Shuffling the Deck Chairs on the Facebook Titanic

by Ryon Harms on April 23, 2014

After reading Jay Baer’s recent post, 4 Ways To Fix Your Facebook Problem, I asked myself, ‘Do I even want to fix my Facebook problem?’ But before we get into my answer, let’s briefly rehash The Problem: Facebook has effectively killed organic reach for big brands. Organic reach is dead because, understandably, Facebook needs to keep evolving ad units to generate revenue growth for shareholders. It’s their fiduciary obligation to do so.

But as a social media professional, I also have a fiduciary obligation to my employer or client. In 2010, when I started as the social media director at a large brand, I honestly felt like Facebook offered a unique space where my company, with the right approach, could build a valuable community of customers and prospects. Back in those days a discussion had broken out about the dollar value of a Facebook Like. Now that Facebook has suffocated organic reach for brand Pages, I think the answer is quite obvious: a Facebook Like is worthless.

I’m not going to predict the demise of Facebook, because, frankly, those guys are a lot smarter than I am. But as they swing the pendulum away from a network built on social capital to a network built on market capital, I now find myself feeling like a fish out of water. I didn’t get into social media because I wanted to manage an ad budget. I got into social media because I loved seeing how creativity and relationships could spark a groundswell. 

With that in mind, let’s explore Jay’s 4 ways to fix the Facebook problem:

  • Publish Things That Are Worthy of Attention – We’ve heard this one before a million times, but I think the argument can be made that it’s now a near obsolete goal on Facebook. Brands have struggled with engaging content for years. Little by little they’ve gotten better at it. But to keep up with Facebook’s plummeting organic reach, we’re talking about a 10X improvement. Day in and day out, it’s just not realistic that brands can make that kind of evolutionary leap, not even under the leadership of savvy social media folks like Jay.
  • Pay to Play – No comment. I’ll let my colleagues in media buying judge this one.
  • Get employees or customers to carry more of your messages on Facebook – Here is where I’m putting my money. I know first hand that Facebook works at the local, individual level. Facebook is still a great tool for activating a massive distributed sales force, or a large, engaged employee base.
  • Start building communities elsewhere – Are we destined to be marketing gypsies jumping from network to network, waiting the inevitable community tax? If so, I think we need to get back to our social media roots – community building through creative, but inexpensive methods. Why invest millions of dollars into a network if you know that it will eventually start offering diminishing returns.

I was a guest on the Marketing Monday Chat (#MMchat) this week when I tweeted, “If all the Facebook brand Pages disappeared tomorrow, would anybody (besides social pros) care? Probably Not.” It was the most favorited and retweeted post of the night. 

It’s still not too late for Facebook to un-MySpace themselves. As we’ve seen, they’re willing to upend the user experience at any given time. Until then though, should we be turning to experts like Jay to give us tips and tricks to improve our organic reach, or are we just shuffling the deck chairs on the Facebook Titanic?

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