Today it’s hard to find a single brand which doesn’t have its own Facebook page. And the advantages are clear: with more than 1.2 billion active users each month, Facebook is a gigantic channel to build an audience. With the click of a single like button you can reach out to yet another prospect/customer.
But slowly things are changing. Only two days ago, Facebook blogged about yet another optimization on the timeline algorithm, which “for many pages, this includes a decline in organic reach“. Facebook explains this as being a logical step in offering the highest relevance for their users, meaning that the selfie from a friend is likely more relevant to me than yet another brand trying to engage me. And they’re probably right.
But it also means that your carefully built-up Likes are losing value for you as a brand. You can still reach your likes through highly engaging content or through advertising, but that will only become for difficult to do for free. As one commenter said:
So, let me get this straight: we promote our pages in order to get more fans. And, in order to promote our pages, we pay for Facebook. OK, after we pay for this, we need to pay again to REACH those fans. Is that only me, or is something wrong with that?
The free lunch is quickly disappearing. But there’s a bigger danger looming: data. By building up your audience on Facebook you are building an immense set of consumer data and insights. All of which you don’t own. This opens the door for Facebook to give/sell your data to others. Largely invisible, but incredibly powerful.
Any brand looking for a highly specific and easy to capture audience can do so on Facebook. A telecom operator with a special offer for people aged 18-25? Create ads to people who like any of the competitors and are in that age bracket. A clothing brand looking to expand its product line with shoes? Target anyone who’s a fan of a similar shoe brand…
To fully grasp the risks of this situation, let’s draw a comparison between building that Facebook page or a traditional email list. In both instances we trigger the customer to perform a small action and subscribe to our messages. Now imagine that a third party manages this email list for you for free. After a while they tell you they will start sending out fewer of your emails because they feel their users are already receiving too much information. Now also imagine that they start selling that email list to rival companies for which we receive absolutely nothing. No business in the world would ever accept such policies on their email list. So why should you with your Facebook page?
If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.
There’s been much talk lately about consumers worrying that their privacy online. Instagram and LinkedIn using your pictures to build ads, Facebook using your personal data to serve ads, … So far there’s not a lot of action being taken by consumers as giving up their data can actually serve them in getting better (personalised) offers. Individuals are also not very interested in putting a value on their own data, so not a lot is being done.
What we as businesses are forgetting though is that our Facebook Page suffers from a very similar problem. We got the free meal from the third-party service (in this case Facebook), but it also meant that we are giving up complete control. And unlike individuals, data is extremely valuable to us businesses which means Facebook’s “free” is starting to get very expensive in direct cost (advertise to reach our own audience), lost revenue (partnership deals in exchanging emails) and in competitive value (data being sold to competitors).