Welcome to 2015, and a whole new era in social media marketing on Facebook: the "post promotional post" era. That's because, beginning this month, Facebook will be instituting new content and volume controls for organic posts that are promotional in nature. This includes posts that push users to purchase a product or install an app, reuse the exact same content from ads, or impel people to enter promotions or sweepstakes without context. Facebook is making these modifications in response to results of a survey of its users who reported being unhappy with the amount of promotional posts infiltrating their News Feeds.
The crackdown on promo posts is potentially a big deal to marketers who aren't prepared for this change, especially when you consider that more than 88% of small businesses with social profiles list Facebook as the top social media channel for marketing their businesses -per the results of a 2014 Webs survey.
Alfredo Ramos, general manager of Pagemodo, says this change means that companies that rely on Facebook as an acquisition or engagement channel will need to reconsider their posting approaches and/or allocate more funds to Facebook paid advertising campaigns. "These organizations are going to need to stop treating Facebook posts like advertisements and start speaking to their fans like friends," says Ramos. "It will take some creativity and practice to strike the right balance between continuing to make sales and not sounding overly promotional."
Irasema G. Jeffers, chief digital officer for Online Amiga, agrees. "The work around is to go back to marketing 101. Create content that your customers want to engage on and use promotional posts for your ads," says Jeffers. "Stop paying for followers, as the only way to grow followers and use it to boost a major event in the company is to use the ad platform that's built within Facebook."
The bottom line going forward is that, if you want to use Facebook to build awareness for or drive engagement with your brand, you're probably going to have to pay for it, according to Matt Sommer, COO of Brolik, who doesn't see this as a major challenge for savvy marketers.
"As digital marketers, when have we not had to adjust to changes in our platforms and paradigms? This is simply a realigning of focus to prove once again that quality is king when it comes to content marketing," Sommer says. "If you're content isn't high quality, no one will share it and you'll have to pay for every inch of reach."
Sommer insists that personal engagement is your best ally for being present on the News Feed. "If you can convince others to share your content from their personal profiles, you can expect a good number of organic and viral impressions," says Sommer, who added that his company recently conducted experiments in which it posted items on Facebook, then had everyone in the office share it. "While those posts still didn't get the kind of reach they did before the crackdown, this did help put momentum behind the posts and garnered some organic reach. The real trick here is to create great content people are likely to share and promote the content to the group of people most likely to share it, whether that's your Facebook following or people with a particular interest."
Ultimately, Facebook's nix on promo posts will force marketers to be better, many believe. "This change will let consumers more easily find the brands that want to interact with them as people and cut out those who just want to sell, sell, sell, with no care for them," says Gary Cooke, social media manager with Serious Inc. "Businesses will have no choice but to be interesting, to educate or entertain their followers."
Long term, Facebook's decision is good for social media, Cooke adds. "I believe we will see an evolution of marketing from sales pitch to organic and natural conversations between people and brands," he says.