Is Your Business Getting Faceberked?
Faceberked: A Definition and a Fictitious Anecdote
What does it mean for a business to get Faceberked? Faceberking occurs when a business believes in Facebook and the potential boon it represents to its brand. For the sake of my example let’s call this company Pat’s Place. Pat’s Place spends hours crafting meaningful original content carefully tailored to its fanbase on Facebook. It agonizes over when to post to maximize reach and recruits fans aggressively through its existing website, email, and in its brick-and-mortar locations. This local business thrived in the early years of Facebook amassing thousands of fans who loved Pat’s Place’s content, its unique voice, and savvy understanding of the platform. Pat’s Place will eventually realize its organic reach and engagement numbers have plummeted. It has changed nothing about its approach and it still has legions of obsessive Fans, but all of the key performance indicators are trending endlessly down. Pat’s Place has been Faceberked.
It doesn’t take long to find other examples right in our own backyard. Take local skateboarding and snowboarding retailer Vertical Urge:
Or everyone’s favorite Durham brewery and hangout Fullsteam:
A Short History of Organic Reach on Facebook
The advent of business pages on Facebook was widely welcomed by those in the marketing community. Prior to this juncture, businesses had occupied a nether region rife with unruly Group pages managed by former employees, personal pages masquerading as a business, and many other unseemly things. Facebook offered businesses an appropriate avenue to share updates with Facebookers.
Facebook then begged, pleaded, and encouraged businesses to get active on Facebook. They touted the number of users on their platform. They raved about how long users spent looking at content. They glorified the fact that their users were a diverse group of varying races, ages, and ethnicities.
Businesses saw the opportunity that Facebook presented and built up their fan bases. They hired experts to guide them in crafting attractive profiles and producing great content. It was truly a golden era where small businesses had the opportunity to speak to a large audience for almost nothing. Some saw the clouds on the horizon, but most did not.
What happened next was a system called EdgeRank. This system came about as a way to curate the posts a Facebook user would see in his or her News Feed. With so many active Facebookers posts were falling through the cracks that were of interest to the user. How could Facebook connect its users to the best content? EdgeRank was an algorithm that took into account factors like how much a user had historically interacted with a profile, and the content users found most engaging to decide whether a post that a Facebook business profile shared would appear to a Fan or not. Facebook defended the move by saying it helped weed out spam content while giving users more of what they liked the most. Facebook noted that while not all of a business’ posts would show up to its Fans, the key was to focus on creating great and engaging content. If you made items that people liked, shared, or commented on then EdgeRank would smile upon you and all would be well.
Businesses began doing what they could to make their content show up by using what Facebook had shared about the factors they were utilizing and what experience showed to be effective ways to increase engagement. Behind the scenes a war was being waged to make Facebook profitable. This fight spilled over onto Fans’ News Feeds, changing the way businesses marketed themselves on Facebook.
Facebook has encountered questions about how it would attain profitability since it launched and inquiries about how it will maximize its earning potential since it went public. The introduction of display ads along the right-hand side of the page were met with a lukewarm response. Businesses said they were struggling to achieve an acceptable ROI with these ads and while access to Facebook’s unbelievable treasure trove of user data was exciting for targeting purposes, businesses were clamoring for a better solution.
Facebook introduced the idea of Boosted Posts around May of 2012. This gave businesses the chance to have their posts appear to users who weren’t already fans. Boosted Posts also gave businesses the opportunity to create posts that lived within a user’s News Feed. These posts could target existing Fans that were being screened out by Facebook’s EdgeRank system. At this point, Facebook started to close off the spigot and the organic reach of posts by businesses began to dwindle. This was an intentional move by Facebook to forcefully encourage businesses to invest in Boosted Posts or Page Promotion so that their content would reach their Fans. Today, organic reach for many pages sits at 6% and there are rumblings that it will go as low as 1%. We’ve gone from having a system where businesses could speak to 100% of their Fans at any time to a situation where 94% of your Fans will NEVER see your carefully-cultivated content unless you pay Facebook for the ability to do so. Quite an about-face!
Getting Faceberked stinks! What should I do now?
Regardless of the negative tone I’ve taken above, I still think Facebook should be an important part of many companies’ marketing strategies. It’s not for everyone, but it shouldn’t be abandoned for the uncertain future of Google+ or the much smaller pool of users on Twitter.
Here’s how I suggest you grapple with this situation:
- Dig into your data in Facebook Insights. Learn everything you can about your audience on Facebook and how they differ or are the same as your typical customer. Speak with customers directly and get their input on what they think you should do or what they would like to see.
- Put together a cohesive strategy. Is your Facebook page supporting your traditional advertising efforts? Is it a customer service channel? It’s time to define a set of goals and shape your future plans and activities around these plans.
- Budget for Boosted Posts or Page Promotion. Just pencil it in, and realize that it’s a necessity if you’re investing in Facebook.
- Divide your Boosted Posts between generic posts asking for new Fans and mentions of upcoming events, contests, etc.
- Don’t craft a strategy of ONLY using Boosted Posts or Page Promotion. There’s still room for other kinds of posts if they fit appropriately within your overall strategy.
- Existing strategies like frequently changing out your cover photo and profile photos to promote campaigns, sales, or events are still legitimate. There’s no reason to completely abandon past strategies, but instead you need to evaluate their efficacy under the new regime and whether they provide any benefits to user experience.
- The bar has been raised in terms of the quality of posts you present. You need custom graphics, stellar video, compelling copy, and insight from someone who understands your audience to truly have a successful Boosted Post.
- Always come back to the data! Set benchmarks for success and every month take stock on how you are proceeding. The data rarely lies and it can tell you when the time is right to pivot away from a losing plan.
It was wishful thinking to assume Facebook would offer up such a huge platform to businesses for free forever. Facebook kept their plans private for a long time before committing wholeheartedly to the strategy of utilizing the Boosted Post as a large focus of its attempt to generate revenue. They have incrementally inched towards this goal and many commentators and analysts saw the writing on the wall quickly. However, if you’re just now dealing with this realization, the best thing you can do is educate yourself as much as possible and trust in the data you see within Insights. If you feel like you need help forming a strategy or executing upon your plan, please feel free to contact us. As the old adage goes: “Faceberk me once shame on Zuckerberg, Faceberk me twice and shame on me.”