Facebook is putting the final nails in the coffin of organic brand content. They're taking yet another step towards removing it from your News Feed.
In their words, "We will...prioritize posts from friends and family over public content…" Okay, that sounds pretty good, actually. Facebook should be used for what it was built: to connect people.
But there's something you should realize: this doesn't apply to ads (as far as we know). It's only for organic content.
That means that all that work you've done to create an organic following is getting more and more pointless every day. And ads are becoming more relevant.
Let's take a look at where this is heading and how you can prepare for the impact on agencies, creative, and your brand.
TL;DR - Facebook is even further suppressing organic branded content, making paid advertising even more necessary, which will increase the price of their ad product and shift advertising creative mindsets.
The Sign This Was Coming
Back when Facebook announced that brands would be able to boost their influencers' posts, I gave a brief breakdown of the first steps they took towards monetization. (Check it out when you can.)
The short version is, over the past few years, brands saw their content show up in about 20% of their followers feeds, dwindle to about 2% (and it's dropping). This aligned perfectly with the promotion of FB's ad product, which forced the content into everyone's feeds.
Coincidence? I think not.
Well, this latest announcement is emphasizes that their ad product is basically a requirement for putting branded content in front of people.
Why Are They Doing It?
The Optimistic View
"With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people."
That's nice of them.
Actually, it's a good point. They're realizing that people aren't engaging with Facebook as much anymore. They spend a lot of time on the platform, but have found that the content they see isn't as important to them.
So, they want to prioritize content that drives discussion, and thus, engagement with their platform.
Thing is...that's usually not branded content (or Marketing Lite).
The Realistic View
Facebook and Google already monopolize (duopolize?) 60% of the digital ad spend in the US. But the difference between Facebook ads and pre-roll or TV, is that you aren't forced to watch.
So, if you have an audience with a bunch of crap in their feed they don't engage with (no matter how long they're on there), then they're less likely to engage with the ads.
However, if you have a highly engaged feed, then they're more likely to engage with the ad.
When you're not paying for the product, your attention is the product.
Don't fool yourself. Facebook is looking to make money. They initially suppressed organic brand content because they wanted to force people to buy ads. Now they're doing it even more because it's making people not interact with the ads enough.
What You Should Be Worried About
"Showing more posts from friends and family...means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses."
Less Need for Followers
When I wrote about vanity metrics in advertising, I pointed out that followers were completely useless, because the content barely ever shows up in their feeds. That's even more so the case now.
Facebook even points out that one of the only ways for people to see brands' content in their feed is to manually change a setting in their preferences (which most people don't even know about, much less do).
More Need for Engaging Content
The other way is to make super engaging content that doesn't feel like marketing.
Yeah, sure. If brands did that, then Facebook couldn't use it as an excuse, and we wouldn't be in this predicament.
That's not to say you can't, though. Facebook specifically calls out certain types of content, like Live Videos, as ways to stay engaged. But when it comes to business, most (non-content-based) brands aren't looking to create call-to-action-absent content.
Their Ad Product Will Be More In Demand
We're pretty close to all branded content being quarantined into a separate Explore tab, like they tested.
However, getting a fraction of a fraction of your audience's eyes on a piece of content is a lot of work. It's just not easily scalable.
Enter paid ads. They'll show up anywhere you pay to put them.
It's pretty obvious that they want people to use these more. And people should. They're awesome. The targeting is superb, the reach is massive, and best of all: they're underpriced.
Paid Social Creative Will Be More In Demand
There are still tons of brands hanging onto the old world of social. Hopefully this is making it clear to where Facebook (and the rest of the social world) is going.
Organic is out. Paid is in.
And paid social ads are a different beast for creatives. They're stuck in a world between earned views and forced views. Between PR and TV. It's not an impossible mindshift, but it's a necessary one.
Facebook Ad Pricing Will Stop Being Underpriced
The more and more necessary paid ads become for brands to get in front of people, the more in demand it becomes.
The more in demand it becomes, the more expensive it gets.
Right now, their underpriced nature is a big edge they have over Google's Adwords. But just as Adwords gained popularity and its price skyrocketed, Facebook will do the same.
The Punchline is the Bottom Line
Follow the money.
That's all you have to do. Look at every decision in the lens of how it'll improve their margins.
Not a bad thing. But don't be surprised when you see more and more ads appearing, while your favorite celeb gossip content is nowhere to be found.
And yet again I find myself thinking I should buy Facebook stock.