Facebook Marketing Declines: How Business Should React

Do you use Facebook to promote your business?

Are you wondering how the recent Facebook algorithm changes will affect your marketing?

To learn what the future of Facebook means for your brand or business, I interview Mari Smith and Jay Baer for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Mari Smith and Jay Baer. Mari is the co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day and considered to be the world’s leading expert on Facebook marketing and Jay is the author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype. He’s also host of the Social Pros podcast.

Mari and Jay share how to be successful with Facebook’s new algorithm and what these changes mean for your Facebook strategy.

You’ll learn how to monitor your reach and engagement, and how to navigate paid versus earned media in your content strategy.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Facebook Marketing Declines

Recently, an article by AdAge referenced an official Facebook document that said, “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time, as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

adage organic reach

AdAge‘s article references an official Facebook document, which urges marketers to buy ads.

In other words, Facebook says that they are going to show less of your Facebook updates to your fans and followers. If you want to get seen, you will have to pay to play.

This news has raised a lot of concern among marketers.

Previous changes to the Facebook news feed

Mari explains how up until a few months ago, the algorithm that governs what content goes into the news feed was called EdgeRank. The term used now is the Facebook news feed ranking algorithm.

The formula changed dramatically, with Facebook telling everyone that on any given day, a user can potentially see 1,500 possible stories. A story includes likes, comments, shares, videos and photos.

Once you click Like, Comment or Share, Facebook knows what type of content to show you. Most users are aware that the majority of content shown comes from friends.

This means that business pages struggle to get organic visibility.

On December 2, 2013, Facebook announced they will start to decline or diminish organic reach for pages because users predominantly want to see content from friends and brands that they enjoy interacting with. According to Inside Facebook, studies show more than 40% decreased organic reach on Facebook.

Listen to the show to find out what type of content Facebook will give less weight to.

Is Facebook trying to protect its fans from marketers? 

I recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk say that Facebook is trying to protect its fans from marketers. It seems that Facebook has realized that they need to provide a quality user experience, otherwise people won’t click on the ads.

Jay explains why Facebook doesn’t want to devolve into MySpace. They are now a public company, which needs to continue to generate tons of advertising money. One of the ways to do this is to squeeze the algorithm.

Listen to the show to find out how Facebook has used one of the oldest business playbooks in history to get you hooked.

Marketers see a decline in organic reach

In December, an article by Ignite Social Media showed that brands saw massive declines in organic reach that month.

Jay says that a large number of brands on Facebook have seen a decline in organic reach, but there are other brands that have not been impacted by the change at all.

There are some exceptions to the rule. On one of his podcasts, Jay recently interviewed the chief of police of Brimfield, Ohio, who said the department has over 75% engagement rates on its Facebook page.

socialpros brimfield police episode

The Brimfield, Ohio police department has very high engagement on its Facebook page.

Jay says that we’ve had it pretty good on Facebook for a long time and while it’s annoying that you now have to start to pay, he doesn’t think it should have come as a big surprise.

Listen to the show to discover why Jay believes that you can still be effective on Facebook for “free.”

Brand loyalty

Mari says you can have brand loyalty no matter what size your business is.

She has always admired Oreo’s marketing, which has 35 million Facebook fans. Oreo’s Talking About This number, which includes fans and non-fans at any given time, is 251,000 people.

Then if you look at Skittles on Facebook, they have 25 million fans, but only 56,000 are actually talking about this.

skittles facebook

Skittles has over 25 million fans on Facebook.

Both brands are quirky, fun and post great content. It really comes down to the quality of the content and how much the fans are interacting.

This goes for any brand, no matter what size or budget.

Listen to the show to hear how you can build brand loyalty and various ways you can get traction.

The impact on small businesses

Mari explains how people have shared their unrest and frustration with these new changes. Some have even considered abandoning their Facebook business page and just use their profile page instead.

You’ll hear why Mari feels that this is unfortunate and why there are still so many advantages to having a business page. Not everybody across the platform is experiencing this decline.

Jay says the tricky part of it all is trying to figure out the cause. It’s hard to advise people right now, because even the professionals don’t really know. There are a lot of organizations that specialize in Facebook research, who are actually trying to crack the code to see what the new best practice is.

Listen to the show to find out why Jay believes that this is the year for Google+ pages for business.

How to tell if your business has seen a decline in organic reach

Mari advises you to look at your Facebook Page Insights, which are available on both desktop and mobile.

Mari loves the little scorecard feature. You can go into your Insights and look under the Posts tab, where every individual post will pop up. It will give you at a glance both negative and positive feedback.

You can see what kind of reach you got, the click-through rate and whether people hide your content as spam or unlike your page.

post reach insights

You can see in Post Reach who you have reached and who you have engaged.

You’ll discover some of the great stats you can get when you export data and what you need to look at that will determine whether your organic reach has gone down.

Listen to the show to find out why Mari is excited about Instagram for brands and businesses in 2014.

Do we have reason to be concerned? 

Jay doesn’t think the new changes are necessarily a reason to be concerned. He feels it’s the natural evolution of what was formerly an immature industry, which is now more mature. It’s becoming more about the media and less about the social.

There are tens of billions of dollars at stake. Somebody will take these dollars and turn social media into an advertising platform, more than it is already. All of these platforms are going to have both organic and paid opportunities and Jay thinks that the smart companies, including small businesses, will take advantage of both.

stock photo 8129754 cash register

Smart companies will take advantage of both free and paid opportunities. Image source: iStockphoto

Jay says that it’s important to recognize that it’s not as if this doesn’t work anymore. It just doesn’t work as well as it once did.

You’ll hear why Jay is a firm believer that paid social will be a requirement for almost all businesses.

Mari explains that for a long time, she has put a lot more money into community building than advertising. She has developed a reputation for being someone who responds and now has a team whose sole job it is to respond to questions on her fan page.

Mari shares why Socialbakers is one of her favorite social media analytic tools for Facebook, and why community management is more important than ever.

Listen to the show to find out why both Mari and Jay strongly believe that you have to actively respond to customer questions.

Start to budget for social advertising

Mari says that you should start to budget for social advertising. You can budget as little as $5 per day to promote content that you put on your wall. You don’t necessarily have to buy ads down the right-hand side.

Mari has recently created a Facebook ads course with her good friend Dennis Yu, who believes that the news feed ads are where it’s at.

You need to create content that doesn’t look like a marketing message. Instead, make it look more like a conversation piece that people can engage with. You’ll hear what you can do to amplify the reach of this content.

Listen to the show to find out what you can do if you don’t have an advertising budget.

Examples of useful advertising

As Jay talks about in his book Youtility, the idea would be to advertise content instead of a company.

Jay says they have seen some good success with Facebook advertising of business-to-business content, such as ebooks and webinars. You have to be smart and aggressive about targeting.

One of the mistakes that people make when they advertise on Facebook is that they try to cast the net too wide. You need to use keywords and other targeting capabilities.

To help promote Social Media Marketing World, we use a service called Perfect Audience. It costs approximately $40 per week.

sponsored story for smmw

A sponsored story is a lot more economical for advertising events.

Listen to the show to find out why Jay thinks Facebook retargeting will become very popular.

Should we have something we call our own?

Jay says that without a doubt, you should have something you own, whether it’s content assets or community assets.

You’ll hear Jay explain about paid, owned and earned media and why they’re so important to your business.

Jay’s friend Jeff Rohrs, who is the co-host of the Social Pros podcast, has a great new book called Audience. It’s all about how to build your own assets online and create ties with audiences that you can then use to build a successful business down the road.

Listen to the show to find out why you need to figure out what you own and make it worthy of attention.

Tactical steps marketers can take to get the most out of Facebook

If you’re a small business owner, then Mari advises you to use your personal profile in conjunction with a fan page.

You’ll discover what you need to do with your personal profile to blast through the 5,000-friend limit and be able to publish public content that people can sign up to see.

Mari has three opportunities to be seen in the news feed on any given day organically. She posts to friends, publicly on her profile and to her fan page.

mari smith fan page

Mari typically posts only once a day on her profile and her fan page—both of which are different content.

Facebook has been promoting Instagram because they want you to integrate and connect your Instagram account with your Facebook pages. You can also do this for fan pages too.

There are lots of different things to consider and integrate. You need to have a solid business plan in place and use social media as an amplifier.

Listen to the show to find out why Jay says that you have to play the algorithmic game to make sure your posts get maximum organic reach.

Other Show Mentions

SMMW logoSocial Media Marketing World 2014 is our physical mega-conference, which is set to return to San Diego, California on March 26, 27 and 28.

The conference features more than 60 sessions in 4 major tracks, which include social tactics, social strategy, community management and content marketing.

Below is a sample of the visual marketing sessions we have planned.

  • How Brands Use Pinterest to Turn Eyeballs Into Loyal Customers—Cynthia Sanchez with Michael Bepko (Whole Foods) and Azure Collier (Constant Contact)
  • How to Create Original, Shareable, Traffic-Driving Visual Content—Donna Moritz
  • How to Use Pinterest to Build Your Email List: Proven Techniques—Melanie Duncan
  • Brands That Are Rockin’ It on Instagram: Tips From the Trenches—Sue Zimmerman
  • How to Grow Your Pinterest Following the Smart Way—Cynthia Sanchez

Be sure to check it out.

Call in and leave your social media–related questions for us and we may include them in a future show.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? What are your thoughts on Facebook’s new pay-to-play approach? Please leave your comments below.

Image from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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  • Nick Q

    Great overview Michael! In regards to Mari’s comment on using your personal and business page… We tried that for about a month and noticed our negative actions went up when we posted the same exact post on both personal and business page.

    If I could add a suggestion… alternate the content, but have the same end result in mind (click to a website, share, like, etc). In other words, use 2 different pictures, the same or similar text, and the same link. Post them an hour or two apart to minimize the amount of people receiving “duplicate content.”

  • treb072410

    I really had a great Michael.. Interesting a very informative.. Thanks for sharing!..

  • http://paprikamarketing.co.uk/ PaprikaMktg

    2014 is going to be the year when small businesses have to shift away from the “social media is free” mindset. Those who adapt will do well. Those who spend all their time complaining on Facebook won’t.

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    I love the new changes personally. This just means those not willing to be creative or invest in their businesses will get squeezed out while those serious about it will thrive.

  • http://www.patcoakley.com/ Pat Coakley

    Thanks for this discussion! I think I began recommending FB ads for some of my clients in 2012 and learned along with them how to create effective ones. FB keeps changing the goalposts so those effective ones in 2012, or 2013, are no longer acceptable or effective so as long as you are flexible and have the time to keep abreast of the changes, I agree with Jay Baer,”it is not hard but it takes time.” Much more time than you think.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Pat – I have just barely scratched the surface of FB ads for Social Media Examiner

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Good observation Scott

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Totally agree

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you liked it

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for adding your thoughts here Nick

  • AmandahBlackwell

    Great podcast!

    I read every comment (and respond, depending on the number of comments) on a Facebook page and document them. This is a great way to find out what your fans want and what engages them.

  • Mark Wilson

    All of this is fine if your a “business page” as such…..well actually its not great news and Facebook really has hooked business users and is now about to try and see how far it can squeeze users to pay for Reach. Well, you do pay your money you make your choice and that again is ok for businesses but…what about Charities ? Our Facebook page was…until 2nd Dec making a big difference in how we reached supporters / volunteers and this in turn was helping many people fight cancer…….but now we have suddenly lost 50% of our Reach……surely Facebook needs to have a way of “protecting” users like us ?

  • http://melaniekissell.com/blog Melanie Kissell

    Superb podcast!! Not only because of the caliber of your guests, Mike, but because you asked all the right questions! Thank you. :)

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/ jaybaer

    Agreed! Mike is a very good interviewer!

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    I definitely need to listen to this! And I will.

    But since I know I won’t have a chance until this weekend, just a couple of blind comments on the topic…

    1) I find the subject of Reach a fascinating one. We never ask how many people we reach with a single tweet (we don’t know). But Facebook throws that number in our faces repeatedly, so we obsess over it.

    2) I wish the focus of this discussion (not necessarily the podcast, but whenever this is mentioned) was on actions. It’s incredibly rare that I ever hear these things mentioned. If actions aren’t down — or the specific things that lead to business goals like website referrals, conversions, etc. — is there reason to be upset? It looks like Jay mentioned it, which is awesome. EdgeRank Checker released some data that showed even though 75% of pages have seen a drop in Organic Reach, engagement is steady.

    3) I ran a study this week that proves Facebook is under reporting Organic Reach when you promote a post. Before the new Insights, Facebook counted when you reached a person organically and paid. But now, you can reach a person organically, but Facebook then erases that once they are also reached paid. This is also contributing to a drop in reported Organic Reach.

    4) It’s dangerous to talk too much about stats when looking at December. Most brands will naturally see a drop from about December 20 through the New Year. There are exceptions, but website traffic tanks for most of us during this time. So I’ll be more curious to see numbers released that cover January.

    That’s all. And sorry for making these blind comments without listening yet. I just want to be sure I comment while these things are on my mind.

    Thanks for the awesome work!

  • http://rhodesbread.com/blog Rhodes Bake-N-Serv

    We were disappointed when our reach first went down to about 10% – our last few posts have reached less than 1%. Is it still an option for fans to select ‘Show in Newsfeed” on a business FB page?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Melanie!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I hear you Mark and agree this is an issue

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for your thoughts here Jon. Would love your added thoughts after you listen.

  • Curt

    I dont feel like Facebook is doing this to protect the user experience. They are a publicly traded company, therefore they need to make money. They aren’t making it harder for marketers to save face with users, they are making it harder so marketers pay to play.

  • http://www.baldydog.com/ Adam Donkus

    Love it..” You shouldn’t build a house on rented land”

  • TrevorLyman

    “In other words, Facebook says that they are going to show less of your Facebook updates to your fans and followers. If you want to get seen, you will have to pay to play.”
    The problem is that Facebook page owners DID pay to play. I can’t even pretend to know how many tens or even hundreds of millions dollars were spent by page owners to increase the number of LIKES they had on their Facebook fan pages. And now Facebook has taken big dump on all their hard earned money. It’s nothing but a massive middle finger to their paying customers as I see it.

    I would never give Facebook a single cent after seeing this. Why would anyone ever trust them again?

    There are thousands of other advertising opportunities on the web. Facebook shouldn’t be one of them.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I hear you Trevor and make that very point in the podcast that if it were not for so many people evangelizing Facebook in their ads and such, the network would not be where it is now

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Yep, good statement there

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I agree fully Curt

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Yikes!

  • TrevorLyman

    On that note I kind of think Facebook “earned” the free support they got from the public. They created a good system and people were naturally drawn into it. For me it’s the fact that people spent money on Facebook likes, and that this money has been thrown into the trash, that really gets to me. If I link to you on my own that’s my choice, but if I pay you money for likes and then you devalue my likes… that is a breach of trust. Screw Facebook. They are thieves.

  • TrevorLyman

    What if you had spent $5,000 on getting likes for your fan page? What about the people who did pay to play under one set of conditions and who now find that investment has been devalued by the very people they paid money to? This hardly seems fair to me. I would never give Facebook a dime and I’m very happy I never did.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I am referring to brands that promoted the heck out of Facebook for free

  • TrevorLyman

    I am as well. Brands promoted their pages on Facebook for free and Facebook gave them traffic for free. I don’t think this obligates Facebook to anything. But once you start taking people’s money for Facebook likes people are paying with an expectation in mind that they will continue to get the same kind of traffic for a certain number of fans (generally speaking of course).

    So when both sides give freely because both sides benefit I don’t think anyone owes the other anything and both sides can change at any time. But once you take money those who pay have expectations. Facebook has decided not to fulfill those expectations and instead they have taken the money and run (imo).

  • treb072410

    I really did, hope to read more from you soon,,,

  • http://www.EntrepreneurOnFire.com/ John Lee Dumas

    There are a lot of great takeaways in this episode – I LOVED IT! I agree with what Mike said about needing to have something we can call our own. It’s so important to establish your platform and have a website where you can be sending traffic from your social media channels and the like. Thank you Mari, Jay, and Mike for this awesome episode!

  • Alabi

    Since facebooking is now taking part of advertising budget, then business need to start doing ROI about money spent on this media

  • Shelia

    Another excellent episode with tons of takeaways! I especially love the point Michael made about the “free” promotion and support FB has received — this will be an interesting one as it’s all about trust.
    On another note…thanks to the encouragement from my Mastermind colleague Stephanie Sammons, I will be attending your conference in March and I’m most excited!

  • Warren Stokes

    Really good listen. There is a business I have seen recently that has 193 likes but punches well above their weight in terms of engagement (they still use no promoted posts). That really fits into what you say about Facebook recognising that your page posts engaging content that people actually want to see. Maybe the secret formula now is consistency?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks John – and right now ONLY blogging and podcasting provide that

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Very good point and that remains elusive for so many of us

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Whoo! See you in San Diego Shelia

  • Jason King

    Some excellent advice on this weeks podcast. Mari mentioned 2014 will be the year of Social Media integration which highlights the need to be more diversified. Jay also provided great advice about advertising content rather than company.

    I agree with your point Michael that Facebook benefited from companies promoting the Facebook brand. I feel Facebook suffered from classic dis-economies of scale by growing to such a large size that they’re unable to process the volume of information without reducing organic reach which negatively impacts smaller businesses.

  • http://www.patcoakley.com/ Pat Coakley

    Michael, If you ever do attempt to scratch the surface of FB ads, it’ll be old news in 2 weeks. Ask Mari Smith and Amy Porterfield. Best to stick to your knitting, knots that you control.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Warren – When a site has that few fans, all it takes a post to be widely shared and they can “punch” above that number :) . I think is not just consistence but relevance.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Yep, I fully agree with that last point Jason

  • http://www.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    Excellent podcast. You are right that Facebook organic reach fall off should not be a surprise. Definitely a page from one of the oldest playbooks. Give them for free that which they will grow to need then charge them. Like all smart marketers know, if you are not paying for the product, then you ARE the product. Great analogy about “building a house on rented land” though a mix of owned assets and “digital share cropping” is a recipe that works for us. ROI will become more important for some.

    Now, back to the regularly unscheduled weekend reading :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Rick

  • CliqueOut

    Excellent read! The key isn’t to continue what’s traditional with facebook; plenty of businesses don’t get creaive enough to want to fight for the attention, relying too much on Facebook’s autopost.
    They either think they have no control, or they simply get lazy.

    And then when they realise that their expectations are not met, they pull out of doing it altogether.

  • http://indispensablemarketing.com/ Patrick McFadden

    Also Facebook is getting older. Don’t get too alarmed. Facebook isn’t going anywhere, but some recent numbers show that FB’s demographic is getting older as younger consumers flee from the largest social network. Kids are increasingly being put off by us “old folks” littering their feeds with baby pictures, and internet-savvy parents who are able to monitor their social activity.

    Marketers take note. Facebook’s largest growth was in the 65+ demographic, which is great new for some marketing sectors. But marketers looking to teens and tweens will need to alter their long term strategy to incorporate other social platforms. As always, the smartest marketers will touch audiences wherever they are.

  • http://www.webmaisterpro.com/ Kaloyan Banev

    Never really felt much attracted by Facebook ads, nor Facebook ads have work well for any of my customers in terms of converting links into sales. Though existing customers, seems to click more on fb statuses than links in newsletters.

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  • http://www.searchlocalhq.com/ Toby Crabtree

    Very interesting points mentioned. Thanks alot for sharing this useful blog.

  • J. Smith

    I do social media for a small but successful startup, and have been astounded at the decrease in engagement since the December changes. This has been frustrating, to say the least, because we’ve had a lot of success this year on Facebook. The changes have left me scrambling a little. I really appreciated your podcast. It was thorough, practical, and balanced. I tend to side with the pay-to-play take on things (as opposed to user experience take), but it’s good to consider the various angles.

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  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks J!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Appreciate your comments Toby

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  • http://www.inmediaconcepts.co.nz/ William John

    Very good points thanks you very much for the information

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  • http://coolinsights.blogspot.com coolinsights

    Mike, thank you so much for this wonderful podcast episode (just like all the other insightful episodes), and for having such great guests like Mari and Jay. I have certainly learned a lot about what’s happening on Facebook, and will be mindful of how we could respond. Advertising of content (instead of product), cross-promoting using personal profiles are fresh ideas for me! I would also recommend Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” which I’m reading now as it provides fabulous tips on Facebook content which rocks. Keep up the good work!

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