New Facebook AlgorithmIf you’ve been scanning headlines this week, you may have noticed that Facebook ticked off a very, very large group of people: social media marketers. Headlines concerning the new Facebook algorithm are brutal.

– Facebook Slightly Tweaked How the Site Works: And It Screwed An Entire Profession
– ‘Chilling’ News for Brands on Facebook
– Does Everyone Else Hate These Facebook Changes As Much As We Do?

… the list goes on.

What Happened to Facebook Brand Pages

On December 10, Ignite Social Media published a study of 689 posts across 21 brand pages, focusing on pages of different sizes and industries. Ignite reports:

[In] the week since December 1, organic reach and organic reach percentage have each declined by 44% on average, with some pages seeing declines as high as 88%. Only one page in the analysis had improved reach, which came in at 5.6%.

Engaged users plummeted along with reach. Only one page noticed an increase in engaged users – a pathetic 0.7%. Bottom line: while Facebook brand pages used to reach about 16% of fans, they now reach about 2.5%.

Facebook Reach Data

For brands that have spent thousands of dollars building their fan base, these new Facebook algorithm changes are clearly disappointing. Some internet marketers are even calling the algorithm changes fraudulent.

What Facebook Is Saying

Facebook doesn’t seem to be making any attempt to cover up the effects of the new algorithm. AdAge turned up this quote from a November Facebook sales deck: “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

It gets worse. AdAge also reports this comment from a Facebook spokesman: “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

What’s a Social Media Marketer To Do?

At first blush, this all sounds pretty rotten, doesn’t it? Many people have fallen into the End-of-The-World Camp, as exhibited by those sample headlines I shared above. I want to encourage social media marketers to avoid this mindset. Here’s what you can do.

  1. Avoid digital sharecropping. Digital sharecropping is a term coined by Nicholas Carr almost seven years ago to the day. Carr uses it to refer to the practice of building your business on a digital platform that you don’t own. In other words: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. For more pragmatic advice…
  2. Stop thinking of social media as ‘free’. Social media is not free, and it never has been. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ may provide you with free tools, but it requires dollars to really make them work. I’m not necessarily referring to “promoted posts” and ads. Rather, social media should cost you something, whether that’s your time or a slice of your marketing budget. Otherwise, you’re probably not doing it right. If all you do is schedule a few Tweets and a Facebook post for the day then get to “the real work,” then why would you expect actual results?

Facebook probably won’t be going back to the Golden Era of high reach and engagement rates ever again. But if you change your mindset and focus on building high quality content, then it really shouldn’t matter so much. Share your thoughts in the comments below.