Reports of the demise of organic reach on Facebook may have been somewhat exaggerated, according to a new report from LiveWorld, which has handled social media content campaigns for clients including Walmart, Unilever, Starbucks, Dove, and Pfizer, among others. The catch is that the posts can’t be overtly promotional in nature -- but that’s actually the key to successful social media marketing anyway, notes LiveWorld chairman and CEO Peter Friedman.
LiveWorld reached out to Facebook seeking clarity about the new rules regarding organic reach and learned that there is no sweeping ban against posts from brands. Rather, the ban only concerns obvious marketing messages, including posts that “solely push people to buy a product or install an app,” “push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context,” or “reuse the exact same content from ads.”
Thus, Facebook is not reducing the reach of brand posts focused on a genuine, socially engaging topic; an example would be a message like “For 4th of July do you like gas or charcoal?” in which the name of the advertiser doesn’t appear. By the same token, Friedman also cautioned that simply posting paid promotional messages won’t work: “Some people say, ‘gee, if I have to pay for it I’m just going to talk about my products,’ which is the antithesis of social media. Advertising has to fit the context in which it appears. When people are on social media they are there to engage with other people, and they’re happy to engage with brands too -- but simple broadcast ads don’t work. Brands need to act like human beings and create an emotional experience.”
Of course, this leads to an obvious question: how do you use Facebook for marketing, if you’re not allowed to deliver marketing messages organically, and paid posts by themselves don’t work? Here Friedman suggested that the social organic posts should just be the first step in a multi-stage content strategy that eventually proceeds to paid social and paid promotional posts.
In the first stage, consisting of purely social posts and organic reach, the marketer can use non-promotional content to cut through the noise and attract user engagement, forming the basis of the relationship. These posts allow the marketer to test content and identify engaging messages for the next stage, consisting of paid posts that are however still social in nature -- in other words, keeping the high-engagement, not overtly promotional content but using paid distribution to increase its reach. The marketer can introduce the brand during this stage.
In the third and final stage, the marketer can begin adding paid promotional posts targeting the people who responded positively to organic social and paid social posts in the first two stages. However LiveWorld recommends that these paid promotional posts should still include a high proportion of socially engaging, emotional content, referring back to the context created by the previous messages; for example, continuing the BBQ theme, a grill maker might post a link to a page with recipe ideas that also contains promotional content. Overall, Friedman observed: “You have higher reach and better cost per click the more socially engaging a post is. Across this whole integrated strategy you should be around 60%-80% social and 20%-40% promotional.”