What do we think?

Are social channels still owned?

Last week I was speaking with some colleagues about Facebook’s new features and algorithm changes, that seem to have been introduced as a challenge to YouTube, when one asked;

“Why would video creators invest in growing fan numbers on Facebook when it’s so hard to reach them.”

Since introducing a series of changes to their news feed algorithm over the last few years the organic reach of brand pages on Facebook has dropped from 100% to 2.6% (according to Adweek). Twitter and Instagram don’t have news feed algorithms, instead they produce a ‘stream of everything’. However, this also presents a problem for brand reach. The sheer volume of content on these platforms makes it difficult for an individual post to reach a large number of an account’s followers. We are now in a position where the only way of guaranteeing a brand post on any of these platforms reaches all of the brand’s followers is through paid promotion. Can we still consider these social accounts as owned channels?

Despite the frustration these statistics might inspire social still offers opportunities that are difficult to ignore. A report last week claimed that half of the world’s estimated online population check into Facebook at least once a month (1.49 billion people), with 65% of those logging in daily (BBC). Referrals to websites from social media are also at an all time high, overtaking referrals from search in September 2014 (reported by Forbes). Despite all its issues, social is a platform that can’t be ignored.

Where does this leave brands that don’t have budgets for paid promotion? The audiences are there but they are harder to reach.

Social platforms clearly offer a lot of potential for brands, but perhaps large scale investment in growing a following on a particular network, with the goal of using that following for content distribution, isn’t the most effective use of resources. A lot of time, effort and money could be spent growing follower numbers, only for an algorithm change to stop you reaching them.

Establishing a reputation as a brand that wants to talk to their customers, creating content people want to engage with, and working with relevant influential users who already have an established and engaged audience can all help brands reach their desired audience without exposing themselves to the risks of algorithm changes.

Even without a large following on social media it is still possible for brands to encourage positive conversations, strengthen relationships with fans and empower advocates.