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How to survive the Facebook reach collapse

The results are In…

It has been two months now since Facebook announced its major 2018, game-changing, Facebook News Feed algorithm update. While it’s still very much a work in progress, the effects are very real for marketers. Studies already show 50 percent drops in organic engagement and reach. Facebook organic referral traffic is down 75 percent for some. The start of March also saw the high profile collapse of lifestyle publisher, Little Things. With around twelve million Facebook followers, Little Things closed citing the ‘catastrophic’ algorithm update. Around 100 people lost their jobs. It’s unlikely to be the last.

To help assure marketers, in February senior Facebook execs openly admitted that they don’t really know what they’re doing. They’re going to try *some stuff* and see what happens.

Seventy million businesses on Facebook breath a collective sigh of relief… 

Do I stay or do I go now?

Facebook’s changes and platform volatility create a quandary for marketers. Do you:

  1. Do nothing and carry on as you are, as diminishing returns accelerate in 2018
  2. Start experimenting with content and tactics on Facebook, finding workarounds now
  3. Sit tight, wait for volatility to subside, then progress with a different approach later
  4. Not worry about organic performance and focus exclusively on Facebook ads
  5. Start diversifying approach to limit exposure to future drastic changes
  6. Just complain

I hope in reading this you actually sit down with your boss/clients/team and genuinely discuss the above. Whatever you do, make a decision. Even a decision to do nothing is still better than pretending the challenge is not there. 

For SMK, our approach will be a bit of a hybrid from above. There are still some good opportunities on the platform, on the organic side of things. Most notably; Groups, Stories and Live video. Also, Facebook Messenger offers enormous untapped potential as well. That said, exploiting these inevitably requires planning and rejuggling behind the scenes, so don’t feel pressured to rush new activity out the door. Better things are done right, rather than rushed. More thinking, less doing, goes a long way sometimes

So long Zuckerberg, my old friend?

Whatever happens, Facebook’s mid-life crisis is certainly prompting a lot of soul-searching.

Given Facebook’s stranglehold on attention, serving Zuckerberg and co. the middle finger is probably an unrealistic option for marketers. Monthly time on Facebook is more than Google, YouTube and Instagram combined, according to Nielsen. Smart businesses will, however, be re-evaluating their relationship with Facebook. Exploring how they can squeeze the most value out of it, given its flaky temperament. They will also be ‘packing parachutes’, looking to spread risk across other channels. 

Instagram brand engagement is four times higher than Facebook, so naturally, consumer brands will be doubling down there in 2018. On the business-to-business side of things, LinkedIn has growing appeal, with engagement up 400 percent in the past two years. The belated rollout of LinkedIn native video in 2017 offers further promise for content marketers. Both Instagram and LinkedIn also have improving ad products, targeting and analytics to boot.

Alongside this, search engine optimisation (SEO) is looking like that ex-partner who started working out more, when you broke up and got a fleek new hairstyle. SEO beckons many businesses back with open arms, promising things will be different this time around. Organic Google referral traffic is rapidly outpacing Facebook, with a more content-led approach to search results and its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) gaining traction.

Whichever way we cut it, our 2017 marketing plans are unlikely to work as well in 2018.

SMK is soon to launch its first 2018 training cycle in New Zealand. To learn more click here.

James Fitzgerald is the executive director of programming at SMK – social media knowledge. 

This story first appeared 

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