“PAY TO PLAY”: HOW FACEBOOK IS SCREWING OVER CONTENT MARKETERS

For those who missed it, Facebook’s unrequited Christmas present to content marketers this year was a troubling announcement stating there were going to be some changes around town:

Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution that will lead to a rapid decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality.

Simply put, Facebook will be downgrading the visibility of organic brand content and starting to ruthlessly prioritise paid-for brand content in user’s News Feeds.

Content marketers, get used to seeing more of this screen if you want any kind of success from using Facebook:

ZUCKERBERG’S LAW: MOORE’S LAW FOR CONTENT

So, apart from a naked attempt to drive more revenue, why has Facebook suddenly come down so hard on organic content?

Truly, Facebook has become a victim of its own – and marketers’ – content-sharing success.

Back in 2008, Mark Zuckerberg laid out his theory (affectionately, referred to as “Zuckerberg’s Law” by the New York Times) on Facebook content-sharing.

I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and [the] next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before.

“Pay to play”: How Facebook Is Screwing Over Content Marketers image Cg0EwKUYnC0J4tDLf3jbEbSWRJqs pyn0eUZu7Ur5kYpAsuiR9AgZWyJn 99pRx8QrNjWpzzReZRxIgGmim3ZR8UV6Ow5 IcYaGyAAO7G1srFNYxwissxOJ bwAnd, lo, it was so (kinda).

THERE’S A CONTENT MARKETING DELUGE AND WE’RE ALL GETTING WET

Yet, Zuckerberg’s prescience on the increased volumes of content shared across Facebook hasn’t made for a better product. According to Facebook, every time someone visits News Feed there are around 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see, and most people don’t have enough time to see them all. The big challenge for Facebook is deciding which are the most relevant 300 pieces of content to ‘surface’ at any time. For those of you who have missed seismic announcements on Facebook from friends (“Friend X & Friend Y” are engaged), you’ll know how temperamental Facebook’s algorithmic decisioning at helping you sift through the content deluge.

Of course, this is isn’t a problem limited to Facebook. It belies a wider problem of the online content marketing revolution.

This 2013 infographic by DOMO breaks down the amount of content published on the internet every minute; YouTube users upload 48 hours of video, Instagram users share 3,600 new photos, and Tumblr sees 27,778 new posts published. These are sites many people around the world use on a regular basis, and will continue to use in the future. Not to mention all the other web 2.0 sites that have enabled individuals – as well brands – to become publishers.

Naturally, much of this content makes its way onto Facebook which sees users share 684,478 pieces of content in the same period. Something has to give. And in an attempt to simultaneously raise revenue and disincentivise content marketers to produce shoddy content that they’re not prepared to put good money behind, Facebook are encouraging brands to now ‘pay to play’.

“PAY TO PLAY” – THE NEW WAY TO GET YOUR CONTENT SEEN

The ‘pay to play’ effect that downgrades Brand Page content is already being felt.

Since December, Brand Pages on Facebook are seeing something like a 44% decline in organic ‘reach’ – a massive smack in the face for those that have invested millions over in the past few year to build up large numbers of followers and subscribers, only to find that less than 3% of their content even has a chance being seen in News Feeds.

WHAT ARE THE LESSONS CONTENT MARKETERS CAN LEARN FROM THIS?

  • Revise your Facebook social/ad-spend strategy and budget

Despite the slightly alarmist tone of articles on this topic (including this own piece – ha!), this new move by Facebook shouldn’t necessitate a mass exodus from Facebook. But you do have to ‘think smart’.

Going into 2014, marketing budgets and strategy should be calibrated accordingly with an appreciation that ‘pay to play’ is most likely going to be a more regular phenomena across all social platforms. Not just Facebook.

  • Create useful content that fans want to share

Although the current changes have prejudiced against content marketers publishing to their Brand Pages, it hasn’t negated the power of the consumers sharing brand content on their timelines.

In a slightly perverse way, Facebook is unintentionally upholding the key maxim of content marketing: to not be interruptive but to produce content that fans want to share on their own timelines.

  • Consider other social distribution channels

Oh HAI, Google+.

  • Realise that your influencers and super-fans are more important than ever

Since Brand Pages cannot be relied upon to distribute content and achieve desirable reach – the onus will increasingly be on brand’s fans to do the heavy-lifting of distributing brand content.

This will require brands to renew influencer management efforts and be all over ‘user generated content’ like it’s 2009.

  • Don’t negate the importance of Google Hummingbird

As we’ve written before, recent changes to Google’s algorithm actually reward popular and useful content marketing.

Facebook has always been great for ‘push’ marketing – injecting brand messages into fan feeds, but the real content marketing win is in search; where fans are already looking and searching for your content.

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