As far as I know, there are two kinds of “mic checks.” The first is the semi-annoying thing that bands do before a show to make sure all the sound levels are something (I don’t know much about sound), and the second is the kind of mic check that got a lot of attention during Occupy Wall Street. During protests, as people would gather to hear someone speak, the speaker would say “mic check,” and the audience would respond “mic check” to let the speaker know she had their attention. Those gathered around her would repeat what she said to “amplify” her voice in the absence of a bullhorn or PA system.
Facebook used to operate much like this second form of “mic checking.” You’d gather a group of fans, post some great content, and then you’d rely on your fans to get the word out. It was a pretty nifty system, and best of all, it was FREE. Then, Facebook pulled the plug on this by limiting organic reach for brands. As far back as April of 2012, Facebook reported that both brand pages and personal pages only reach about 16% of their fans. Just over two years later, that number has dwindled, and the average brand is now reaching less than 10% of their audience, with organic reach predicted to eventually plummet to 2% or less.
Given the original metaphor, it’s like Facebook took the speaker and put her in a sound proof box. Now, there are only two ways to spread your message—you can either convince your audience to join you in the box (i.e., visit your Facebook page) or pay to get out of the box (i.e., pay to promote an ad in the News Feed). For most people, there isn’t going to be a compelling reason to join you in the box, so it’s time to get out.
Whether or not it’s fair for Facebook to do this, is a moot point. No matter how anyone feels about it, Facebook is now a pay-to-play environment. While this certainly changes the game, it’s by no means a bad thing for brands. But, there are several things brands need to do to turn up the volume on Facebook, including:
1) Treat your social media plan more like your traditional media plan.
Smart brands are realizing that by limiting organic reach, Facebook is pushing brands to invest in the equivalent of a really good PA system—a carefully crafted strategy combined with an appropriate advertising budget. It’s what you’d do with any other advertising medium, so why treat your brand differently on social media?
2) Shift from the daily posting paradigm to a campaign paradigm.
When done correctly, advertising on Facebook should have the same brand look, feel, and quality as any other advertising you are doing, and there should be a point to what you are doing beyond just getting people to like or share your posts. Maybe you want them to buy your product, visit your website, sign up for a newsletter, or take advantage of a special offer. Whatever the point is, your Facebook content should support that message. Traditionally, that’s called a campaign, and just like any other campaign, a Facebook campaign should have a specific goal, a target audience, and a specified timeframe.
3) Target the right people with the right messages.
To get the most ROI, you want to make sure you’re targeting the right people with each post. Rather than sending each post out to everyone on Facebook or even every one of your fans, segment your audience appropriately. Since production for Facebook is much less expensive than most traditional media, you may want to budget for multiple ads that will speak to different segments of your audience. The nice thing about paying for your News Feed placement is that you can target specific groups with ads made just for them.
4) Don’t give up on gaining fans.
Just like in high school, popularity breeds popularity. Brands with more fans gain more credibility among Facebook users. It may be irrational, but we like to like things that other people have already liked. Equally as important, as you gain fans, Facebook provides you with a lot of information about your fan base that you can use to your advantage. You can tell what types of posts they respond to, how old they are, where they live, and what days and times they are engaging with your content. It’s a great way to gather information about your audience.
Keep in mind that with the right strategy, even a modest Facebook budget can produce big results. And sure, organic or viral reach is fun when it happens, but it’s a lot like the second type of mic check—a great alternative when you don’t have the resources for something that works better and is more reliable. If you had the time and money to do so, you probably wouldn’t plan an event and choose to use the “human microphone” over an electronic one, so why would you base your Facebook strategy on organic reach? Creating less content that is higher in quality, better targeted, and sponsored is the best way to get your message out there, generate engagement with your brand, and increase your ROI.