Marketers have until January to come to terms with the ultimatum when the social network will limit the exposure of those posts it deems less creative. It means posts that ask users to install an app or reuse content already found in other ads now face a harder time reaching fans.
The clamp down is in response to a survey of “hundreds of thousands of people” on how they feel about the content in their News Feed. Users want to see less promotional content and more posts from friends and Pages they care about, Facebook adds.
In a blog post about the changes it said: “We dug further into the data to better understand this feedback. What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from Pages they like, rather than ads.
“This may seem counterintuitive but it actually makes sense: News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts.”
Facebook is no longer earned media
It is the social network’s loudest call to date urging advertisers to commit to treating it like TV or other paid media. If brands want reach on Facebook then they will need to pay for it or else see their ads disappear from the news feeds of their fans.
Brands have been bracing themselves for Facebook’s tougher stance on unpaid ads since 2012 when it first started prodding advertisers to reappraise their strategies.
Bacardi, Mondelez and Coca-Cola are all part of a growing number of brands pumping more money into the platform’s ad formats in the hope of establishing the value of a social media fan.
Talking to Marketing Week ahead of Facebook’s announcement, Alex Van Gestel, global communications director at Bacardi, says “Facebook is no longer earned media” and unless “you invest money [into ads] the impact you can now have is limited”. To adapt to the shift, the rum maker has flipped the online media strategy for its Martini brand to concentrate on using Facebook’s tools to better target millenials.
“We’re working closely with our media agency to make sure our owned and earned media is working from a paid perspective because otherwise things just sit there.”
Speaking at the Festival of Marketing last week, Mondelez Europe’s head of social and digital media Sonia Carter said brands needed to move from “the funnel to the megaphone” – meaning reaching as many people as possible rather than a couple of hundred fans at the narrow end of the funnel.
“Social media marketing often relies on organic reach and the discovery of content, but the way that the Facebook algorithm works can mean that you only reach a few hundred of the most devoted fans,” she added.
“Social media doesn’t have to be about engagement. For an FMCG company like us we just need to get as many people as possible to see our content.”
Why organic reach is less and less relevant
While Facebook has cited user experience and creativity as the chief reasons to crack down on unpaid branded posts, it is also likely to lift demand for its ads as brands look to supplant their limited organic reach.
Despite managing to boost the value of its mobile ads this year, which Google and Twitter have both struggled to do, the business has lamented the lack of creativity shown by brands.
Facebook’s regional director for the UK and Ireland Steve Hatch told delegates at the Festival of Marketing that “advertisers are yet to get the creativity and science chemistry right” to cut though the “tsunami of content” for “a thimble of attention” from users. There is no excuse or text-heavy posts and generic ad creative when the tools are readily accessible to produce high-quality, timely creative that is capable of cutting through the clutter, he added.
Robin Grant, global managing director at We Are Social, says Facebook’s maturing advertising offering points to a future where “organic reach on its own is going to be less and less relevant”.
He adds: “Brands are producing more content than ever, but News Feeds only have limited inventory – the obvious solution for Facebook is to sell eyeballs to the highest bidder. That doesn’t mean that producing quality content is no longer a priority, as engaging content will get the lion’s share of the little organic reach available, but more importantly drive media efficiency, maximising the effectiveness of Facebook spend.”