Facebook: Do you need to pay to play?

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Paying to play is no novel idea for businesses that want to reach potential and existing customers. From online banner ads to radio spots, marketers know that to open channels of communication, they need to ante up. Until recently, there has been one widespread exception to that rule – social media promotion and, specifically, Facebook.

In April 2012, Facebook revealed that the organic reach of business pages, that is the amount of content seen by fans of a page without paid advertising, was around 16 percent. Over the past two years, Facebook has systematically reduced this reach to a level that is now below six percent, according to Advertising Age. This is a dramatic change that affects the amount of business content fed to every Facebook user’s news feed. If you monitor or create content for a business, you are likely painfully aware that far fewer people are seeing your organic content.

What does this mean for businesses? Take time to evaluate. Businesses that have an established advertising budget are on the right track. However, most content on Facebook will now require a marketing budget in order to be visible to customers. For some, the decision may be to reduce or eliminate Facebook marketing efforts. Other businesses will need to seriously consider how much they are willing to pay to share information with their Facebook audiences.

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What does this mean for individual Facebook users? Those business pages that you have chosen to follow have a very small chance of reaching you organically. With Facebook’s change in advertising policy, you can expect to see more promotional content overall and from businesses you haven’t chosen to follow.

Not surprisingly, many businesses are strongly opposed to this change. Until now, businesses using Facebook have reaped the benefits of pushing content to a portion of their audience at no cost. It is important for businesses to be aware of these changes, reassess, and consciously decide if the audience that they have put the resources into building and communicating with is worth additional investment.

Jenna Dubrick is assistant marketing manager at Marcus Hotels & Resorts in Milwaukee.

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