If you’re one of the 1.35 billion people that used Facebook this month, you might have noticed this message when you logged in: “By using our services after Jan 1, you agree to our updated terms, data policy and cookies policy and to seeing improved ads based on apps and sites you use. Learn more about these updates and how to control the ads you see.”
Like most people, you probably ignored it – and forgot about it altogether when you saw your next notification, a friend sharing a hilarious cat video. After all, Facebook changes its rules and settings and algorithms all the time, right?
These changes, however, have potentially massive implications for marketers that use the platform, whether they currently advertise or not.
Facebook makes a lot of money from advertising – its revenue was $3.87 billion in the last quarter alone – so you could say it’s an income stream they want to protect. Facebook needs people to keep looking at its ads, and so they have been moving things around to make that happen.
Facebook introduced the new changes by saying: “When we ask people about our ads, one of the top things they tell us is that they want to see ads that are more relevant to their interests.”
And this is just the latest announcement. The changes come on top of recent tweaks aimed at reducing the amount of promotional posts that brands put out as normal updates, that is, chasing organic reach without paying for advertising.
Facebook justified that previous change with more research: “What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional areposts from Pages they like, rather than ads.”
Having waged war on organic posts, now Facebook wants brands to sort out their paid advertising, too.
So what should marketers do to adapt?
1. Users will have more control with choosing which ads they do and don’t see. Facebook is making it easier for people to tag ads they don’t want to see and even which company's ads they don’t want to see.
So it’s now even more important to ensure that when you do spend your money on Facebook ads that you target your ads properly – to people who will find it interesting and useful. As with all your social media activity, be relevant and add value.
2. It is the strongest message yet from Facebook that it is no longer a free advertising tool. Sorry, but it’s true. When the social media giant made its IPO in 2012, the writing was on the wall , or on the Timeline, perhaps. Many brands have managed to hang on over the last 18 months, but all have been seeing a decline in organic reach over that period, worsening over the last six months. If you keep trying to use Facebook for free, less and less people will see your posts.
3. Be prepared to spend money on Facebook ads. Use these to sell products, raise awareness with new audiences, or drive traffic to your site. If you’re smart about how you design, write and target Facebook ads, they are still good value and effective.
According to Facebook and Nielsen research, “Most online advertising reaches only 27% of its intended audience. Facebook’s average is 91%.” Paying for Facebook is not the end of the world, it’s an opportunity.
4. What about organic posts? How should they be used? Stop pushing sales messages your audience doesn’t engage with. Instead, develop a relationship and rapport with them by being conversational. Talk to them, share interesting things with them, get them to participate and talk back to you. Above all, listen to your Facebook fans.
5. Stay on top of Facebook changes. We all know Facebook is gathering and using the information we supply, and how we use our personal profiles and business Pages. It uses this data to its advantage, and there are opportunities for you to do the same. If you know where to look, Facebook makes available plenty of statistics and resources.
For starters, there’s your own Page Insights. There are lots of learnings among these, such as analysing who your users are, when they’re online, and which of your posts they find the most engaging.
There are also lots of tips at Facebook Business. Keeping track of Facebook’s news updates will keep you up to speed on the latest features – and ahead of your competitors.
Early adopters in the US are calling them a winner. One brand which has already experimented with them said: “Over the course of a three-week test, the Sign Up call-to-action button delivered a 2.5 times higher conversion rate versus other comparable social placements aimed to drive new user acquisition.”
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