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Can You Afford to Opt Out of a Pay-to-Play Facebook?

Posted by drew on March 3, 2014, 5 p.m.

It’s no secret that Facebook has lately been moving to a Pay-to-Play model for brands. The social network admits that it has been dropping the organic reach potential for posts on brand pages. In practice, this means only about 5-10% of your Facebook followers will actually see one of your posts show up organically in their newsfeeds.


“But that doesn’t seem fair!” you say. Well, perhaps it isn’t. First, let’s discuss the rationale behind this decision:


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Why is Facebook lowering organic reach for brands?


When marketers first began noticing declines in their reach, Facebook explained that algorithm changes had been made to increase the quality of user newsfeeds. This entirely makes sense. Though users may have ‘liked’ the brand pages of a dozen companies, they are probably more interested in seeing activity from their friends on their newsfeeds. Facebook issues recommendations to brands that they focus on rich media posts like photographs and links, rather than simple text posts, which would be demoted even further.


But after some time, brands began to wonder if the quality of the user newsfeed was really the driving force behind limiting brand organic reach. Many speculated that Facebook’s real intention was to earn more revenue from paid advertisements. Soon enough, Facebook began recommending paid distribution and promotion as a way to improve reach of posts. The pay-to-play model was born.


The two sides of the pay-to-play model


Historically, companies had invested time and resources into cultivating an audience on Facebook. The theory behind this was that if you could get users to commit to the small conversion of ‘liking’ your brand page, then you’d have ample opportunity to reach them with branded messaging, promotions, interactive content, etc. Companies often used paid Facebook ads to promote their brand pages. This is the first side of the pay-to-play model.


The second side of the model is that once you’ve paid to build your Facebook audience, you now have to pay to talk to them. All of those pieces of branded messaging and interactive content are useless if nobody sees them. This model of payment can be likened to an amusement park that charges an admission fee to get in the gate and then small fees to ride the rides and play the games inside.


What is the outcome of this new model?


Facebook obviously wants to earn more money through paid promotions, and more than likely that will be one of the outcomes of this model. The other possible outcome is that they will price out small businesses and brand from participating in Facebook marketing. These SMBs will not be able to (or not be willing to) invest the kinds of resources required in order to get any legitimate results. In place of Facebook, they will focus their social media marketing efforts on other networks, like Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest.


In an attempt to increase revenue, Facebook may in fact fundamentally change the environment of social media marketing. Only big brands will have the ability to participate in the highly monetized marketing world of Facebook. Facebook may be the largest social network out there, but I don’t think they are immune from pinching out a lot of business this way.


While Facebook may be looking more and more like a plutocracy, Twitter is still the great democracy. With its lack of ranking algorithm, all brands and individuals have the same chance of showing up for their followers. It is merely a matter of determining when your followers are online and crafting compelling content for them.


My answer to the question in the headline of this article is “yes, your business can afford to opt out.” It is simply a matter of being creative in the ways you reach your audience via social media. If you need help with your Denver social Media marketing, let us help you.


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