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Has business been thinking ‘free media’ rather than social media? Well, that might have to change.

Changes in the algorithm determining what appears in Facebook’s news feed have seen the number of people seeing posts from some brands drop by as much as 88%.

Ironically, I found out about it because it came up in my news feed in a post by Olivier Blanchard. Olivier is a brand management and digital communications consultant and author of “Social Media ROI”.

This was the link that was in the post. http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-screws-social-media-marketers-2013-12

For reasons that should be obvious, I read it. If you don’t want to, what it says is basically this: Facebook has made changes that are supposed to favour ‘high quality articles’ over ‘the latest meme’

Well that sounds fine and dandy but two good responses to any change are the questions, ‘Why?’ and, ‘What affect will it have?’

The ‘why’ seems split between two possible answers; the first being that Facebook dislike Buzzfeed and Upworthy – who both circulate ‘viral’ content and memes.

The second is that Facebook would like to make more money. Now that sounds a bit more likely to me.

The new algorithm cuts down the reach of updates and posts from a business’ Facebook company page. If the business wants more people to see them, it’s going to have to promote them. It’s going to have to pay.

So what affect will this change have?

I think that, in reality, the hook that drew many businesses into the social media world was that it was free. That golden carrot which dangled before their eyes said, here was the potential to reach millions of people for practically no cost.

At the same time, the traditional media environment was falling apart. TV audiences were fragmented, newspaper circulation figures were dropping.

Under those circumstances, social media was just like, ‘Well, why the hell not?’

In a lot of cases that decision has been post-rationalised by talk of ‘engagement’ and ‘involvement’ but if social media marketing now has a real and significant cost to it then surely businesses are going to want to see a better return on their investment than a few ‘likes’.

Olivier and I had a little chat about it, on Facebook appropriately enough.

In his eyes, “It’s been paid media since ad agencies and digital marketing firms took over.” And, “If “Social Media Marketing” truly is a profession, then this ought to clean it up a bit.”

I agree. Advertising agencies, my background, started off as media booking shops and became creative hot-shops generating ideas for their clients that built brands and sold products.

Social media marketers need to become less concerned about how to influence Facebook algorithms and more concerned about how to influence people, their client’s audience and target market.

But there is more to it than that. Olivier said, “Companies forgot to look at how social channels could help them do all sorts of things that went beyond pushing marketing and messaging to their would-be customers.”

Once again, I agree.

If you truly think ‘social media’ rather than ‘free media’ then you immediately see one of its greatest advantages.

Social media, from a business perspective, isn’t at all like print or TV, it isn’t ‘one talking to many’. It can be ‘one listening to many’.

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About the Author

SIMON MINCHIN CREATIVE DIRECTOR I like to make a difference. I like to work with clients rather than for them. I think my role is to see the wood for the trees; to make thinking, communicating and doing as simple as possible, rather than as clever as possible.

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