Everyone who’s seen a big decrease in organic reach on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, raise your hand! Um-hm. Just what I thought: All of you. This blog explores what’s behind these falling numbers and what you can do to beat them.
We are all experiencing a huge shift in results right now – particularly on those three networks – and today I’m going to fill you in on why this is happening and reassure you that you’re not alone.
There have been many changes on the social media landscape since January 2017, and much of it centered on algorithms.
Ah, algorithms: the bane of a digital marketer’s existence! Particularly on mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the changes have been legion and frustrating.
The Background To These Legion Changes
I’ve been working in the digital world since 2009. My team, as marketers, have experienced the rise and fall of social media and ever-changing algorithms, as well as the introduction of ads and expansion of advertising on most networks.
I’m fond of saying “social media shifts every six months and every two years, it turns itself inside out” and what differentiates social media from other marketing (non-digital) is the agility it takes to keep up with the changes.
It’s not unheard of for me to develop a strategy that covers 12-18 months only to find, 7 months into execution of the plan, that alterations are required because of changes to the platform. For example ad rules, algorithms or a new user-interface. And back to the drawing board we go…
Are Facebook numbers declining again, or is it my imagination?
For the record, when it comes to digital marketing, Facebook is still a Lyra favourite.
No other platform can touch it for affordable, targeted and effective advertising, with a healthy dose of organic engagement mixed in.
That said, a new study by Buzz Sumo has confirmed what you might have already suspected: Facebook page reach has declined 20% since January 2017 (paid and organic.)
The important thing to remember is that organic Facebook reach for pages has been hovering at the near zero mark for upwards of 5 years.
So what this decrease really looks like is a twenty percent increase in the cost of your FB ads, in order to get the same results as you would have gotten in December 2016.
Although this is frustrating, and by the way, there is nothing official from Facebook to confirm this, generally the reasons that Facebook will implement these changes are:
- To make more money (obviously)
- To increase the quality of ads shown to users
- To ensure a consistently positive user experience because let’s face it, if users drop off, and there’s no one to serve up ads to, Facebook would go out of business
The negative part of this, once again, is that Facebook has increased the barrier to entry for small businesses, and as a social marketer who has been on Facebook since the beginning, I find that sad. I remember when we used to tout social as the ‘great equalizer’. Although that idea has been outdated for a number of years, these recent changes show just how hard it’s become for smaller brands to be effective on Facebook.
Is there an upside? Yes! For users, their online experience is better: You’ll see the same amount of ads but they will be better and more targeted.
There is also an upside for more experienced social media strategists too: To be effective on Facebook comes down to more than just execution. Nowadays, it takes smart strategy, impactful artwork, and technical know-how to make sure that ads are fully optimized.
I have a hard time finding fault with anything that forces companies to be strategic about their marketing. (After all, bad marketing causes us all to lose the will to live)
Why Have My Instagram Numbers Dropped So Much?
I fondly remember when Instagram was fully organic, chronological and engaged. Ever since Instagram introduced its algorithm in 2016, the company’s direction has become obvious.
Like its parent company, Facebook, Instagram is about making money, and implementing an algorithm is the first step to creating an effective advertising platform. No surprise there.
The second part of the equation, when implementing an ad platform, is to reduce the organic reach of commercial posts across the network, requiring businesses to pay for views.
While I have yet to find any studies corroborating my opinions here, most of my marketing peers are currently experiencing the same thing on Instagram: A heavy decrease in all kinds of engagement across the board. Think likes, comments, followers, etc.
I first noticed the shift around April 2017, and this summer, the drop off was dramatic. I haven’t seen drop offs like this on a social media network since the Facebook algorithm took a hard right back in 2014.
So what do these changes mean for users? I’d like to say that, as in the case of Facebook, it creates a better user experience. But as a self-proclaimed Instagram addict, I don’t find that to be the case.
Personally, I find it frustrating to receive posts out of chronological order. And judging from the many blogs, Reddit threads and conversations I’ve had with users, I suspect that many feel the same.
What about marketers? This is a tough one because we marketers are amid the pain of change when it comes to Instagram; it’s tough to be objective.
It is ridiculously frustrating to have to double or triple your efforts to achieve the same results as you did a few months before. And then to explain why keeping your engagement stats at the same level as 3-6 months ago is a win to a client who naturally wants to see the bar raised month over month.
The reality is that if a client doesn’t have the budget to pay for their social media impressions and engagement under these new algorithms, then they must rethink their strategy.
While Instagram transitions from allowing brands to leverage organic reach to forcing paid reach, it’s a good time to get into Instagram advertising.
Why? Because as long as organic reach numbers still exist, paid ads won’t be as competitive as they’ll become when organic reach disappears. In other words: This is as affordable as Instagram marketing / advertising is going to get.
So if you are marketing on Instagram, rather than bitching about this inevitable shift to paid reach, I’d recommend that you embrace it heavily now. Every day it will get more expensive.
Is Twitter Even Worth It Anymore?
Next up? Twitter. What can I say about Twitter?
For one thing, it is a conundrum.
Personally, it’s the reason I became addicted to social media. It was my thing. Notice the past tense. It has been a long time—2 years—since I have advised a client who was not already on Twitter to get onto the platform.
Even now, the only reason I would advise a client to start a new Twitter account is if they were working with tech startups, were proactively selling to the tech or engineering community, were in entertainment, or were the sitting president of a major world superpower.
Otherwise, I’m not convinced Twitter is effective enough to justify the amount of work it takes in terms of crafting high quality, relevant content (that at best has a shelf life of a minute) and creating a community of followers, which, due to Twitter clamping down so heavily on following ratios, has become damn near impossible. Honestly, unless you’re social selling or actually reaching out to people to have real conversations (for which Twitter is still awesome), I’m not sure Twitter makes sense from a marketing perspective.
I started to lose patience with Twitter in February 2016 when it implemented its first algorithm. An algorithm isn’t the end of the world; the algorithm in Facebook ushered in an amazing advertising platform. Unfortunately, I have never found Twitter advertising to be effective or even come close to Instagram or Facebook ad results.
It’s a very rare day that I would write Twitter advertising into a strategy. The ROI does not justify the spend unless you are in a very small list of industries for which Twitter does work for, as mentioned earlier.
There is also the issue of where is Twitter going?
We know it has plateaued, but is the future bright or dark for them? When I write a strategy, I write for 12 months out, and secretly hope for 18-24 months out.
But quite honestly, if I was writing a strategy today, I don’t know where Twitter is going to be a year from now, so I would have a hard time asking clients to provide the outlay that is necessary to build a community.
I don’t have too much advice other than to say that, if it’s working for you, keep up the good work. You probably started a long time ago and have a robust, organic community. But if you’re thinking of getting on Twitter today, unless you’re in tech, tech sales, entertainment, engineering or politics, you need to take a hard look at your strategy. And “I don’t have one” is not an acceptable answer!
I wouldn’t recommend a company to invest in any kind of marketing without a solid strategy behind them.
Is Organic Reach On Social Media’s Main Networks Well And Truly Dead?
I wouldn’t say organic reach is dead, but with it being so elusive, is it possible to be effective on social network without paying?
LinkedIn is still, in my opinion, one of the most effective networks for highly targeted organic engagement. It’s not for everybody, of course, and you need a strategy before you start, but those clients I have on LinkedIn do well with organic reach.
Secondary networks are also worth looking at. For example, HOUZZ for decor and decorating is brilliant. Organic marketing works here if the content is up to their high visual standards.
Others? YouTube still allows for organic growth although it has always been a specialized platform, so work with a consultant who really understands it. The nice part about getting into video is that video content can be recycled onto Facebook and the Facebook algorithm LOVES video.
So in summary, although these recent changes to our main social media networks are causing a bit of consternation among clients and marketers, it’s not time to panic. It is time to drill down on your strategy and to start being thoughtful and optimize the activity you are currently doing.
If you have an engaged community already, look at what works for them, and do more of it.
Also take a fresh look at secondary networks, which although smaller, have less noise and can generate fantastic results in terms of sales and awareness, if leveraged properly.
For more information on developing a social media strategy to help you navigate the many changes that 2017 has thrown at us, feel free to drop me a line!