2nd March 2018

– Jessica Hewson, Nwes Digital Marketing Assistant

With over 2 billion active users a month, you might be wondering why I am even questioning Facebook’s worth for businesses.

Well, with recent changes to the social media site and other platforms biting at its heels, simply having 2 billion monthly active users might not be enough.

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook was great for businesses. It gave businesses a platform to reach potential customers like no other method. With a few basic setup features, a click here and a picture there, businesses effectively had a marketing tool and a mini-website that was free. Of course, to reap the full rewards from Facebook, eventually budget is needed to promote posts and create adverts – though this was still a very achievable budget compared to other options and the audience that could be reached. Even now, Facebook’s advertising tools are leaps and bounds ahead of competitors such as Twitter. Facebook advertising is relatively easy to set-up and use, with the capability to create varying advert types, target specific audiences and see potential reach and results. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat simply can’t compete with this (at least not at the moment). And yet, I am still questioning the relevance of Facebook for businesses.

It is common knowledge that Facebook recently announced it is going to change how posts from businesses are seen in our News Feeds. Currently, a business can create a post, add budget to it and define the target audience. Then, depending on the budget assigned, Facebook would ensure this post was put in front of the right people at the best times. How many people and how many times it was shown depends on your budget. Now, arguably as a calculated move to compete with the rise of Snapchat and 1-to-1 personal advertising, Facebook is shifting to create a more personal experience for users. It will be increasing the opportunity for more meaningful interactions, hoping that the time users spend on Facebook will be more valuable for them – even if this does come at the cost of users spending less time on the social media site. However, its friend-focus News Feed will give post priority to our friends and family over businesses and brands, meaning the relevance of posts from pages will be downgraded.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Facebook has made a big adjustment to the social media platform. Back in 2016 Facebook launched its infamous News Feed algorithm and we saw our chronological feds swapped for a content-controlled feed decided by the algorithm. Facebook determined what posts users were most likely to interact with placing them at the top of their News Feeds and post reach was limited to 30% of your total follower count. The status of business profiles was changed, as organic followers and reach became difficult and paid posts were more necessary than ever. But, as businesses and marketers we eventually got used to this and paid social became the norm. However, this isn’t the only worry businesses must face.

Earlier I mentioned that Facebook has over 2 billion active users a month, well this might not be set to last. As predicted by eMarketer, Facebook’s proportion of social network users is and will to continue decline over the coming period. It is estimated by eMarketer that Facebook will lose 2 million users aged 24 and younger this year (migrating to Snapchat or Instagram instead). Now yes, 2 million isn’t exactly going to destroy Facebook with its billions of users, but it is something to consider primarily because of who the audience is.

Is Facebook losing its youth audience? Is it becoming outdated? We’re in a society now where children are growing up on social media. It has become how they interact with their friends and for many, the outside world. Now don’t take this as an instruction to delete your business’ Facebook and start setting up Snapchat. Despite these predictions, Facebook still holds the monopoly over social media engagement. In a recent study, eMarketer found that users are spending around 41 minutes a day engaged on Facebook compared to 26 minutes on Snapchat and 25 minutes on Instagram.

So, if you’re a business on Facebook it’s worth saying don’t go changing your social media platform just yet. Facebook is still winning, if only just for now. Yes, changes are coming for Facebook, but we don’t know for certain what this will mean for businesses just yet. What it will mean for your marketing strategy is a rethink. Develop your audience insights, really think about who you want to target and build relationships with them both on and beyond Facebook. Don’t ignore Snapchat and Instagram, especially if your business targets a youth audience. The smart business would be exploring these options now, getting familiar with how they operate and working them into your marketing strategy for 2018, so that when Facebook does change you’re not left stranded.

 

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