If Beyoncé can’t reach her fans, how will you? She has 65 million fans on Facebook and no way to reach them, unless she is willing to pay $300,000 for a single post.
If you are a brand you too have lost access to your fans on Facebook. You have spent hundreds, thousands, or maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars/pounds/euros driving your fans to Facebook. Sure you did. They provided awesome tools for communicating with your customers and fans. Out went email (and old fashioned postal) addresses. And in came social media. You probably didn’t realize it, but you have been transferring your wealth, your fans, to Facebook. And once they have them, they are not going to give them back. It’s kind of like a giant ponzi scheme.
The problem with questioning the status quo is that there is a whole industry that has grown up around managing social media. Tons of companies have created businesses that are dependent on the social media eco-system. Dependency as in drug addiction. Maybe that is why it is so hard for people to see their relationship with social media for what it is. They are hooked. Not just you and me, who can’t stop checking our phones for the latest cat or food photos. But particularly for the brands and talent who have driven the greatest traffic to Facebook and the others. There are myriad articles Linkedin and in the press about what really works in social media, but is this just the last stage of denial?
Here are a few facts. Facebook organic reach has dropped to nearly zero. Latest research shows that less than 1% of Facebook fans see posts from the Talent (musicians, athletes, brands) they follow. A band with 3 million fans would have to pay approximately $15,000 (£9k) to make sure their fans see a single post on Facebook. The more fans a page has, the more it costs to advertise per like. And with all of Facebook’s recent announcements it i likely that in 2015 there will be no more free posting on Facebook pages.
Bands and brands (and others with large fan or customer bases) have been lulled into believing that social networks have their best interests at heart. But these networks are totally self-serving. Of course they are! They have shareholders and need to generate revenues. As Facebook turned down organic reach they share price went up, dramatically. But as you have lost reach, you have probably lost revenue as well, or have had to pay a lot more than before to increase it.
It’s all about the data. Social networks own your fan data and it cannot be exported. Sure, you have access to dashboards and data, but how much of it is even relevant? How much of it is even real? And how much do you have to pay for it? We’ve all read about the Facebook like farms. Don’t you ever wonder when you look at your so called reach why there are so many “fans” in places like Afghanistan or the Philippines? Direct access to fans is essential for earning revenue. How are you now going to re-build a direct relationship with your fans?
Twitter, Instagram (owned by Facebook) and the other “tools” you rely on, social networks, will soon be following Facebook’s lead. The message should be clear. Fans are worth a lot. But you need to reach them in order to profit from your relationships with them. Rather than giving insane amounts of money to Facebook and their shareholders, what can you do?
Mobile dominates devices. Americans now spend more time on their mobile than watching TV. Mobile commerce should reach $84 billion in 2014, up 80% from $47 billion in 2013. People spend 6 times more time on apps than on mobile web. And mobile apps create tremendous opportunities for two-way communication with fans and customers, including the ability to reach them with messages appropriate to where they are (geo-location and push notifications).
So one solution would be to build your own private social network in the form of your own-branded mobile app. That way you own the data and the communication channel. Or you can start collecting email addresses and phone numbers. And there is traditional online and print PR. Maybe we need to go back basics. But the goal must certainly be to find ways of engaging directly with customers and fans, with out any third party intermediary. That has two benefits: 1) less brand polution and 2) greater revenue opportunities.
Social networks have been just as crafty as drug dealers, getting people hooked on free services and then charging once they are completely dependent. But there is a digital cure for social media addiction. The detox process may be painful, but the benefits are worth it!
PS. (added 25 Nov) Great minds think alike! A day after I published this post, The Drum came out with a story using most of the same references: “2014 – The Year Facebook Organic Reach Died.” I guess I should feel smug about having said this for months in this blog. It was very hard for some people to believe this new reality when I talked about it last year. Hopefully reality is beginning to sink in.