Dear Facebook, It's Over. (It's Not Me, It's You)

Written by Ryan Cormier

Last month, news broke that Facebook is slashing pages’ organic reach to a measly 1-2%. Here in Las Vegas, that means that every time major hospitality brands like The Cosmopolitan and ARIA Resort & Casino post to Facebook, 98-99% of their hard-earned (and paid for) fans won't see the post. For marketers, we are exploring if now is the time to abandon Facebook. Curious as to what we discovered? Keep reading!Let’s visualize that impact:

The Cosmopolitan Facebook page

The Cosmopolitan

  • 227,115 likes (at the time of writing)
  • 2% organic reach = 4,542 fans reached
  • 1% organic reach = 2,271 fans reached
  • Fans who won’t see that post: 222,567 - 224,838 

Aria Facebook page

ARIA Resort & Casino

  • 712,211 likes (at the time of writing)
  • 2% organic reach = 14,244 fans reached
  • 1% organic reach = 7,122 fans reached
  • Fans who won’t see that post: 699,887 - 705,008

That’s a LOT of people who may never see those posts. People who, let’s not forget, have opted in to receive updates from these brands. The impact is far greater for massive global brands like Red Bull, which has amassed well over 43 million Facebook “likes.” At 1-2% organic reach, the energy drink giant’s posts could potentially reach less than 500,000 of their fans.

Those posts no longer have wings. 

Perhaps even more troubling, though, is the impact this change is going to have on small businesses, startups, non-profits and cause-related pages. As a new digital marketing agency in Las Vegas, for example, how am I supposed to get any value out of branding and marketing Forward Digital on Facebook when only a handful of people see my posts? And what about the non-profit organizations who've poured countless hours and critical dollars into building an audience they can regularly communicate with?

Is it time for marketers to abandon Facebook?

The answer isn’t crystal clear. Instead of listing all the reasons for pulling the plug on Facebook, let’s take a look at some of the arguments for playing Facebook’s game and continuing to incorporate the social network into our marketing efforts:

Facebook is extremely targeted

Compared to the majority of modern marketing channels, Facebook allows companies to be extremely selective with their advertising spend. At times, the level of targeting achievable through Facebook’s advertising platform is so specific it's creepy.

Privacy concerns aside, though, few other media companies have the ability to allow advertisers to serve ads only to individuals who are a particular age, live in a specific area of the world and fit an incredibly specific psychographic profile. This allows marketers to engage the people who are most likely to find value in their products and services, and to do so on an ongoing basis as soon as those people click the infamous “like” button.

Let's be clear - there’s value in the ongoing relationship that Facebook fosters between brands and consumers. 

Facebook is good for SEO

It's no secret that social media activities can boost a site's SEO. The major search engines - Google, Yahoo! and Bing - are constantly refining their algorithms in an effort to deliver users with the most relevant results possible. Over the past few years, those algorithms have begun incorporating indications of interest from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and Google+ into their rankings.

This makes a lot of sense when you think about it; people share things they like and find value in. If a site's content is consistently and widely shared on the most popular social networks in the world, that's a good indication to search engines that people like what they're finding there. Why wouldn't they want to return that site higher in their search results?

Don't overlook the SEO benefits gained from quality engagement on Facebook. 

Facebook advertising is actually pretty affordable

Compared to other marketing channels, Facebook ads are actually fairly cheap. I've been running a Facebook ad campaign for a client for the past 9 months, and the results speak volumes:

  • Total ad spend: < $10,000
  • Total ad impressions: 29,326,026
  • Total ad clicks: 10,191
  • New page likes: 3,879
  • Avg Cost Per 1,000 Impressions (CPM): $0.24 (well below the estimated avg CPM for online ads)
  • Avg Cost Per Click (CPC): $0.80 (1/3 that of Google AdWords)
  • Avg Cost Per Like (CPL): $1.81
  • One post reached an audience 5,178.75% larger than the number of page "likes"

As you can see from the data, the cost to run Facebook ads is - in most cases - equal to, or significantly less expensive than, alternative advertising outlets.

In the case of this particular client, we've split their budget between two campaigns: one to attract more page "likes," and one to boost page/post engagement. As a result, we've not only seen increased engagement on their Facebook page, but also a healthy bump in paid search clicks and impressions from users searching for the product by the brand name. These brand searches are incredibly valuable for our paid search campaign, as their CPC is up to 10x lower than the non-brand terms we're bidding on. The client's Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) on Google AdWords is now 150%.

For smaller companies/brands, you don't have to spend a fortune to have success on Facebook.

Even so, is it time for marketers to give Facebook the ax? In my opinion, the answer is no. Facebook simply has too much marketing value to abandon altogether. Are we as marketers going to consistently have to evaluate and shift our strategy for using the social network to engage with consumers? Absolutely. Are we going to have to pay to gain new page "likes," and to ensure that our audience actually sees our posts? Without a doubt.

The real issue I see is that many brands and marketers are not properly measuring the ROI of Facebook (and other social networks, for that matter). The truth is it can take a long time for someone who "likes" a page to end up purchasing a product or service from them, and even that isn't guaranteed. There are a large number of people who will "like" a page on Facebook, but never actually conduct any business with the company or brand managing it. That's frustrating for marketers. It's up to us to adapt how we measure our ROI.

When approached with a strategic plan and measurement strategy, I think marketers will continue to find Facebook to be an extremely effective marketing platform.

Let's not forget that Facebook is a publicly traded, for-profit company, and they're going to do everything they can do squeeze dollars out of advertisers to boost their revenues (and their stock price). It's no different than Google providing the world with a great search engine, only to show them ads any time they conduct a search or check their Gmail. If we as marketers want to tap into the massive network that Facebook has built, we're going to have to pay to play. It's really that simple.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter @ForwardDigital and let us know how you feel about Facebook slashing pages' organic reach in order to sell more ads. If you have any data you can share, that's even better!