Most of us have seen the doomsday articles about Facebook in the past few months and pictures of Mark Zuckerberg’s head on fire. What does this mean for us as marketers?
“Something’s rotten in the state of Facebook.”
“Something’s rotten in the state of Facebook.” (Shakespeare, anyone?) The drama surrounding Facebook’s newest algorithm change (explained in endnote)1 is almost as epic as what you’d find in one of good old Will’s emotionally charged plays…minus the men in tights.
Between the doomsday news articles and pictures of Mark Zuckerberg’s head on fire, it’s no wonder that some lower budget businesses and marketers are thinking of giving up on Facebook altogether. Maybe they’re not deleting their profiles altogether, but they’re certainly putting less effort into Facebook.
This doubt about Facebook makes sense…especially since the negative sentiment isn’t isolated to the business world. Engagement among teens and younger audiences on Facebook is so low that it makes some question the platform’s viability. After all, our teens are the future. If they shun Facebook, what future does Facebook have?
…But It’s Not Dead Yet
Sure, many businesses feel suppressed, marketers are frustrated, and the future leaders of our society (teens) think the platform is “so uncool.” This algorithm change doesn’t spell doom for the social media giant. Why not? Here’s why: Facebook will actually make more money from the algorithm change, teens won’t necessarily ignore the platform forever, and Baby Boomers’ Facebook usage is growing.
1. The Algorithm Change: Some Lower Budget Businesses Will Reduce Engagement, But Those That Stay In The Game Will Spend More
Plenty of marketing managers for small businesses are mumbling four letter words at Mark Zuckerberg right now. We know that the algorithm change hurts businesses with lower budgets because they won’t be able to afford to pay the amount needed to maintain high engagement with their audiences. These businesses will lessen their engagement on the platform and take their four letter words with them. Facebook doesn’t care.
Businesses that can afford to stay and play Facebook’s pricey new game will…and they’ll spend even more money on the platform. This means more money in Facebook’s pocket…so, financially speaking, Facebook isn’t a sinking ship that marketers can just ignore.
Why would businesses spend more on Facebook if the costs continue to rise?
With 2.2 billion monthly active users (of both sexes and in the broad age range of 25-60), Facebook is sitting on too large of an audience and too broad of a demographic for businesses to ignore. Businesses serving this demographic have no choice but to pay…begrudgingly, but sill pay all the same. Businesses serving outside this demographic and some B2B businesses are a different story. They can divorce from Facebook and gain full custody of their sanity!
With so many businesses forced to pay Facebook more to reach their audiences, Facebook is in a good place. Mark Zuckerberg’s head may be on fire in those news photos, but in reality, he’s doing the happy dance.
2. Yes, Teens Think Facebook is Uncool…but This Won’t Necessarily Kill Facebook
Today’s teens are tomorrow’s adults and if teens shun Facebook today, well, they’ll surely shun it when they grow up, right? Not necessarily. Qualitative data suggests that their anti-Facebook sentiment may not be permanent. To understand why they may not ignore Facebook forever, we have to understand why they dislike it in the first place.
Why Teens Avoid Facebook & Why They’re Likely to Grow Out of It
Teens don’t avoid Facebook because they think it’s inherently awful. Multiple sources, including CNET tech news and Social Media Examiner, show that teens avoid Facebook because their parents and other adults use it. They want freedom to be themselves without adults butting into their business and seeing everything that they do when they’re with their friends. Can we really assume that this behavior will continue into adulthood? It would be a bit strange if it did.
Can you see a 35 yr. old mom of two refusing to use Facebook because it’s full of grown-ups and she doesn’t want them to see pictures of her drinking, partying and dancing with an older boy? Probably not.
Today’s teens will be tomorrow’s adults and they ‘ll want to connect with their parents, relatives, and other grown-ups, rather than avoid them. They’ll want to show off pictures of their kids, their vacations and their lives. After all, that’s why people use Facebook now. In short, it’s going to take a bit more than a rejection from the “cool kids’ crowd” to make Facebook disappear. Revenge of the Nerds should have taught us that.
3. Facebook’s Future Doesn’t All Rest On Teens – Make Way For Baby Boomers
For all of the teens who don’t engage with Facebook, there are plenty of Baby Boomers who do…and plenty more who are joining for the first time. A Pew Research Center study states that Facebook usage in the over 55 demographic is growing substantially and will likely continue. Grandma and Grandpa aren’t giving up without a fight! They shouldn’t have to!
According to Pew, the Boomers are increasing their technology usage and level of comfort with technology year after year. If Facebook is still around and still reasonably popular 10 to 20 years from now, the 63.7 million Boomers will likely be on it…even into their old age. It’s hard to claim that Facebook is declining with a potential user pool that’s 63.7 million strong!
Facebook Is Still Relevant & Won’t Die Quickly…But It’s Not Invincible Either
The golden rule of business is “Don’t upset your paying customers.” Facebook has managed to break this rule over and over and stay in business. How? Facebook has two separate audiences: (1) the paying customers (businesses) and (2) the customers who make Facebook valuable and relevant enough for the paying customers to empty their wallets (2.2 billion personal users). As long as Facebook keeps these personal users happy and active on the platform, Facebook can continue to push businesses around all it wants and they’ll still continue to empty their wallets. Well played, Zuckerberg…well played.
No business is invincible though. Facebook’s aggressive tactics have definitely ruffled businesses’ feathers enough to make them very receptive to using competing social media platforms. So far, no platform offers everything that Facebook does though, so Facebook is safe in the short term. Once a worthy competitor rears its head and gains an audience that matches the size and scope of Facebook, Facebook will be in trouble…and businesses will be all to eager to jump ship, laughing on their way out.
How To Remain Engaged On Facebook When Marketing For A Small Business
Your best bet in this scenario is to post content that you know will be engaging. One example of this is high quality video content and livestreaming. Facebook favors video content over other kinds, so video will earn you better organic reach. Instead of trying to hack Facebook’s algorithm change, focus on your audience. What types of videos would they be most likely to watch or share? Those are the types of videos you should create! Hosting contests, posting surveys, hosting Facebook events, and asking open-ended conversation-starter questions are also great ways to engage customers.
If you have a brick and mortar store or interact with customers on the phone, encourage them to visit your Facebook page and participate. You can also promote content on your Facebook page via your website, other social media platforms, and email marketing. Provide content on Facebook that your audience can’t find on your other platforms, and regularly remind them to visit your Facebook page to access this content.
Don’t be over-zealous in asking people (within your Facebook posts or comments section) to comment on your posts or share them. This can cause Facebook to flag your posts as inappropriate. When designing brainstorming engagement ideas, be sure to protect your page and your brand by following Facebook’s policies and guidelines to ensure your page isn’t shut down or faced with any penalties. This algorithm change can be irritating, but if your business needs to stay in the Facebook game, look at this as an opportunity to be a creative problem solver. After all, that’s what digital marketing is all about!
1 Explanation of Facebook algorithm change: The recent Facebook algorithm change of January 2018 is one of the largest in history, in terms of its impact on businesses and marketing. Facebook is drastically limiting the visibility of posts from businesses, and also giving increased preference to posts that elicit a large number of comments, shares, etc.
The difficulty here is this: How are businesses supposed to elicit high engagement if nobody is seeing their posts in the first place? The answer is that they’re supposed to pay…more than they’ve ever had to pay before, for the same level of engagement. This puts money in Facebook’s pockets and gives large businesses with higher budgets an even greater advantage on Facebook than they already had over smaller businesses. This algorithm change hurts small businesses most.
About the Author
Chiara Tedone is an SEO and content marketing manager. She develops and implements content and SEO strategies across all internet platforms, including websites, blogs, social media, email, online ads and more. Her strategies help companies improve their credibility, raise Google rankings, gain leads, nurture leads, increase brand awareness and conduct PR, all online. Chiara has developed and implemented strategies for mid-sized and small businesses in the following industries: restaurants, retail, education, healthcare, professional services, fitness, non-profit, animal care and sports.
She graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. in 2007 with a B.A. in International Relations and a minor in Spanish. In 2016, Chiara graduated from the University of South Florida with an M.B.A. and a specialty in Marketing. Visit Chiara’s LinkedIn profile for more info!