Facebook’s goal is to make it impossible for brands to not include paid posts in their content strategy. That’s not breaking news. You would have had to be living under a rock not to notice this trend with their two algorithm updates last year. Many strategists, including myself, have written posts on how to update strategy to combat this. In general the advice has been to increase the number of posts as well as the confusing debate over whether it’s better to post photo memes or links to photos. The overall message is to keep doing what you’ve been doing as long as you incorporate several additional tips and tricks.

No more.

According to a report released this week by Simply Measured, the top 10 Brands on Facebook are seeing their total monthly engagement fall by 40% since last year despite increasing their posts by 20.1% during the same period. This image taken from the SimplyMeasured report says it all:

credit: SimplyMeasured
credit: simplymeasured

Let’s think about what this means.

Accordingly to SimplyMeasured, these top 10 brands have a collective audience of almost 358 million. The list includes some of the social media superstar brands:

  • Disney
  • MTV*
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Starbucks
  • Harley-Davidson*
  • Intel
  • BMW
  • Ferrari
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Audi USA

All of these brands have dedicated social media teams and spend millions of dollars in campaigns.

Moreover, all have received accolades at various times for their work in social media. In March of this year, Mercedes-Benz received the AM 2014 award for Best Social Media Campaign. Starbucks and Disney are consistently touted as cutting edge in social media adoption and Intel, as always, leads the way on employee advocacy via social. MTV and Harley-Davidson are outliers in these results as their level of engagement increased over the past year. Although when the report focused on per-post engagement MTV joined the rest of the brands with a significant drop (38.05%) For such  social media juggernaut that’s a huge number.

The fact that the results are so uniform (with the exception of Harley-Davidson) tells us that this is more than a blip. Something on the foundational level has shifted and we need to call every one of our assumptions about Facebook Strategy into question.

In many ways this shouldn’t be too surprising. Facebook strategy has always been simpler to craft than Twitter and it’s been around far longer than Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine. So a lot of the discussion out there centers on best practices such as when to post rather than an underlying discussion of the nature of the social network. The focus has been on content rather than interaction. The prettier the better. That’s one reason 4 of the 10 brands are automotive companies.

But thanks to the algorithm changes no matter how pretty your content brand page reach for unprompted posts is now often under 3% according to a report last December by Ignite Social Media Agency.

It’s time for a reboot. We need to start thinking about Facebook in terms of a social network as opposed to a broadcasting platform.

Facebook was built around individual interaction and as much as they punish brands for posting content, when an individual posts or shares a page’s content the game changes. According to a Stanford Study published last year, on average 35% of your Facebook Friends see your posts. Of course debate immediately ensued over these results and I have no desire to open it here. Simply consider this- the number of people who see posts when they come from an individual is dramatically higher than when a Brand’s Page posts it.

There are additional benefits to tapping into the social network side of Facebook. A recent report from Kentico found that “69% of the consumers surveyed say a company’s educational information is more credible when discovered through a friend or family member”. So by building relationships with customers and encouraging them to share content from your Facebook Page a brand not only gains exponential increase in reach, it also knows that that content has a higher degree of credibility.

Bottomline: The changes to Facebook’s algorithm necessitates a fundamental reboot of Brand Page Strategy. As strategists we must move strategy away from using Pages to broadcast content and instead use them to build relationships with the audience, encouraging them to share and interact with the content.

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