Until very recently, Facebook has been one of the most valuable tools for our brands in terms of social media reach. We were able to share content with over 10,000 potential customers on a daily basis, address their feedback on a personal level, and gauge their interest in various products and services.

Unfortunately, Facebook is reportedly slashing organic reach for Pages, a move that has already begun to affect some of our clients. Here is an example of some of this week’s “post reach” numbers for one of our companies. This page had been seeing faster-than average growth until Facebook seemingly shut it down from behind the scenes.

Facebook Organic Post Reach

Despite the nearly 14,000 likes this page already has, only 684 of those people saw any content. Facebook now wants companies to pay to “boost” particular posts, ensuring that more than the current 1.5-2% of their audience sees it. For a company like Facebook, for example, 1.5-2% of its reach is still vast. (1% of a billion is still a pretty hefty figure.) For a small-to-average sized company, though, 1-2% can mean less than a thousand people. And for a very small, community-oriented business with only 200 likes or so, that means only 1 or 2 of its customers will see any content unless the company pays to have its posts boosted.

Facebook Organic Post ReachFor comparison’s sake, the previous week had seen some deterioration from its normal success, but nothing like the week that followed the implementation of Facebook’s new policy.

And since most companies have spent many years, many dollars, and countless hours building up their Facebook followers, this is without a doubt a social media game-changer.

It does make sense from a certain standpoint – Facebook has been providing companies with an invaluable business tool for minimal cost, whereas most platforms charge a significant fee for their services. And yes, though Facebook is a company designed to make money, its purpose is not to be a marketing tool. Its purpose is to focus on individuals and the way they interact with each other online.

It does, however, leave groups like Boomtown at an interesting crossroads. Do we continue to put content on Facebook even though a very small fraction of our audience will see it? Do we pay to have certain posts boosted and hope the advertising pays for itself when people come to the site? Do we sneak around the policy and use a person’s profile for our business instead of a Facebook-designated business page? Or do we shift our focus entirely to a different platform?

Google+ shows some definite promise as a possible future social tool for businesses. Unlike Facebook, Google+ is up front about its marketing policies: it does not support contests, giveaways, polls, or any of our favorite marketing tricks designed to garner feedback without taking too much of a financial hit. But also unlike Facebook, Google’s social philosophy is far more focused on grouping. (An individual user of Google+ can group his or her friends into categories based on the content he or she thinks those friends would be interested in seeing). A business, therefore, can display content and share it specifically with a group that might be relevant to its products and services. Google+ even allows us to reach people who don’t have us in their “circles” with its Communities feature. (Recently I had a blog post to share about reckless driving, so I found a Google+ community about “The Dangers of Reckless Driving” and shared it with them.  It generated enthusiastic discussion, which I almost never see on Facebook because my Facebook audience is far less specific. It also drew the users of that community to the business page I was working from).

It’s impossible to say where the concept of marketing through social media will go from here, but it will undoubtedly be interesting. And if there’s one thing we can take from this whole experience, it is that Facebook knows its power and it is not afraid to use it.

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