Facebook Is Still Failing Marketers

Our declaration last October that Facebook was failing marketers and that brands should focus their social efforts elsewhere created a lot of discussion. To no one's surprise, most of the people defending Facebook were vendors that rely directly upon Facebook marketing for their livelihood.

Just four months later, the debate seems to be over. Is there any doubt now that Facebook has abandoned social marketing, and that its paid ad products aren’t delivering results for most marketers? Consider:

  • Marketers can now reach just 6% of their fans organically. When we published our research, some brands were surprised to find that Facebook only delivered posts to 16% of their fans. In December a leaked sales deck revealed that Facebook was telling marketers they should expect organic distribution of posts to decline further — but few could guess how far and how fast that distribution would fall. This month, Ogilvy released data showing that the brand pages they manage reach just 6% of fans. For pages with more than 500,000 fans, Ogilvy says reach stands at just 2%.
  • Brands and agencies are now openly talking about their discontent. Every day I talk to brands that are disillusioned with Facebook and are now placing their bets on other social sites — but few of them want to go on the record. Lately, though, more brands and agencies have started speaking openly to the media about how Facebook is failing them. One former Facebook advertiser referred to Facebook as “one of the most lucrative grifts of all time.”
  • Marketers are worried many of their fans are “fake.” Many marketers and many publishers are reporting that huge percentages of their fans come from emerging markets where they didn’t expect to find an audience. The kicker? They’re saying many of those fans don’t seem to interact with people or with branded content — they seem to do little other than "like" thousands and thousands of brand pages. The conclusion some marketers are coming to: The paid ads Facebook encourages them to buy often lead to “fake” fans generated by “like farms.”

No wonder a B2B marketer told me recently that Facebook’s constant rule changes were “the biggest problem we have,” and as a result they were focusing more of their social efforts on Twitter and LinkedIn. And no wonder a national retailer told me they’re no longer dedicating content resources to Facebook, just reposting assets from more-effective social sites (which for them, perhaps ironically, includes Instagram.)

All these marketers want Facebook to live up to its promise and to become a valuable marketing channel. They just don’t believe it’ll ever happen.


Amazing discussion

I am with 'matt' above...his blog seems to contain very well-informed opinion.
At the risk of sullying the waters with mine...

1. FB bait-and-switched users/marketers on multiple occasions, so...
a) FB users do not understand how their feeds behave
b) FB marketers are wary of more changes

2. FB cannot simultaneously claim to be keeping user feeds clean and also allow virtually anyone to pay to get into them

There is very little talk of how users see this issue. I believe they will determine how this ends.

Following from Rob Hunter

Following from Rob Hunter above, I'd like to address this from the other way around. As a user, I click "like" on very few company pages, and often these are the pages of my friends' blogs. Then, in order to make sure that I get every update from them, I have to hover over that like button and select get notifications.

Maybe Facebook considers that there are two different types of consumers. Most people, possibly, think "Yeah, I like BRAND X" when they're filling out their profile, and then get aggravated by, or ignore, all the posts from BRAND X when they show up in their feed.

But I'm not one of those consumers. When I like a brand's page, I want EVERY UPDATE. I don't want to have to click the like button to remind FB to keep showing me the company or blog's output. I don't want to have to share every third post to my friends, most of whom probably don't care about ginger ales from Kentucky or indie bookshops in Tennessee, but that shouldn't be relevant. I made the conscious decision to tell FB that I like a product, and now I want to see their updates. I don't want that company to have to pay extra, and I don't want to regularly engage with them to keep seeing it.

This is a great point, and

This is a great point, and goes along with my comment below. When Facebook ramped up the organic reach it gave our fan page last year, people were liking the posts, commenting on them, and clicking to read the posts like crazy. They were clearly enjoying having these posts show up in their feed. And why wouldn't they, they had clicked that they liked our page already! Just like you, they WANTED to see what we posted. That's how a lot of folks chose to keep up with our content. Now people say, "Why aren't I seeing your stuff in my feed anymore?"

So again, as I said below, this may be in FB's short-term interest, in trying to force brands to pay to boost their content, but in the long-term, if you're not showing people in their feeds what they want to see, will they stop using FB so much?

It's interesting to read

It's interesting to read through these comments. It is perhaps not surprising that folks from social marketing firms are pushing back against your conclusions. They still need to convince people to hire them, and that they know how to leverage brands' Facebook pages. But their comments all honestly sound like a desperate song and dance routine, that has little alignment with how actual brands are experiencing the new Facebook landscape.

I am co-owner of a blog that has a Facebook following of +400,000k. One of the things left out of this discussion is the way that not only has Facebook very suddenly turned off the organic reach spigot, but that for 6 months previous, they had ramped it up big time. In 2013 they said they had tweaked their algorithm so that spammy content was being hidden, and quality content was being boosted. All we post is quality content, so this was a boon to us, and starting in the summer of 2013, our Facebook traffic took off by leaps and bounds. It was amazing. Our fans skyrocketed. It was just gangbusters. When we sat down to make our goals and projections for 2014, we made them based off the traffic we were getting those last six months, figuring it would continue. Then, in February, Facebook abruptly turned off the spigot. Organic reach shriveled to 6% and our traffic coming from FB dropped by 50-75%. Traffic absolutely fell off a cliff and has had a big impact on our overall traffic.

The rumor is of course that Facebook opened up the organic reach spigot to show brands exactly what their platform was capable of, and then turned off the flow, in the hopes of forcing brands to pay for the same high they used to experience.

It's a disappointing and demoralizing move for brands, but a seemingly shrewd one. They're certainly entitled to tweak things however they'd like. But I honestly think that they're ultimately shooting themselves in the foot. We experimented with paying to boost our boosts, but the ROI is absolutely horrendous. Utterly unworthwhile. That money would be far better spent elsewhere. We don't have a huge marketing budget, or really any marketing budget to speak of, and have really gotten to the point of completely writing off Facebook altogether. We have turned our efforts to building up our presence on Twitter and Youtube and other platforms. We won't be investing much time in energy in our FB audience and encouraging people to "like" us on FB anymore. What's the point?

I have to imagine many other brands are having the same experience. So in the end, maybe FB thinks this is in their short-term interest, but it's going to hurt them very badly in the long-term.

I don't remember Facebook

I don't remember Facebook ever making a promise to marketers?! Haven't they always been about the individuals?

With that said, I think that they're failing individuals too. We like Business pages for a reason. Many are business we are actually interested in and many of them belong to our friends and family and it upsets us greatly that we aren't seeing their content. If we find a page is spammy, we can decide to unlike it ourselves. It's offensive that Facebook makes this decision for us. It's also offensive that it won't show me posts by certain friends just because they don't post frequently or I've decided not to "like" one of their posts in the past - this doesn't mean I don't want to see it!

Facebook Brands Future

Hi All,

I am glad I found this amazing blog, and glad to hear that is not only us who dont see any benefit on facebook

I work for a digital marketing which we take care the digital marketing for few airlines in UK, and to be honest facebook is becoming a Joke, most of the users respond for fun, most of our likes are from india and china and other Asian countries which we do not fly in asia, and very often they write such a nasty comments which has nothing to do with our lovely contents which we publish!!!. For us to look great on social we tend to respond in nice's way as possible regardless they are our clients or not otherwise even those little organic like we are scared to spoil them too..

I believe facebook has created a real mess to this planet, lots of gossips and lots of terrible things in there, we tend to use it less and less..

By reading above we as managing/ owning a brands we need something that cares for us, and to be honest we are struggling for taking care our real customers

has any one has the same issues? let your views

Many thanks


...and what about FB for small biz?

Thanks Nate for uncovering and shedding light on all this FB saga of organic reach vs advertising. Love all the back and forth comments. Very interesting. I have a social media marketing agency for SMBs, so I am not dealing with BIG brands, like you guys.

I find FB is a double-edged sword for SMBs. One one hand, audience target is so exact for many of my clients, that its quite thrilling to see results of advertising, and how it has lead to direct sales and uptick in their business. And relatively inexpensive, compared to other forms of advertising.
I find you really have to be clever though, target your audience, and make sure the Likes are from people relevant to your business.

On the other hand, I find FB to be a greedy money making machine with no boundaries. Yes, organic reach is definitely, frustratingly on the way down. I believe organic reach is something we'll tell our kids about!

Especially as I was just at their Facebook Fit Workshop for SMBs in NYC in May to “help small business achieve success”. After I got over the initial euphoria of being at this super cool Facebook event (it was kinda like being drugged at the beginning), I found them to be extremely pushy and aggressive with brainwashing all the SMBs in the audience on what a Facebook Page and -- of course -- subsequent Facebook advertising can do for your business. The Facebook speakers gave lousy presentations, with no helpful substance, other than to say that you should "spend your dollars with FB to get results" and went thru a step by step PPT on exactly how to dot this!

I was quite disappointed and felt sorry for all the SMB’s there who are pouring hard earned money into FB advertising because they see organic reach is down, but they are not getting stellar advertising results they "hear" about because they just don’t know how, they are strapped for resources, and are caught up in the buzz.

I feel Facebook is too greedy. And they are going about it in the wrong way.

Here's my answer for Facebook: Why not HELP drive organic reach for big and small brands AND by doing this you will STILL make tons of $$ on advertising. No company is going to stop advertising on FB. Au contraire. (1) If companies see their organic reach is up, they will only AUGMENT it with advertising. (2) Do not irate your huge customer base, but making them HAPPY. Happy customers are paying customers. Happy customers spend more. This is basic business/marketing 101.

In fact, it's so ironic - social media is all about LISTENING to the customer, NOT pushing business, not about ME. Its the 80/20 rule. Be helpful, caring, solve problems, great content 80% of the time. 20% should be about your business/products.

Facebook is doing the EXACT opposite.

I think this is how Facebook can get out of the dog box and make itself sustainable, keep their paying advertisers (brands) loyal to them and not jump ship.

What do you think?

Thanks again for this great discussion!