The nature of social media changes every time a new channel launches, or whenever Facebook changes its news feed algorithm. Brands have had to make their way through labyrinthine paths to build a presence and create ads on a range of social channels.
But with social channels coming under fire for slowly changing the engagement game to pay-to-play, brands are finding less value in organic social content. Users may warm up to social channels that prioritize the content of their social circles, brands face a winless battle toward recovery from these changes — unless they’re willing to pay.
That’s leaving a lot of people wondering where to go now that the well of organic social engagement has run dry. Ads will continue to reign; but the days of brands connecting with audiences through organic content on Facebook are over.
The End of Facebook (As We Know It)
Now, let’s not be too hasty. No one’s suggesting you delete your Facebook account. But Facebook is moving away from news feeds full of branded organic content and toward a mix of primarily user content and ads. Brands, according to social management dashboard provider HootSuite, will “have to work harder than ever to gain their customers’ attention on the platform,” forcing businesses to invest more in Facebook.
But could an investment of time be just as valuable as money? Mark Zuckerberg said Pages “whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.” Real-time engagement with users will be one of the primary metrics Facebook uses to determine how to treat brand Pages. Facebook has always emphasized engaging content being the key to reaching people, but now more than ever it will be table stakes for any slim chance at showing up organically. Good conversation is always better than small talk, especially when it’s online.
Reimagining Social Engagement
Facebook isn’t going anywhere, but it’s certainly due for a paradigm shift. The call for “back-to-basics” social media is getting louder, and some companies–like Ello–are heeding it. The social network launched in 2014 and was briefly a tech darling before fading into irrelevance. No ads? No brands? What’s the point of a social media platform without them?
Turns out lots of users want a social channel that allows them to share ideas, images and discussions without wading through sponsored content. The march toward ad revenue and amassing publisher content has completely transformed social media, leading to Facebook’s current existential crisis. But there are two questions now: how do existing social media giants retain publishers without a major backlash? And can other social networks like Ello or Mastodon survive while eschewing ad revenue?
Facebook has more than 2 billion users–and we don’t foresee any immediate exodus of users or ad dollars. While Facebook may always be a reliable channel for brands, it’s time for them to start seeing Facebook for what it is: an ad channel, not a platform for social engagement. Organic brand and publisher content–and the engagement and interactions that come with it–simply isn’t the future Facebook envisions.
That means brands will have to foot the bill to reach the 2 billion people on Facebook, or turn to other social media channels that allow them to publish content, engage with customers, and build brand equity without paying for the privilege.
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