We could have seen it coming. Build a million brand fans on Facebook and then watch as Facebook turns off your access to those very fans. That’s what people are talking about when they mention Facebook Zero. As Marshall Manson from social@Ogilvy summarized in a recent post,
“Organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero. It’s only a matter of time. In 2012, Facebook famously restricted organic reach of content published from brand pages to about 16 percent. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced it even more.”
Where brands once flocked to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more to establish a direct relationship with their customers, a kind of hip and casual CRM system for the social set, now these same brands are finding the platforms themselves are becoming mediators between them and their fans.
Increasingly brands must buy Facebook advertising to get their content seen even by their subscribing fans. While Twitter and LinkedIn still support a meritocracy where good content is rewarded with earned engagement, paid media remains key to extending the reach of even the best content. Is it just a matter of time before those platforms throttle down access to a brand’s subscribing followers?
No brand expects to use Facebook at scale for free. On the other hand, those folks who have liked Coca-Cola, REI, or Ford expect access to the brand. And no one understands the black box algorithm that determines what we actually see in our newsfeeds.
Building brands and business via digital marketing is no longer in its infancy. Still, the discipline is young and certainly the impact of social networks on buyer habits remains contentious. It is too early for platforms to hold a brands fanbase hostage. But it’s all about degrees. Facebook seems to be pushing pretty hard. The other platforms seem much more reasonable for now.
It’s Only CRM, But I like It
There is no reason why strategic ad buys across social networks cannot be a part of smart digital marketing. We just need to keep brands motivated to put resources into social networks to prove out the viability of driving actually sales and not just brand metrics. That means not making it too expensive or undoing all of the earned benefits of these platforms. Brands who really want a direct, dis-intermediated relationship with customers may have to get back to CRM basics. Still, to reach customers via their preferred social channels - even those customers whose data sits in a core CRM database -will require brands to play ball with social networks.
“Recognition that it's time to build a direct digital relationship will land on most marketers at about the same time that they realize that the aforementioned digital platforms -- Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft -- are in a much better position to have a deeper, more persistent relationship with the customer. And these marketers won't know what to do about it. Because these digital giants, while enablers of digital disruption for even the smallest developers, are also the replacement for the old media model.”
(thanks to Skyscrapers Forum for image)