A hot topic in digital marketing, and one that’s often discussed in the creative community, is that Facebook is ‘failing artists’. However, the idea comes from a misunderstanding of how best to use the social platform… and that’s what we at Bolster spend all our days doing. That, and finding doggo memes. But mostly the digital stuff.
Firstly, it’s wrong to claim that Facebook is failing anyone. Whether you’re reaching 100 people, or a million, that’s x number more people than you’d have reached otherwise. That’s less time hanging posters in cafes, selling demos from the back of your van, and pounding the pavement. It’s true that Facebook has slashed the organic reach of business pages in favour of personal profiles, but being upset about that is like stumbling on a free ice cream giveaway and being mad that they’ve run out of ice cream.
For the sake of argument, let’s call Facebook a freemium model. The ‘free’ part is the organic reach. It’s the content Facebook knows you care about (and with a data collection system that’s second to none, trust us… they know what you care about, and when you care about it). You’ll see your friends kicking goals, an announcement from your favourite band, a meme that made you tag your friend with the comment, “So us!”
The ‘premium’ part is the content that’s less social; it’s the content that the algorithm doesn’t think you’ll engage with as strongly. This is based on your own behaviour, as well as a combination of weighted factors. Examples might include a new festival, an album release or a Kickstarter campaign for a book club based around Netflix shows (Siri: bookmark that one for later). Consider it the call to action, ‘business’ side of Facebook.
The power of Facebook is that the ‘free’ level totally powers the ‘premium’ level. As a digital agency, we can target audiences based on everything from your location, to your interests, to whether you ended up buying that ticket you were thinking about… even to how likely you are to be interested in a new event based on other events you’ve attended. And we know all of this because of your behaviour not just on Facebook, but across the internet and in day-to-day life. We hope you’ll see that as less ‘big brother is watching’, and more at how powerful a tool that is for businesses looking to find their audience. As a paid channel, Facebook is better than most, and with the most reliable data. It’s also one of the few platforms committed to balancing advertiser wants with general consumer usability.
What we’re really saying is the ‘free’ level of Facebook is Spotify with ad breaks, and the ‘premium’ level is listening to Purple Rain uninterrupted, cover to cover.
One of the biggest mistakes we see brands committing is forgetting that Facebook is, first and foremost, a social platform. That means that if your content is entirely about selling, you will absolutely lose organic reach, because nobody invited the used car salesman over for dinner. The most successful pages we see are those who engage their audiences – artists who share an insight into their lives, create video content from shows, thank their fans, ask questions, respond to comments. If Facebook isn’t working for you, well, there’s no easy way to say this but, maybe it’s you?
And this is true for events too. Recently, we launched a new Australian music festival. Although a new introduction, within one week of announcement, we’d successfully built a page with over 10,000 fans, and reached a large audience with an organic reach constituting a majority 62% of that. Why? Because the content was relevant and engaging – the two key factors in determining reach.
The reason Facebook ranks content rather than presents it chronologically is that in the space of one hour, there may be 10,000 stories competing for your attention depending on how many friends you have and pages you follow. We’ve gotten better and better at sharing content, but without a filter, we’d be inundated with stories that never stop being created. Wouldn’t you rather see that Splendour sideshow announcement than that electric cheese grater you’ll never buy but that Kogan keeps pushing at you?
Something else worth addressing is the urban legend that the more your fan base grows, the less reach you’ll achieve. The myth is propagated because it’s easy to explain away with pessimistic capitalism: pages with bigger fan-bases probably have money, so Facebook throttles their reach to force spend. Again, this is a misunderstanding of numbers. The truth is that the percentage of your total reach decreases, which by no means is a decrease in the total number of people reached. Reaching 30% of 2,000 fans is not better reach than 7% of 100,000. In fact, calling them ‘fans’ may even be a misnomer that generates a false sense of ownership—in reality, they’re merely Facebook users who’ve subscribed to you.
Something else we see often is the ‘link in comments’ photo / video posts that so often appear on artist pages (not to be confused with ‘link in bio’ on Instagram, which is what people using our awesome Insta-tool Linktree will say). While true at one time, it’s no longer the case that posting a photo, video or text will necessarily do better than a link. The reality is that you need to test this for your own audience. Your ad format will go to the people who will engage with it best – people more likely to click links will see a link, people more likely to ‘read more’ will see a long status update. Considerations that matter more than whether you’ve posted a link include how well you understand your audience, the quality of the content you’re producing and how you use that audience knowledge to make it relevant and relatable. Other things you should consider is frequency of posts, amount of text in an image and even whether you’ve overused capital letters or punctuation marks.
The truth is, the way Facebook decides to show content is no longer a simple or predictable equation. It’s a sophisticated algorithm that’s mechanism is a more tightly guarded secret than Trump’s tax returns. So, don’t think ‘How can I game the algorithm?’, think ‘What content will my audience enjoy?’
Take the tried and rested route and you’ll never have to think about lining up to print A3s at Officeworks again.