We Need an Exit Strategy for Facebook

See original post on GovLoop.

Guest Post by: Derek Belt, Social Media Specialist – King County, WA

Have you watched somewhat helplessly these past few months as your Facebook interactions dropped rapidly? Has the “reach” of your posts dipped as low as you’ve ever seen it, no matter how great your content is?

It’s not your fault. It’s Facebook’s fault. And they’re doing it on purpose.

Here are just a few recent headlines from across the web:

The times they are a-changing (again)

This is an important topic and one organizations across the world are having right this very moment, from government agencies to high-powered marketing firms. Bottom line, we need to change the way we think about Facebook. It’s no longer a great communications tool (if it ever was is genuinely open for debate).

For many of us, the whole reason our organizations got on Facebook in the first place was to share information with the public. Well, recent changes to Facebook’s computer algorithm have made it increasingly difficult to reach our audiences, and it’s only going to get more difficult.

What’s changed? See my presentation below:

State of Facebook 2014 from King County, WA

So what do we do now?

Facebook can still be a great A) customer service portal, B) market research tool, and C) advertising platform. But it’s not a great communications tool any longer. Facebook has moved to a pay-to-play environment, meaning they have turned off what’s called “organic” reach and are asking us to pay money to reach fans (including our own). For the majority of public-service agencies, this is unrealistic.

That brings us to email and newsletters. Email has long been one of the most effective forms of digital communications. But let’s be honest — social media has distracted us a bit. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We jumped at the opportunity to be cutting-edge, and rightfully so.

What’s cutting-edge now is to leave Facebook behind. Seriously. Ask your teenagers.

Email: Don’t call it a comeback

Here’s the one question we need to ask ourselves about Facebook: Who are we reaching? If we have 1,000 fans but can only reach 10% of them due to Facebook’s limited reach (hint, hint, see the presentation above), is that really worth the time investment we’re making to share information on Facebook? Paying a few bucks here and there to boost our posts is cheap and (kind of) works, but it adds up quickly.

On the other hand, if we invest our time and resources in building and nurturing an email list or newsletter with the same 1,000 people, we know we can reach everybody on that list whenever we hit send. Please keep in mind that we’re just talking about reach here (i.e. the number of people who actually “got” the message). On Facebook, we can reach 10% whereas on email we can reach close to 100% factoring out bounce-backs.

Of course, open rates and click-through rates are traditionally low on email, but not as low as on Facebook. At least with email we know we’re going to reach the audience. After that, it’s on us. We can work to improve subject lines, newsletter design, and content strategy. Those are things in our control.

On Facebook, we control very little. We can’t even reach our own fans. So it’s a matter of 10% reach on Facebook vs. 100% reach on email.

Those numbers are striking. We need an exit strategy for Facebook.

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