Organic Facebook reach takes another hit, but relax, it's a good thing

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 17 November 2014

Organic reach is getting another bashing from Facebook. But it's not a bad thing. The social network is cracking down on “overly promotional” posts with another tweak to its algorithm. Basically, it wants brands to buy ads. But, at the same time, it's added a separate feature that gives users more control over what kind of ads they see.

Ad preferences makes it harder for brands to get their paid for ads in front of users and the algorithm shift also makes it harder to get organic posts in front of users. Facebook also told AdNews that the price of ads would probably rise as a result of ad preferences rolling out.

Sounds like a rough ride for advertisers on the surface. But, if you look a little deeper, it's not.

Facebook does things for two reasons. One is for the consumer. The other reason is for advertisers.

Usually, it's fair to say that those are at cross-purposes. But when you look at ad preferences it could just appeal to both in the long run. Ditto the tweaks to “overly promotional posts”.

There has been vocal lamentation over the decline of organic reach on Facebook in the last year, although most of the negative chatter has subsided. But, let's be honest paying for something good is better than getting something rubbish for free.

And brands that have shifted their content strategy from posting organic, free content on Facebook to investing in paid ads, are seeing solid ROI because content is reaching the right people – not just floating around in the Facebook ether hoping for the best.

On the surface, for advertisers, ad preferences doesn't sound great. People can turn off even more ads. And the price is likely to go up.

We are a nation of ad blockers. Ad blockers exist because advertisers make terrible ads that people don't want to see. If brands made better ads that were more relevant, people wouldn't want to block them.

What ad preferences allows is for people to choose what they want to see. I have no interest in sport. So I can turn off sports category ads. That means brands aren't wasting their budgets serving ads to me.

But what it also means is that if I choose to see ads from retailers, or food brands, I want to see them and I’ll be interested in the content.

Brian Boland, Facebook's VP of GMS product marketing and AdTech reckons that in the US, where ad preferences has been running about six months, people are not just blocking ads, they are turning things on, opting in.

The same is true for the change to reducing the promotional posts brands are making on Facebook. While there will be outcry, it's a good thing. Despite what a brand might think, posts that are thinly veiled ads masquerading as friendly status updates, do nothing to boost a brand's business. Brands that do it are eroding whatever currency they have with consumers to start with.

Facebook users want to see more content from friends, more dodgy photos from Friday night drinks, more interesting links of what friends are reading and less 'like us to enter a competition to win toilet cleaner' stuff.

Quite rightly, brands that are posting promotional content in updates will see their organic reach fall significantly when it comes into play in January. If there's less nonsense in the News Feed, what is there will have the space to breathe and be appreciated, whether it's content or advertising.

Earlier this year, Facebook made efforts to point out that the move wasn't a money grab, despite what it seems, and agency's were keen to support the move in the understanding that if Facebook makes the News Feed unappealing to users with too much clutter and nonsense, it will kill the platform.

What brands need to be doing is investing in creating quality content and investing in ads with great quality creative.

And, as before, don’t get comfortable with the status quo on Facebook, as it's more likely to change than it is to stay the same.

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For more news:
Facebook brings ad preferences to Australia
Opinion: Pay to play - the new Facebook paradigm
Facebook says fall in organic reach is not a money play

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