me of the Facebook of 2 years ago.

What do you think? Is the "free ride" over or is the platform no longer a good place for brands?

1Facebook 10-k Filing, 1/31/2014

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