The free ride is over on Facebook

Facebook’s organic reach has been steadily decreasing over the last few months, with research reports suggesting that it might very soon reach zero. Brands will now have to pay up if they want to reach out to audiences.

e4m by Abhinna Shreshtha
Updated: Mar 31, 2014 8:07 AM
The free ride is over on Facebook

A recent report by Social@Ogilvy, a global, cross-discipline team of social experts from across all of Ogilvy’s businesses,  claims that Facebook’s organic reach hovered at 6 per cent, a decline of 49 per centfrom October. For large pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach was at 2 per cent. The report also states that “Facebook sources are unofficially asking community managers to expect it to approach zero in the foreseeable future.” The official account, according to reports in the media, seems to be that Facebook wants free, organic reach to reach about 1-2 per cent of the audience and the social media giant is admitting that the best way for a business to get their reach is to pay for it.

What exactly is organic reach?
As Facebook defines it, organic reach is “The number of unique people who saw your post in News Feed or on your Page, including people who saw it from a story shared by a friend when they liked, commented on or shared your post, answered a question or responded to an event.”

Recently, in its bid to provide more meaningful content to users, Facebook has tweaked the way brand and post pages are shared. The idea it would appear, at first glance is to improve the way content is shared and reaches the users. However, the social networking giant also seems to have realised that it is sitting on a potential goldmine. Facebook communities, pages and groups have long been a major component of brands’ efforts to engage with their customers and to share information. With this avenue now heading down the paid path, advertisers will need to rethink their social media strategy.

Does apaid model work on social media?
“Having a paid model on social media does not make sense. When people try to make this model work, not only do they fail, but they see the number of subscribers decreasing. Facebook is going through the same problem, because they cannot just monetise through paid media and the more they try to do that, the more they are losing (users),” said Vincent Digonnet, Chairman (APAC Region),Razorfish, when asked about having a paid model on social media.

There is some truth to this philosophy. A very Indian way of looking at social media, or for that matter, the internet is that your audience does not want to pay for things that they can get for free. Does this insight apply to brands too? Will a brand which has been happily using a free platform for so long be willing to pay for it?

According to Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO, Social Wavelength, there is no option for advertisers but to start paying for their audience. “Perhaps brands will not be able to get the same reach as they used to earlier but we are advising our clients to invest in promoted posts. If you have great content and you get that initial traction, it is possible to still be able to reach out to your target audience,” he said.

Facebook’s strength has always been in targeting and its recent focus on improving native advertising seems to be a smart move to improve user experience, as well as create a new revenue stream. Perhaps, Facebook believes that with social media marketing now mature enough, brand managers will be able to understand the advantages it provides in terms of targeted audiences, even if the reach decreases somehow.

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