Facebook: Brands Will Have To Work Harder (Or Buy Ads) For Your Attention — But Fans Still Matter

It’s going to get harder and harder for many businesses to reach fans on Facebook without paying for ads — that’s the message of sales material that the company sent to partners, as revealed in an Ad Age report.

A year ago, there were rumors that Facebook was holding back the organic (non-paid) reach of Pages in order to drive businesses to its ad products, but the company said it was just cracking down on spam, and the data seemed to bear that out. Now, Facebook admits that organic reach is declining, something it blames on the fact that there’s just so much content (not to mention the fact that more and more businesses are building a presence on the site).

In the sales deck, Facebook first says it expects “organic distribution of an individual Page’s posts to gradually decline over time,” then it suggests, “to maximize delivery of your message in News Feed, your brand should consider using paid distribution.”

To address the issue, the company published a blog post of its own that included a link to the aforementioned sales deck (embedded at the end of this post) and outlined the situation thusly:

People are connecting and sharing more than ever. On a given day, when someone visits News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show.

As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality.

But even if, as Facebook says, this is just an inevitable consequence of more sharing, the situation could still seem unfair to some business, particularly if they’ve put effort and money into acquiring a fan base on the social network. What’s the point if their messages are going to reach an ever-decreasing percentage of those fans?

Well, Facebook says “The fans you have matter.” In fact, the sales deck lists a number of benefits to acquiring fans, including improving organic distribution and getting more insight about your audience. The number one reason? “Improving ad effectiveness.”

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