Social media has long been a staple tool for marketers, and for good reason: If you target and segment your audience, measure performance, and allocate a sensible budget to getting it right, you just might be rewarded by positive ROI—or, at least, some additional exposure or brand humanization. That proactive strategy is a far cry from relying strictly on organic reach—a pipe dream too many brands are holding on to today. Let’s examine the complicated relationship between social platforms and brands—and where you should really be focusing your energy as part of a holistic digital presence.
Facebook Giveth Organic Reach, and Facebook Taketh Away
For years, brands realized steady organic reach from Facebook posts. It was something of a too-good-to-be-true scenario: Post a marketing message for free, and have many of your followers see it—also for free. Even if a post didn’t get huge shares, at least you were only out a little time and zero monetary investment, right?
In the end, this unspoken deal brands had with Facebook came crashing down way back in 2014, as Facebook reported on its own blog. If these headlines are any indication, many businesses didn’t take it well: “Reachpocalypse!” and “Facebook Zero: R.I.P Organic Reach on Facebook” are my personal favorites.
Now, Facebook has officially ended organic reach for promotional content. Brands already direct a lot of advertising dollars to social networks; are efforts to earn organic reach a waste of time? In short, yes.
It is incredibly clear to anyone paying attention that organic reach on Facebook in particular doesn’t deliver value, yet many brands still use it as the centerpiece of their social media marketing efforts—especially B2B brands. This waste of time, effort, and money on something that can’t possibly pay off in any way continues to astound me. To compound matters, many brands insist on ignoring the fact that zero organic reach is going to happen strictly because of Facebook usage alone. Then, when stakeholders evaluate the efficacy of their social media efforts, they unsurprisingly find them lacking. ANY tactic is going to fail if it’s a strategically incorrect tactic.
So, What’s a Marketer to Do?
Curious about what your Facebook plans should look like for 2017? I agree with this smart commentary from Forbes, “. . . if I were you, I’d start hedging my bets; start looking elsewhere for content distribution opportunities, but don’t bail out of Facebook entirely. The newsfeed may be changing, but all that means is that you have to change with it.”
Let’s expand on that viewpoint. I am not advocating brands abstain from social media in the least. In fact, I recently wrote about the metrics your B2B brand should be using to measure the success of your paid social activities. In addition, I firmly believe Facebook in particular can deliver much value for the B2B brand, because of not only the popularity of the platform, but also because it’s relatively affordable to highly target content to specific audiences. And what about Facebook Live as a tool for business? If you haven’t explored all your options on the most frequently used social platform, you’re missing out.
The reality is that paid Facebook posts, Twitter chats, hashtag campaigns, other social networking activities all have a place in a comprehensive digital strategy. Buzz is still possible, and mindshare it can generate is still valuable. Here’s the key, though: Ultimately, social networks should only be a part of a bigger plan — one rooted in developing owned content, and by extension, a branded community.
Brands that build community features on their own website give their fans a way to engage that’s more intimate and in depth than social media will ever be. Savvy brands already know that hosting ratings and reviews on-site can drive increased sales. Adding areas for healthy debate and support from your community only serves to enhance an online presence.
We really are spoiled for choice when it comes to different ways to communicate, and nobody said marketing was easy. But, if you do your research, and know how to communicate with your audience on their preferred platforms, you can still provide real value to them via social media.
Relying on only social media to engage with consumers and build relationships is fraught with risk, especially with social platforms constantly changing their rules and regulations, never mind their algorithms.
Social media marketing for the B2B brand is obviously here to stay—just look at the rising number of B2B brands leveraging image and video-based platforms like Instagram as proof. To more effectively bridge the gap in brand-to-customer communication, though, we look for branded communities to take off this year. If you haven’t already, your brand should consider actively using your owned media to build relationships with new customers and cement relationships with current ones—or you just might lose out to a competitor who will.
What has your experience been as a marketer? Do you find that the traditional social platforms have been lacking in impact and have you been trying alternative strategies? I would love to hear your thoughts and whether you’re focused on working to build your own communities.
Additional Resources on this Topic:
2016: The Year that Paid Social Media Advertising (Almost) Took Over the World
Has Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Change Finally Doomed Publishers and Marketers for Good?
Social Media Marketing: You Get What You Pay For