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The great Facebook conundrum: To delete or not to delete?

Arguably the most influential social media platform of our time, Facebook, has had its days in the sun. But now as the platform falls on hard times, it may be easy to dismiss it as useful in your personal life. But does the platform still hold appeal from a business standpoint?

Around 2.9 million New Zealanders have a Facebook, around 61 percent of our entire population as of 2017. So in terms of a marketing platform, there is no better way to reach a large platform. Or so was the case.

As the algorithms changed, business posts and news fell second to family news and personal matters. And although it’s convenient to see fewer Buzzfeed quizzes about what Harry Potter house you should be in, from a business perspective, the platform seemed to have lost its edge.

 In January this year, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a significant change in algorithms. The billionaire stated feedback from users promoted Facebook to limit the reach of businesses and brands in favour of more personal user-generated content.

“As these changes roll out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”

Now, with news breaking of Facebook's knowledge of data poaching of over 50 million users in what’s been dubbed the Cambridge Analytica files, the platform has seen a dramatic decrease in share prices. Its stock has fallen by USD$20 billion in less than a week.

But morally questionable ethics aside, is Facebook still useful as a business platform? Sure the site may be on the decline, with Emarketer predicting over 2 million under-25-year-olds will stop using the platform this year, but is there a missed opportunity when deleting?

The platform’s change-up saw a 50 percent drop in organic engagement and reach for brands, according to data analytic survey done by Social Baker. There’s also been a 75 percent drop in referral traffic for some.

Studies confirm that any type of business on Facebook has been given the rough end of the stick. Retailers may now find a dramatic drop in engagement and reach for their posts. Sure, there are different ways to continue to expand your reach, with paid boosting and videos more likely to be seen. But without spending time or money, reach will continue to decline.

On a personal note, if leaving Facebook for privacy or other ideological reasons, you should really quit the company’s other services, which use many of the same data platforms. That includes Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Tinder.

From a business standpoint, although reach is down as is user number, it is still one of the largest populated platforms, giving you unlimited access to your audience at any time in the day.

The important part of the business on Facebook is to adapt as the platform does, rather than staying stagnant and pretending nothing is happening. Facebook still gives New Zealand businesses access to over half the population, and although things may be on a downward spiral, it is still the biggest platform available.

Monthly user time on Facebook is more than Google, YouTube and Instagram combined, according to Nielsen. 

For retailers looking to continue to expand on the platform, paid boosting and promotions are still a way to do it – as Facebook is still a business after all.

Facebook has specifically called out live video as a continuing opportunity, citing that live videos tend to generate six times as many interactions as regular videos, which is the type of person-to-person interaction they are looking for in the updated news feed.

So although posts made by businesses won't thrive as they did in 2017, it is a good chance for retailers to change up their methods, and avoid becoming complacent in their ways of advertising or engagement. Remaining comfortable means taking the risk of becoming stagnant and staying like that.

Facebook’s mid-life crisis shows that it is time for retailers to step outside the box and see what works for this new market – one that is targeted through a more personal, thought-out engagement.

This story first appeared at The Register.

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