Does Facebook’s new era spark the death of social media agencies?

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 19 January 2018
Lindsay Bennett

The rapid drop in brand reach following the Facebook News Feed update could have a detrimental impact on the social media manager role within digital agencies.

Four social media managers approached by AdNews said they are seeing their clients’ reach decline by up to 50%.

In one of the most dramatic cases, a client of a smaller agency saw engagement on its post drop from 14,000 the week before, to just 500 this week, on a similar post.

There’s thinking that the latest Facebook change has been introduced to weed out bad branded content and those publishers’ producing viral content, largely about cats, just to hack the Facebook algorithm, rather than to hurt quality media companies.

I predict the changes will encourage marketers to move away from social media marketing, as it becomes more difficult to find cut through organically.

Instead, brands will need to approach publishers to assist with content marketing production and branded content distribution, as their audiences will be less impacted by the update.

Ironically, it’s Facebook that created the content ‘crap trap’, a name coined by P&G CMO Marc Pritchard, providing a free platform for brands to push meaningless ads, posts and videos, which required little creativity.

Facebook became a free for all and you only have to look as far as Malaysia Airlines 2014 content disaster to see why it has introduced the new changes, which will prioritise content from friends and family.

Shortly after the Malaysia Airlines flight disaster, where a plane was lost and never recovered, the airline decided to run a competition in Australia and New Zealand.

The contest centered on people sending in their “bucket lists” for free electronic prizes. Bucket lists are, of course, something that you create when you're getting ready to die and the allusion was unavoidable.

It’s competitions like these that have plagued Facebook for years that will now be limited by the platform, unless the brand is willing to throw some money behind it, of course.

Planning and implementing branded competitions and posts make up the majority of a social media manager's role.

With reach now declining rapidly, social media managers will either have to work harder and ask for more budget to gain access to audiences, or will be left twiddling their thumbs as marketers shift their strategy away from running their own content marketing and channels.

Some digital agencies only have themselves to blame for not diversifying their content and relying solely on Facebook – a lesson that publishers learnt for themselves when Facebook updated its algorithm in 2014 and organic reach began to decline.

Whenever I asked digital agencies about their ‘social strategy’, they quickly begin to tell me how they are using Facebook for their clients.

As GroupM head of digital and investments Venessa Hunt said: "If you rely on one platform as the sole place to distribute your content and that platform makes changes, you are at the mercy of other person's rules."

It’s worth noting not all brands will be impacted. Big brands like Telstra, Stan, Westpac and McDonald’s all have the recall, the brand loyalty and the budget to continue to thrive on Facebook.

But smaller local brands, like gym chains and restaurants, will feel the brunt of Facebook’s new News Feed.

While I expect the swell of social media roles to halt after years of growth (a quick look at Google Trends shows the rise in interest in the term “social media managers” has risen significantly since 2014), social media managers could also land on their feet, and begin testing other platforms.

The obvious beneficiary of the Facebook News Feed update is Instagram. Brands are already upping their spend and resources on the platform in comparison to other social media networks, according to CNBC, and the shift will still keep the dollars in the Facebook family.

Another beneficiary could be Twitter, which has never been able to match its success in the US in Australia.

There will be a lot of brands this week cursing Facebook for its update, but sadly, they only have themselves to blame for pushing crap content in the first place.

I regularly show my thoughts on Facebook on Twitter, ironically. Follow me here @lindsaybennett

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