There has been endless discussion around the drop in organic page reach on Facebook. People are quick to complain that Facebook is greedy, that they’re taking advantage of users.
I disagree (and not just because Facebook is a publicly traded company).
Let’s take a look at some statistics of other paid media outlets:
- Radio’s most popular show: 14mil weekly listeners
- Television – 2014 Superbowl: 112.2 million viewers
- Billboards – California I-405: 374,000 daily
- Other Print Media
- Online Media Buys
Now, aside from the fact that these all offer significantly less of an audience than Facebook’s 1.23 billion monthly active users as of December 31, 2013, nobody seems to expect free advertising on any of these platforms. Print, radio and television advertising has been around for decades and it has always come at a cost. These costs are a foregone conclusion regardless of advertising type.
In response to the popular Facebook Fraud, many people have spoken up in defense of small businesses, personal projects, and non-profit organizations, stating that they shouldn’t have to pay to reach people on Facebook. What I think we need to remember is: These are Facebook’s users. Facebook has spent 10+ years and millions of dollars to get where they are today. Why then, should they allow us to advertise to their users for free?
When you want your name on the back of a local 5k shirt, you pay. If you want to advertise your product or service on a local pizza box or menu, you pay. Many local newspapers charge for classified listings because it is their audience.
Let’s Compare Costs
**Quick Disclaimer: I am not here to get you to shy away from traditional media. These methods all hold value and can be an effective piece of a comprehensive marketing plan when executed effectively. I simply want to present them as they exist as a standalone option.**
The Big Media Buy
In 2014, a 30-second spot during the Superbowl cost approximately $4million. That is a lot of money to spend on a loosely targeted audience. I would argue that, although the Superbowl generates a massive audience (many of which are simply watching for the ads), the ads are not driving actual sales. Many of these ad buys are coming from large brands who benefit from large-scale brand recognition.
A typical 30 second radio spot is said to cost an average of $4,000 per week depending on location, station and the selected air time. Much more affordable than a Superbowl ad, but again, little to no real targeting and no direct tracking metrics.
Billboard advertising is estimated at $3,000/mo in an average city and upwards of $8,000/mo in popular cities such as New York and San Francisco. These billboards are again integrated, do not offer direct tracking and depend on drivers taking their eyes off of the road (yikes), taking in information and remembering to follow through once they reach their destination.
Facebook allows you to control your ad spend by duration, views, clicks or actions. My most recent (small scale) ad campaign reached ~10,000 users and generated 248 post engagements for only $30. Can you imagine the results I will get when I increase spending? Facebook ads are driven by specific targeting that allow you to narrow down the exact audience you are trying to reach. This not only improves your chance at a greater ROI but also lowers your cost per action. Money is not wasted on uninterested users and is instead spent attracting your potential readers, customers or viewers.
You Don’t Always Have To Pay
Facebook’s organic page reach has decreased; it’s not gone. One truth remains: The best way to reach your audience is to create and share excellent content. Facebook is a social network; if you produce compelling content, users will still share your photos, posts and videos.
The drop in organic reach, I believe, does a great job preventing useless noise. You only see updates from users and pages that you find interesting. If a page has been sharing content that I don’t find interesting, I have no issue seeing less updates.
How Can I Reach Users For Free?
As mentioned above: Create compelling, engaging content. Learn about your audience and appeal to their interests, habits and emotions. Pictured below is a recent update from a client page that we manage:
This is a post from a page that currently has about 2,000 likes yet if you’ll notice, the post reached almost 58,000 Facebook users. This was achieved without spending a penny on Facebook Ads; it instead came from organic promotion. We pay close attention to user sentiments for each of our managed pages in order to create content that will spread and sometimes (in this case) go viral.
Not Everything Goes Viral
The post shown above is in no way a typical situation. This post was planned carefully to engage an already active user base and the result was a viral, quickly spread reaction. Not all content goes viral; some pieces are aimed at a smaller audience segment.
It is important to combine both organic and paid reach to accomplish your Facebook marketing goals. Media buys are a great way to reach new users or those who are becoming inactive. Once you have established an engaged audience, organic reach becomes possible.
Observe, Plan, Execute
In the end, Facebook advertising takes time, effort and yes, sometimes even money. Remember, Facebook has provided us with an enormous audience and their ad platform allows us to target users with narrow specifications. When used properly, with good content, I still feel that Facebook is one of the best advertising platforms in the world.