Paid Media Moves To Forefront Of Facebook Marketing

Brands have to incorporate paid advertising into their social media budget to ensure their content is seen by existing and potential customers on Facebook.

That finding, in a new report by digital agency 360i, comes in the wake of changes to the social network’s news feed algorithm that limit the reach of organic marketer posts in order to improve the quality of content a user sees in their stream of updates.

Facebook as much as conceded that brands will have to pay more to have their their content seen on the site in a sales document that Ad Age reported on this week. This comes on the heels of the company announcing that it has tweaked the news feed to prioritize links to high-quality articles over meme-type photos. That means less room for unpaid brand posts.

That’s only the latest of recent news feed changes aimed at ensuring that users see more relevant, engaging content in their stream of updates. Facebook has characterized these adjustments as aimed at delivering a “personalized newspaper experience” to users. Newspapers haven’t historically given away ad space.

None of this is new from Facebook. Since before it went public in May 2012, Facebook stressed the importance of combining “paid, owned and earned” media to extend the reach of marketing messages on the site. Prior to its IPO, Facebook introduced an ad option called Reach Generator (since discontinued) to guarantee posts would be seen by at least 75% of a brand’s fans rather than the typical reach of only 16%.

“But the difference -- and the significance for marketers right now -- is the notable decline in brands’ organic impressions overall since late summer,” noted Matt Wurst, director of digital communities at 360i. Given the proliferation of both branded and other content on Facebook, he said it’s imperative for companies to invest in content development and paid media on the platform.

With organic posts continuing to reach only a fraction of a brand’s fan base, the 360i report advises marketers to focus on three key areas: creation (what to make), amplification (ensuring that people see it) and optimization (measurement and analysis).

On the first point, the agency suggests that marketers will either need to focus on few pieces of high-quality content (promoted with media) or increase the frequency and quantity of organic posts. The former approach is a better bet, along with the opportunity to target people beyond existing fans.

“This means creating content that uses relevant and resonant language and mimics the way consumers engage in everyday life -- not by like-bating and over-complicating the call-to-action” states the report. That’s what it calls the “social tone of voice.”

When it comes to amplifying content through paid media, 360i recommends boosting each higher-quality post with advertising and monitor engagement and audience data to inform targeting. A recent Facebook campaign by the agency for Hanes, for example, targeted fans of the “The Walking Dead” TV series and similar interest groups to boost interaction with a certain post.

“In the absence of paid media, there would have been limited to no guarantee this message would hit the right target,” according to the study. But optimizing post performance based on user response is also crucial. In that vein, the study says marketers should look to several key metrics, including engagement rate, total number of likes, comments and shares, post reach and negative feedback. 

Finally, the report suggests that marketers consider alternatives to Facebook because of the increased challenge of connecting with target audiences without paying. "For example, a travel brand might establish its presences in the Trip Advisor community and engage in conversations with people who demonstrate a high likelihood to book travel."

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