Marketing your business on Facebook used to be simple. All you had to do to promote your services was create a page, then find people to “like” your page. Upon doing so, they would begin seeing your company posts in their Facebook newsfeed.
If your fans liked your content, they could like, comment or share it and it would be seen by their network. As a result, compelling content could reach a huge audience quickly and inexpensively. Marketers loved it and Facebook took note.
In the past year, Facebook changed its algorithm so that fewer post from a company's page were seen by fans. This change was justified by Facebook as a way to weed out non-engaging content. Businesses were provided a solution for this obstacle by being given the option to pay to promote their posts or create ads.
This trend of limiting the reach of organic, or nonpaid, content continues and marketing news agencies predict that the organic reach of Facebook business page posts will soon be non-existent. Organic reach for Facebook company pages fell nearly 50% from October 2013 to January 2014, according to a report from social@Ogylvie, and it's likely to drop even further in the near future.
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What does that mean for advisers who use Facebook as a marketing tool? Simple: If you want people to see your posts, get ready to open your wallet. Paid promotion will soon be the only way to guarantee fans will see what you're up to.
DO YOU STILL NEED FACEBOOK?
Facebook's shift from a free content distribution tool to a paid advertising platform is a big deal, and it might make you feel like abandoning the site altogether.
But no matter how annoyed you are by this change, abandoning Facebook may not be a good idea, especially if you've already built a community of fans. But you will need to rethink your approach if you want to stay visible on the site.
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Here is what Facebook's new approach to delivering content to users change could mean:
• Firms that are prepared to pay to increase their reach will have better results than those that aren't. Whether you are buying ads to attract fans or paying to promote your posts, you'll need to develop an advertising plan, set a budget and monitor results to ensure your Facebook campaigns help you reach your marketing goals.
• A careless approach to posting won't work. You need a strategy for producing content that captures peoples' attention. That could mean segmenting fans, developing targeted content for each group based on what they've engaged with in the past, determining the best time to post (i.e., when your target audience is most active on Facebook), and then paying to promote those posts to different audiences. You will no longer be able to post a link to an article and expect people to see it. Every post is going to need to be thoughtful. The end result may be fewer but more powerful posts.
• You will need to interact with your fans more. Advisers are often hesitant to encourage fans to comment or respond to comments because of compliance concerns. However, monitoring interactions and responding appropriately is going to be an important part of increasing organic reach.
• You may have to use your individual Facebook account more to promote your business. While this is not ideal for larger firms, it will be the most effective way to use Facebook for solo advisers to ensure that posts are seen by the intended audience.
• Facebook pages will continue to appear in Google search results and a Facebook presence will still be a useful way for people to find and learn about your business. Even non-fans who click on your page will be able to see content you've shared.
• Social media is more than Facebook. While organic reach is declining on Facebook, other platforms, like LinkedIn and Twitter, still offer advisers a way to reach people for free. Your social media strategy should not be restricted to a single platform.
For small businesses with tight marketing budgets, losing a cost-effective marketing tool like Facebook will be a shock. While Facebook likely still has value as part of your overall marketing strategy, it's essential to pay attention to changes and adapt your strategy for maximum effectiveness.
Kristen Luke is president and chief executive of Wealth Management Marketing Inc. and co-founder of The Mercato, an online marketplace featuring do-it-yourself tools, templates and training for financial advisers. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenLuke.