Publishers Are Looking at Facebook the Wrong Way: It's Not a Publishing Platform
We’ve heard how Facebook is changing its algorithms and how the organic reach of Facebook posts is rapidly declining. Organic reach is now estimated to be less than 6% and Ogilvy has even predicted that organic reach on Facebook will soon be zero.
Maybe there really is too much competing content now. Or maybe Facebook is really smart: hook us on acquiring followers and then make us pay to talk to them. One look at Jay Baer’s chart shows how Facebook’s stock price has increased as organic reach has decreased.
Believe it or not, I’m actually a big fan of Facebook. The problem with Facebook isn’t that organic reach is declining … it’s that we as publishers are looking at Facebook the wrong way.
Publishers have always used content to build and monetize a community around common interests. We started with print and in-person channels, then evolved to include the Internet.
In all of these channels, one thing remained constant … the community “house” was built on the publisher’s land. We owned the relationships directly. On Facebook, however, we’ve built communities that we don’t own and Facebook can change the rules whenever they want.
Our mistake has been to look at Facebook -- and all social media for that matter -- as another publishing channel. We’re good at building audiences and so we do the same thing on social media. We’re obsessed with how many people follow our page and what the organic reach and engagement is with each post.
But the reality is that none of that really matters. Facebook metrics are eye candy designed to make us feel like we’re accomplishing something.
Instead, what we really need to measure is how well we are using Facebook to build our own audience database. We will change our definition of success on social media once we realize that Facebook is NOT a publishing channel … it’s an audience development tool.
Even with reduced organic reach, your Facebook page can still help build your own audience database. You’ll certainly want to continue following best practices by posting good content, engaging with your audience, and cross-promoting other market leaders.
But be sure to mix in compelling lead magnets in your feed on a regular basis … things that people actually WANT to register for. Remember, while it doesn’t hurt to keep growing your Facebook followers and measuring engagement, ultimately you should measure your success on the number of email leads your page generates each month.
Of course, your page isn’t your only audience development option on Facebook … there’s also advertising. Most publishers still either ignore Facebook ads or see them as competition to their own advertising program. Why should we as publishers pay Facebook for advertising?
Bottom line, it works. Facebook ads can help you cost-effectively build your email database, grow your circulation, drive leads for your advertisers, and drive attendance for in-person or online events. And if done right, it can even be nicely profitable.
Publishers need to look at Facebook and Google in much the same way. As long as we continue to look at them as publishing channels, we will continue to lose ground.
Let’s put them back into the proper place in our ecosystem and use them as audience development tools to cost-effectively build our own media properties. Then we can deliver better experiences and value for our customers, and grow our businesses.
Eric Shanfelt is the founding partner of Nearview Media, a consulting firm that helps publishers with their digital revenue, audience and platform development. Eric is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. You can reach Eric at email@example.com.