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Resource  5, Dec 2012

Is advertising the future for Facebook Pages?

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Facebook pages engagementCompanies and brands now have to be smarter at engaging their fans on Facebook Pages.

If you’re a Facebook community manager for your start-up, chances are by now you would have heard discussions going around the web that if your page’s posts are not promoted, the post can potentially be seen by only around 10 to 15 percent of the Page’s followers (this post says 16 percent). I’m not sure if this is a recent policy change or something that has been implemented ever since Facebook rolled out its sponsored posts feature, but it’s certainly a discussion that has come to light in the recent months.

On the other hand, promoting your posts increases that potential reach to all page fans. Speculating a bit from my end, this is probably a business-driven decision for Facebook to increase their revenues from advertisers (brands) as they are now a public listed company and have a responsibility to shareholders to drive profits.

More importantly, what does this mean for start-ups? Previously, Facebook pages were seen as a great equalizer, a place where a David with limited budgets could challenge a Goliath with lavish marketing funds. However, this revelation looks set to change the playing field once again in favour of the big boys. So, in the wake of this news, a lot of people are now saying that it’s going to be a pay-to-play world where big businesses will dominate and that advertising is now absolutely necessary for Facebook brands.

But I believe otherwise. At Text100, we’ve always evangelised the importance of quality fans over quantity. I have never heard an account team or lead tell a client that it is of utmost importance to hit an xxx number of fans. I believe that our way has always been about engaging the fans which are most likely to help evangelise and advocate for the brand, rather than trying to reach out to every single customer or potential customer on Facebook. And it is my belief that this approach will still be able to prosper despite these changes.

I’m saying this based on a recent post from PR Daily which touched on the 4 factors that decide what type of content appears in one’s news feed. Based on the article, I believe that Facebook does not determine at random the 10 percent to 15 percent of fans who see the content being pushed out by a page, but rather, uses its algorithm called EdgeRank and probably lets the top 10 percent to 15 percent of people based on their scores see content from the page. So, this means that EdgeRank – and engagement – are more crucial than ever for start-ups.

In the long run, Facebook could turn out to be more effective as an influencer engagement platform for start-ups rather than as a base to serve every customer. Due to the limited reach it could possibly be more effective to get the important people coming back again and again so they can use their own personal networks to amplify the brand message. I believe most brands – big and small – today are using pages as a platform to engage a broader audience, but this change could see a more targeted approach moving forward.

Continuing this train of thought, metrics based on fan numbers are going to become less useful since it doesn’t necessarily indicate how many people actually see the content.

What it could also mean is that purely-acquisition based campaigns that are being run on Facebook – such as applications which implore users to invite a friend in order to stand a better chance of winning a lucky draw prize – are going to be less valuable than ever, since the chance of non-sponsored content ever reaching someone who likes a page through such means is virtually almost zero.

A step which most brands are taking now to ensure that content continues to be served to their fans is getting fans to add the page to their interest lists. However, beyond that, this move forces everyone to become smarter at engagement and community management. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that this could, in the long run, be a move that makes the Facebook experience better for the end-user, with more thoughtful posts that help improve the quality of engagement. My feel is that no company, not even giants like Coca-Cola, are going to have Facebook advertising budgets huge enough to pay for each post of theirs to be promoted. What may work best is a hybrid model: paying occasionally for some posts – such as promotional messages, while creating really thought-provoking content to drive conversations and engagement.

About the author

Julian Chow is a key member of the digital team at Text100 Singapore and has handled clients like Nokia, Flip Video, Adobe and PayPal, providing strategic counsel for clients on their digital communications outreach. He aspires, in the long run, to be an expert in integrated communications strategy, analytics and data interpretation, which he believes are key advantages for digital agencies to prosper in an era of keen competition.

Image credits: Search Engine Land

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