Facebook recently announced a number of changes that will have a major impact on brands. This isn’t, however, the first time the American giant ...

How long will we dance to Facebook’s tune?

Facebook recently announced a number of changes that will have a major impact on brands. This isn’t, however, the first time the American giant makes it hard for marketers, and certainly not the last. 

In this week’s article, Spoon’s marketing manager Björn Owen Glad writes about the risks with having a short-term Facebook strategy.      

”Don’t build your house on rented land” is an expression that has become a mantra among marketers during the last five years. It’s unclear how many book chapters, tweets, articles, blog posts, and explainers that have covered the topic, but it’s obvious that it bears repeating. Again and again.

When Facebook adjusted its algorithm in 2013 so that companies suddenly only reached a few percent of their followers, it came as an uncomfortable cold shower for many marketers. We had been lulled into a false sense of security and believed Facebook was the promised land, with free access to our audience and sky high engagement. Overnight, Facebook became a paid channel like so many others, if only cheaper and somewhat better.

Us marketers have an amazing ability to adjust to Facebook’s whims. Around five, six years ago, we even talked about shutting down our sites and only exist on Facebook. It felt reasonable, but with the benefit of hindsight it would have been incredibly unwise. Since then, the cold showers have come after each other. And when Facebook has asked us to jump, we’ve answered: “how high?” and “how much?”

When Facebook encouraged us to publish videos to satisfy the algorithm and gain visibility, we obeyed and did just that. When Facebook then asked us to abandon YouTube and publish videos directly on their platform, we did that too. After that, we were encouraged to make 360 videos, broadcast live videos and build canvas pages. We obeyed.

I’ve now read that the only way for brands to survive on Facebook is to start their own groups. And at the moment, this advice sounds reasonable. After Facebook’s latest announced changes, the impact from media and brands will decrease, while content from members’ friends, family and interest groups will go up.

In the short term, it may be a good solution to create a Facebook group where the topics you want to own are discussed. It makes you an authority in your niche and you’ll be the one that moderates the discussion. But in the long term it’s just as uncertain as everything else on Facebook.

Facebook has always balanced – and so far, quite successfully – between meeting the members’ needs of engaging content with the brands’ willingness to pay to reach their target group. This makes Facebook into just as good as uncertain and short-term channel. What works on Facebook today probably won’t work a year from now.

Back to the pithy saying and clichéd expression: “Don’t build your house on rented land”. If we marketers choose to build our audience on someone else’s digital land, we must be prepared to pay rent and accept that the landlord every now and then – and in Facebook’s case, quite often – changes the terms for us.

In the short term, it’s a great idea for brands to create Facebook groups. But who wants to be in it for the short term?

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