Should You Have to Pay Facebook to Speak to Your Fans? (Part 1)

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The first part of this blog article considers the value of Customer to Customer communications in light of the changes to Facebook's algorithm...

Paying to Speak to Your Own Fans? (Part 1)

The recent publicity surrounding Facebook’s policy decision to further reduce the number of brand posts that can appear in a member’s newsfeed has cast further doubt on the value of a simple ‘like’ on Facebook.

Several commentators have estimated that only between 1% to 6% of organic posts by brands will reach Fans newsfeeds which means that relying on simply posting to your Facebook Page is unlikely to return much reward.

Facebook has long confirmed that 85% of users never return to a Brand Page and so almost all the valuable interaction with your ‘Fans’ takes place in their newsfeed. The now defunct Edgerank was introduced to ensure that posts from friends you interact with most will appear more often and for longer in the newsfeed. This was clearly designed to reduce the number messages from brands in the newsfeed and users can now class friends in different groups on Facebook such as close friends, acquaintances or in specific lists etc., which is likely to further discriminate against brand messages.

The rationale for Facebook’s actions is that users want relevant posts from real friends and not spammy marketing messages from brands they once ‘liked’ but have now forgotten about. While protecting the quality of the user experience is undoubtedly a key reason for this decision, the cynics amongst us will notice that Facebook does not have quite the same reservations when filling our news feeds with ‘paid for’ promotions.

Whatever an advertiser thinks about the motives behind these changes is irrelevant. Facebook has made these changes and it now is the new reality. The result is that brands that spent a lot of time and money building up a Fan base on Facebook in the hope that members would see brand messages and engage with the brand in the newsfeed now are faced with the prospect of having to pay Facebook to speak to their own Fans.

You can market to people who ‘liked’ you on Facebook

It is often stated that selling and social media do not work well together because people come to social networks to socialise and not to shop. We disagree. We believe that this depends on the nature of the relationship your brand has with a Fan.

Clearly no member of Facebook considers a brand they have ‘liked’ as a ‘friend’ similar to old school mates, work colleagues and people you met once on holiday. You may think that this is obvious and ask why we mention this, but we believe that the nature of a person’s ‘relationship’ with your brand determines the kind of messages you are entitled to send. Because we don’t consider a brand as a real friend, this means the messages a brand can send obey different rules to those we expect from a real friend.

If you consider why you might have liked a brand on Facebook, it probably comes down to one of the following reasons:

  • To associate yourself with the lifestyle messages espoused by brands like Rayban, Adidas, Paul Smith etc., so that by liking them you are telling your friends something about yourself
  • Because you had such great service or a product experience that you felt compelled to like the brand as a ‘thank you’. Anecdotally, it is often after a brand has rectified a problem that customers are moved to like the brand or write positive reviews.
  • Perhaps you want to support a local business or a friend’s business and a ‘like’ was an easy way to help their publicity efforts
  • Because you wanted to access some content or win a prize in a competition that was ‘like-gated’ and you clicked the ‘like button’ with little thought for or engagement with the brand.

We hate to tell you, but in the last case you probably never had ‘Fans’ in the first place and they definitely won’t miss your marketing messages in the newsfeed. They probably represent wasted investment in terms or time and money.

The good news is that in the first two cases, and possibly the third, there has been some meaningful engagement with your brand. The basis of that engagement is the product or service you provide. Because they liked you for that reason, you have a legitimate reason to talk to them about your product or service.

They don’t think of your brand as a ‘friend’ and won’t expect you to send messages like a friend. But they are willing to hear about your product or service from time to time, provided you have something relevant and interesting to say. That does not mean you can bombard them with offers or links to your catalogue but it does mean that you can market to them provided you offer value.

Member to Member Communications

While social networks are looking to reduce the communications from brands to consumers to cut down on spam and improve the user experience, member to member communications between friends are the foundation of a social network.

This is represents an opportunity for your brand. While your competitors find that the Facebook algorithm  is steadily reducing the effectiveness of their accumulated fan base, if you can harness real member to member communications then you have access to a powerful channel.

So how do you get someone to share an offer on Facebook or via other social channels?

Well the first principle is to offer something of value to someone who is interested in hearing from your brand. The best place to start is with your existing Fans. Provided they ‘liked’ you for the right reasons, they know and appreciate your product and have given you implicit authority to talk to them about your product and services. They value your brand and are able to know a good deal when they see it. This helps you stand out from all the other brands that are sending out untargeted offers via email or daily deals sites.

Of course, the offer needs to be good. You can’t expect enthusiasm if you are just trying to clear the warehouse of last year’s fashions or damaged stock. Your Fans are best placed to appreciate this and provided the deal is good, you have the beginnings of something Fans want to share.

Our next post will continue the discussion of how brands can enlist member to member communications to help circumvent the effect of Facebook's changes.

See Part 2 of this article.

Image attribution: MD4 Group Flickr Creative Commons Licence