It's a big shift from the stance Facebook took a year ago, when
including GroupM called out the fact that posts published by
clients were being seen by fewer of their fans.
At the time, Facebook contended that algorithmic changes had
been made to weed out spammy, non-engaging content, but that the
median reach of pages hadn't budged. It particularly objected to
the inference that the changes had been made to spur marketers to
spend more on ads to make up for lost reach.
But now Facebook is making the case for marketers to do just
that. In the document, titled "Generating business results on
Facebook," the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic
reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told
they should consider paid distribution "to maximize delivery of
your message in news feed."
The three-page document also contains a section that repositions
how marketers should think about fan acquisition: as a tool for
making paid advertising more effective. While free distribution of
content is mentioned, it's the third business benefit listed after
"improve advertising effectiveness" (through ads with social
context, which is enabled by a substantial fan base) and "lower
cost for paid distribution" (since Facebook makes it cheaper to
deliver ads with social context.)
In other words, the main reason to acquire fans isn't to build a
free distribution channel for content; it's to make future Facebook
ads work better.
"Your brand can fully benefit from having fans when most of your
ads show social context, which increases advertising effectiveness
and efficiency," the document states.
The fact that less and less of brands' content will surface is
described as a result of increased competition for limited space,
since "content that is eligible to be shown in news feed is
increasing at a faster rate than people's ability to consume it."
Publishers are one factor in the heightened competition, since
Facebook announced earlier this week that links to news articles
given more prominence, especially on mobile devices, via an
A Facebook spokesman confirmed that the overall organic reach of
Facebook posts from brands is in slow decline.
"We're getting to a place where because more people are sharing
more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you're a
business is to pay for it," he said.
The drop-off in organic reach continues to be a touchy subject
for brands -- especially those who invested in growing their fan
bases. And it's going to oblige them to up their content creation
game in order to emerge organically from the morass of stories
eligible to enter users' news feeds, according to Digitas VP-Social Marketing Alex
Jacobs. But having paid distribution on Facebook is also a given if
they want to maintain the reach they may have once had when
Facebook was a younger network and users had fewer connections to
bombard them with content.
"If brands were to continue reaching the same amount of people
as a percentage of their fan base, [Facebook would] be giving
preferential treatment to them over a user," he said. "It's just
the fact of the matter in terms of platform growth and the amount
of content that's getting posted."