Opinion

Can brands get anything out of a Facebook ‘Like’?

FacebookBrands should be using Facebook as a paid channel and get ready to ditch organic reach, and here’s why, says George Pappas.

The great thing about working in social media is that there’s never a dull moment. We are constantly facing algorithmic change, new platform developments, over-commercialisation – amongst other things. But what truly is the talk of the town is how differently we must now look at Facebook for brands.

Traditionally (yes, I’m using the term ‘traditionally’), a brand’s Facebook strategy was rather simple: you’d build the audience, generally through Page Like ads and a few competitions; deploy a creative content strategy, and reach a good portion of the audience you had worked hard to build.

In contrast, today we are receiving little to no organic reach and instead are amplifying content through Facebook’s paid channel. Why is this the case? Well, Facebook got busy. It got real busy. Each time we login, Facebook has upwards of 1,500 content pieces ready to serve us and from that, it must choose around 150.facebook tab on mobile

This includes our friends’ content, sponsored content, events, news and more. So, is it any surprise that organic coverage for brands is quite low on the pecking order? No. I’ll even go as far as to say that Instagram and other feed-based platforms will face a similar fate.

To contextualise Facebook’s popularity, in Indonesia it has 78m million active users. So this was bound to happen.

But now that we know that, why are we still talking about audience growth and Page Likes on Facebook? For the brand, it matters little if someone hits the Like button on their page. Ultimately, it is unlikely the user will then be served that brand’s content organically via their News Feed. So, why does it still exist?

Page Likes help Facebook better understand your interests as a user. Liking a Page on Facebook is now akin to liking a post on your feed; it doesn’t make you privy to anything new, but it helps tailor your feed by letting Facebook know that you want to see more content of this nature.

For example, if you like an automotive brand, you are flagging automotive as an interest in your user story and will likely be served ads from brands that target users with that interest.

facebook instant articles

An exception to this rule is media publishers. Facebook has made it quite clear that publishers, particularly those using Instant Articles, will still receive strong organic reach and engagement.

There’s a pretty obvious reason why, though. Users across the board are using Facebook as a news and entertainment source, even if this means leaving Facebook to consume third party content.

So, link-based content and Instant Articles are pretty high up the pecking order algorithmically. I doubt this will change.

facebook instant articles

Now, I’m not saying organic reach is dead. I’m saying it’s dying a slow, painful death and the more innovative brands are already using Facebook as a paid channel and focusing on acquisition and content amplification through Facebook’s diverse ad units.

The best Facebook strategies now create a cluster of micro audiences and target particular content pillars to these audiences through paid amplification. This is how we win on Facebook, not through audience growth and organic reach via feeds.

With all of this, what’s next? Who knows, but let’s face it – social platforms that become popular for brands will ultimately become paid channels for brands. There will be no free ride. It doesn’t change the ultimate premise of being social as a brand, though, which is to humanise and personify, ensuring we’re not a logo simply shouting at users.

Whether it’s through paid ads or not, the nature of the content should still be the same; it should be social, not repackaged offline content. Facebook is the largest and most popular social network in most markets in Asia, so it can’t be ignored, we just have to be smarter about how we use it, and how we measure our success on this platform.

George Pappas is a director at G Squared

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