Facebook to Brands: No More Free Rides

Will hide overly promotional posts in 2015

Facebook's new algorithm could force brands to buy ads.

Facebook announced a move this month that will make it more difficult for brands to reach their fans through purely organic marketing efforts. Instead, if brands want to reach the widest possible audience on the social media site, they will need to invest in ads. 

In January, the site will curb the number of overly promotional posts users see from brand and celebrity pages. The company says it's responding to users who are tired of seeing posts that push them to buy a product or app; enter promotions with no context; or view actual ads disguised as posts. However, it won't limit the visibility of paid ads.

The change will be large enough that research firm Forrester is encouraging companies to decrease their reliance on Facebook. Instead, the site recommends they add social relationship tools to their own sites and use email marketing campaigns to reach customers.

"If you have to choose between adding a subscriber to your email list or gaining a new Facebook fan, go for email every time," wrote Nate Elliot on the firm's blog. He went on to note that an email will be seen by 90 percent of the people a company sends it to, and no one is looking over a brand's shoulders to dictate what it can write.

Facebook reported that in October, nearly a billion people visited pages created by brands and celebrities. (More than 750 million of them logged on with mobile devices.) But The New York Times estimated that only 2 percent to 8 percent of fans actually see brands' organic posts in the News Feed. And this already-low visibility will fade "significantly over time," Facebook noted. 

Ultimately, the move could push marketers to buy ads. Facebook saw a huge increase in ad revenue in the past quarter: up 64 percent to $2.96 billion. It also boasts 25 times the number of advertisers as social rival Twitter. And today, Adweek learned the site will offer deep-pocketed brands exclusive information about users.

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