Earlier this month, Social@Ogilvy released the study, “Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach.” The somewhat apocalyptically titled paper begins with a fittingly bleak prediction: “Organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero. It’s only a matter of time.” Social@Ogilvy has christened the post-organic reach social network, “Facebook Zero.”
The study found that organic reach — which Facebook defines as “the number of unique people who saw your post in News Feed or on your Page [sic]” — has fallen quickly for Facebook brand pages. Social@Ogilvy analyzed 106 branded Facebook communities from around the world and concluded that average organic reach fell by 50 percent in the short span of time between October 2013 and February 2014.
What this means is that brand pages are only reaching a tiny sliver of their fans when they post content — about 6.15 percent on average. Furthermore, brands can expect to reach even fewer people as time goes on: the Social@Ogilvy paper mentions that “Facebook sources were unofficially advertising community managers to expect [organic reach] to approach zero in the foreseeable future.”
While plenty of people are approaching this as a challenge for marketing departments, we need to remember that these changes are going to affect recruitment as well: in the modern recruiting landscape, establishing and promoting a strong employer brand is an absolute necessity for attracting top-level talent. Facebook used to be a favorite way to do just that: according to Jobvite’s 2013 Social Recruiting Survey, 65 percent of recruiters who used Facebook used it showcase their employer brand.
For some people, news of Facebook Zero induces panic: Derek Belt, social media specialist for King County, Washington, has declared that “we need an exit strategy for Facebook.”
But Marshall Manson, writer of the Facebook Zero white paper and managing director of Social@Ogilvy for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, thinks Facebook Zero requires a far more nuanced approach. “Marketers will have to think differently about how they use the platform. That’s the key finding from the study,” he said.
Manson said Facebook may still offer value for brand marketing, but we’re going to have to use it in a new way: “Community building, increasing the number of fans you have, ought not to be a priority any longer.”
Instead, companies are going to have to use paid advertising to strategically increase their reach, as well as be more selective about the content they post. “We need paid to act as a lever to get engagement and scale, whereas before, we could use the communities we built. That’s no longer an option,” Manson said.
The Platform Neutral Strategy
“The challenge that Facebook zero presents to brand marketers is, how can you actually connect better with a broader audience around other topics and issues beyond just your fans?” Manson said.
Brands will now have to be more selective in what they post, but this might be a good thing:
“One of the crucial things to me is we have to learn to be even more editorial in the content choices we make,” Manson said. “We have to be prepared to really go out and engage with folks.”
This means smartly choosing to share engaging, timely, relevant content, which will grab the attention of more people outside of your established community, rather than just bombarding people with any post imaginable.
Manson also notes that Facebook can no longer be the center of a brand’s marketing strategy. “For the past two or three years, the default on any social media strategy has been to start with Facebook. We need to think more expansively now,” he said.
Manson calls this approach the “platform neutral” strategy. In such a strategy, brands market themselves over a variety of platforms instead of relying heavily on one single network. So Facebook should be one option among many: Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, etc.
“We have to think very carefully about who is it that we want to talk to, what story do we want to tell, what’s the best place to tell that story … and then understand what the right venue or platform is to tell the story,” Manson said.
We can no longer rely solely on Facebook to market our employer brands. Instead, we have to leverage all available channels and become smarter and more strategic about what we post and where. We’ll also have to make some careful decisions about budgeting for Facebook, which is no longer a free-for-all for brand marketing. The age of the frivolous status update is over, and recruiters will have to take a more targeted approach to sharing their employer brands with prospective talent.
Image Credit: Recruiter.com’s very own Ashley Saddul.