Is It Time to Unfriend Facebook?

facebook, news feed, reach, brand pageIt’s been 10 years since Mark Zuckerberg realized his dream of “connecting the world” but for companies hoping to connect with consumers the dream may be over. According to recent reports, the company is in the process of slashing the number of branded posts that appear in people’s News Feeds.

Translation: If you’ve been posting updates to Facebook in the hopes that patients who have “liked” your practice will see them, those hopes will increasingly go unrealized.

The crux of the issue is what Facebook refers to as “reach,” i.e., who among your fans sees your posts. Simply put, as the amount of sharing on Facebook has exploded, the company has taken steps to winnow down what appears in people’s News Feeds based on its interpretation of relevance, engagement and other factors.

Even in the best of times, it’s been estimated that, on average, companies’ posts reach just 16% of their fans. And with the latest announcement, that could easily drop into the single digits — around 6% for all brand pages and even lower (1–2%) for companies with more than 500,000 fans, according to an analysis by Marshall Manson of Ogilvy.

For a doctor with, say, 500 fans that means those posts will show up in the News Feed of just 30 of them — not exactly a rousing endorsement of the system as a marketing channel.

As to why Facebook is slashing the organic (i.e., non-paid) reach of brand posts, it depends on who you talk to. At FB HQ, the argument is that all that sharing has led to too much clutter while others suggest it has more to do with the company’s move from a strictly social network to a publishing one dependent on advertising revenue. After all, Facebook is a business, not a charity, and brands that want to appear in people’s News Feeds still have the option of paying for Promoted posts that will accomplish that goal.

Regardless of whom you believe, the fact remains that it’s hard to boost engagement with Facebook fans if they’re not even seeing what you post. And it’s only going to get harder as organic reach reaches the end of its useful life. As Manson writes:

With the impending end of organic reach, what are the consequences for marketers and others who use Facebook to connect with their communities? This isn’t an academic exercise. Facebook Zero is a reality now facing every brand and business with a presence on the platform. Action is required, and specific decisions will need to be made with regard to content planning, paid support for social media activities, audience targeting and much more.

Doctor Takeaway

Facebook may be free but what you get what you pay for

As Facebook evolves, doctors need to, as well. With so many users spending so much time on the site, it can be worth maintaining a page for your practice as it’s another digital outpost where current and potential patients can find you. Posting fresh content will give them reasons to return but bear in mind that, going forward, that content is increasingly unlikely to show up anywhere else unless you pay for the privilege.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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