Are the days of organic reach on social media coming to an end? A growing brigade of digital marketers are leaning toward this view, and not without reason.
The disquiet amongst them turned from vague rumblings of discontent to clear claps of thunderous ire with the publication last October of a Forrester survey of 395 marketers. When it came to creating business value through organic reach, it revealed, Facebook came bottom of the list, below every other marketing channel (onsite ratings and reviews came top).
A study by Ogilvy earlier this year yielded further dispiriting data: organic reach on brand pages had nosedived to a mere 6 per cent, crashing six percentage points in five months. And for pages with under 500 fans, the news was even more depressing: their organic reach fell over the same interval from an already feeble 4 per cent to a positively moribund 2.1 per cent.
Facebook has been quite upfront about its views on organic reach, stating to its ad partners late last year: “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.”
This sounds like code for the fact that content from publishers and people’s friends is being granted priority in the news feed, squeezing brands out of social media platforms in the process. The way to increase reach, Facebook hints, is through paid social media advertising.
And other platforms appear to be lining up behind the same “pay to play” banner, as digital marketing journalist David Moth described it in a recent Guardian article. Twitter is pursuing bigger ad revenues and intends to add new controls that will determine what content its users will see in their feeds. That doesn’t sound good for the enthusiast of organic reach. And Pinterest’s move toward “Promoted Pins” has resulted in a waiting list, indicating that the company will begin controlling what branded content its visitors will see as part of its monetisation process.
Much, of course, hinges on how social media networks will shape their revenue streams. In the meantime, as Moth argues, marketers might be well advised to ditch the pursuit of “virality and quick wins” in favour of creating content that’s consistent with long-term business ambitions and relevant to their audience.