Although general social media overcrowding and the monetization of Facebook engagement means that organic reach on the site is effectively no more, artists need not despair. In this article we look at how to overcome organic reach's demise, and look at why Facebook is still an effective marketing tool.
Guest Post by Hannah Martin on The Harvest Firm
Since this is the first post here, I want to welcome you to The Harvest Firm and explain what this is all about. In short, I help businesses get more traffic online through digital marketing – whether that’s SEO, social media marketing, or consulting so they can do it on their own – and I LOVE it. That’s what I do for a living, and it’s what this company is all about. So information on this blog will mostly be geared towards businesses.
However, I also have a lot of creative friends like artists and musicians who ask for digital marketing advice, and a lot of the same questions come up. Every so often, I’ll try to post something geared more towards the creative businesses and DIY marketing, like this one. I might even start a private Facebook group JUST for creative marketing so all you music buddies can ask questions and learn as a group, and so I can share small tips easier without bugging every non-musician on my friends list – if that’s something you’re interested in, comment below, and I’ll get it going.
That being said, most things I’ll discuss will be totally customizable to suit your industry and type of business! So whether you have a band you’re trying to grow on shoe string budget, or you have a local business website, there should be something you can learn in every post! So let’s jump right into it.
What’s up with Facebook engagement?
First, let’s define some terms in case this is totally foreign to you –
REACH is how many people see your posts.
ENGAGEMENT is how many people interact with your posts, whether it’s through a like, comment, or share. Facebook also looks at post clicks without a specific action.
ENGAGEMENT RATE is the ratio of people that engage with your posts to the number of people that like your page.
ORGANIC in this sense means without paying for advertising. So organic reach would be the number of people that you’re reaching by simply posting something on your page.
I recently had a consultation with a friend of mine to discuss Facebook marketing for her music, and this is what she asked:
To answer your questions from our Facebook messages, we’re looking for advice on how to increase engagement with our Facebook fan page.
She was also concerned that some un-engaged likes she had achieved through advertising before might be dampening her engagement overall.
This is a REALLY common question that I get from all types of people who want to increase their Facebook engagement, whether it’s a musician or a business owner. So I figured I would finally answer it publicly!
The short answer is not going to make you happy.. organic Facebook engagement is DEAD. That may be a slight exaggeration/clickbait tactic (I am a marketer after all :P) as it’s still definitely possible to reach people if you already have a deeply involved, passionate, built up fan base, but in general it’s going to be limited without a budget. (This is even more true for industries that aren’t traditionally entertaining, like construction and dentistry.)
There are just too many people and pages competing for limited space in the timeline, so Facebook has seriously decreased the free reach of pages over the last couple of years. And if you’re trying to get a community going from the ground up, it is going to take you a very. long. time. to do it completely organically.
RIP Organic Reach
Here’s the sad truth:
- A 1% organic engagement rate these days is considered “good”
- The more likes your pages has, the more that goes down
- If you worked your butt off or spent any money to get to 100k likes, I’m betting you are NOT going to be happy with only 1k engagements (likes, comments, shares) per post. When the Facebook algorithm was generous a few years ago, many people focused on it heavily, and practically built their homes on someone else’s land. (This is never a good idea, but it happened because FB was a free for all at one time.)
- Essentially, Facebook is now pay-to-play
But there’s also GOOD NEWS!
- Facebook marketing is CHEAAAAAP compared to other media buys and marketing avenues
- The data Facebook gives you is amazing. All of their privacy-killing-moves have paid off handsomely in terms of data and marketing tools.
- It’s the perfect testing ground for small budgets. The data you gain from Facebook marketing can be extrapolated and used across other channels that don’t provide feedback, like magazine ads.
- Now that Facebook is pay-to-play…. all you have to do is pay! Problem fixed!
So in this post, I’m basically going to copy the general parts of the email I sent to my friend in italics below, and add in some notes from the call we had later.
It’s long, but you’ll learn…
- A bit more about why I think Facebook engagement is primarily pay-to-play now
- Why you shouldn’t break your back trying to make big changes in your ORGANIC (ie non-paid) Facebook reach
- Why you shouldn’t “build your house on someone else’s land”
- Why nobody likes being sold vaccuums at barbeques
- -An example campaign structure that you can use to actually get results from Facebook
I get so many questions about this that I figure it’ll be more helpful to direct people to a post. Here ya go:
I’ll go into a few things about my take on current organic FB engagement and a recommended marketing campaign here –
Normal engagement rates are already low. These days, a “good” engagement rate on a FB page is around 1%. (Here are a couple sources for that: https://www.michaelleander.me/blog/facebook-engagement-rate-benchmark/ and https://www.klipfolio.com/resources/kpi-examples/social-media/facebook-engagement-metrics)
I do think your engagement rate could be a bit better after checking out the page, however even if all of the likes were rabid fans, an acceptable organic engagement rate would still be ~10 actions per post which isn’t much. This is why I actually don’t recommend investing a ton of time or energy into Facebook organic page reach as a primary avenue for most people. All things considered, if you were getting a full 1% engagement rate, in most cases those still wouldn’t directly help much in terms of making sales or getting fans.
In short, organic posting to seek an ROI is a very time-intensive and resource-heavy activity that has a very low payoff in most cases, if the goal is engagement. This is why I don’t offer basic social media management as a service. The numbers can LOOK and FEEL good, but they won’t actually do much for you. In addition, it’s like building your house on someone else’s property. Social media is useful to promote the real stuff that you’re doing, but it should be supplemental rather than a main avenue for growing your fan base. I recommend funneling your social media into something that you own, like an email list on your own website.
Facebook can take away all of your reach, but nobody can take away the email list you’ve built over time, if that makes sense.
To be clear, it is still important to maintain an active presence on social media because important people like record labels still value the numbers (even if they don’t mean much outside of benchmarking), and it’s important for branding. However, I urge most people I talk to not to worry too much about the organic “ego-metrics” and instead try to focus on getting real results out of it through strategic paid ads and campaigns. Then, the likes and engagement will come as a byproduct of those real, strategic campaigns.
So that brings us to the next point – how can you actually get more out of your Facebook page?
Well, it depends on what your goal/conversion is. Likes and engagement are a byproduct of all of this, not usually the main goal – but the basic process to create an effective campaign is this:
1. Figure out what your goal is for a specific event/campaign.
Whether that’s more listens, more downloads, more people at an event, or more signups to an email list, I recommend having a real goal outside of just engagement. If you really do only want to increase the numbers, that’s fine too – just keep in mind as I said above that there is not a lot of benefit to it other than appearances. (Which, to be fair, is still beneficial if you’re trying to get signed, etc – I just hate seeing brands throw themselves into FB organic stuff without much payoff, and expecting something more!)
2. Figure out who exactly you want to reach – your PERFECT customer/fan.
This will usually fall along the lines of people who like musicians with a similar style to you, whose fans would also be into you. For example, for (band), a few artists that would be good for them to target right now would obviously be (band2) and (band3), since they are doing a tour together right now. People who are into (band 2 and band 3) will be more likely to be interested in listening to (band) right now, more so than the general public. Do a big brainstorm and try to figure out who your PERFECT, ideal fan is. Note: There is a Facebook tool that makes this even easier to do – I will get into that later, but SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL LIST/JOIN MY GROUP to get in on it when it’s complete.
3. Create a real campaign targeted towards those perfect fans.
Instead of just throwing stuff against the wall willy nilly and saying “Facebook marketing doesn’t work for us/didnt’ pay off/was too expensive”, figure out a sequence of content/posts that would introduce you to this perfect audience (assuming you are aiming for new reach instead of your existing fan base), and that they would be interested in.
First you want to reach them with a post that introduces you and primarily entertains rather than being self-promotional – maybe a meme or a cute video of you.
Then 2-3 posts later, you can be self-promotional and push a post about the thing that relates to your goal. For example the final post could be a post that says “download my latest single here (link)” – and to download it, they have to provide their email address. This would hit 2 birds with one stone as it builds the media that you own through FB as a platform.
Done right, this should increase your likes and engagement as a BYPRODUCT. At PubCon 2015 (a marketing convention), the marketing manager of HostGator (a big hosting company) said he literally NEVER pays for likes on Facebook. He only runs marketing campaigns, and 100% of their likes and engagement are a byproduct of those campaigns.
The basic concept with this is a very simple marketing concept – you define your audience and then promote a very strategic sequence of posts to the same audience one after another. So you have a single audience, you promote the first post to them for 1-3 days. Then, the next post, promote again to the same audience for 1-3 days. By the time they have seen 3-4 different posts from you over time, going from just introducing yourself and entertaining them to the final post where you ask them to take action on something, they are much more likely to interact and take the action as they now know your brand and your face, have seen you a few times, and may be interested in that point.
It’s a bit like dating – you can’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, just like you can’t expect a potential fan to like your page/sign up for anything else/click any of your links if they haven’t met you and gotten to know you first.
As my Facebook-marketing-expert friend Nicholas Kusmich says, you can’t walk into a family barbeque and start trying to sell someone vaccuums. Facebook is like a barbeque with friends and family, andnobody cares about the vaccuum you’re selling!
So you want to figure out who would be your perfect fan and then, using Facebook advertising, create a targeted campaign to court them like you’re dating them, creating a relationship with them and brand recognition before ever asking them to take action for you, whether that’s liking your page, purchasing a service/product, or giving you their email.
Once you have this going, organic reach on your page will likely kick up. You can also use this same technique for your existing fans, instead pointing the advertising to people who already like your page to re-engage them. In fact, I recommend promoting every single important post you make for at least $1 just to make sure it gets a boost in reach. If you can’t spend $1 on your business, you have bigger problems than Facebook engagement.
As you grow, you’ll be able to do more organically, but to get the ball going when you’re not throwing big events that cause people to seek you out all the time, I’d say advertising is essential.
That is my best recommendation for results focused Facebook marketing these days. Simply posting to your existing organic audience is something that should continue to be done just to keep the page and branding going, however I really recommend doing strategic campaigns like I’ve outlined above to get real results, and engagement/likes that will stick. Unless you’re touring constantly, where fans are actively seek out all of your social media after shows, I think this is the best way for musicians/artists to gain social traction on FB right now.. and I always always recommend trying to funnel this kind of thing back into some sort of media that you own as FB reach is unreliable, and we don’t control it.
As a last word, if you think the additional likes you got a while back might be hurting you because of low engagement rate, you can always go through and remove some of the profiles that don’t engage at all, that way your actual engagement rate/ratio increases in Facebook’s eyes, which may get Facebook to reward you more reach. But before going to that length, I would recommend trying to re-engage this audience through a series of sponsored posts targeted and entertaining them and getting them to take an action.
Later when we spoke on the phone, we discussed a specific strategy where she could find 5 similar musician audiences to begin targeting her campaigns with, and then use the data that is achieved from the first few tests to hone in on people who give her the best engagement results. I highly recommend emulating this – You don’t want to keep throwing your advertising dollars at the audience of musician 3 if the audience of musician 2 loves you way more. But that will take some testing and a small budget to even know.
So, there you have it – this is the current sad state of organic Facebook reach and engagement, and my take on the best way to fix it/take advantage of the current Facebook landscape without breaking your back trying to shove a square peg in a round hole.
Stop obsessing over organic reach
Start (strategically) running results-focused ad campaigns!
It only takes a few dollars to reach a much bigger audience on Facebook. And like I said, if you can’t invest a small amount of moolah into your project or your business, Facebook reach should be the least of your concerns!
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or request a consultation.
Hannah left college to jump into digital marketing and has been passionately helping businesses grow ever since. After becoming the VP at her previous agency, she decided she wanted to help even more businesses, and founded The Harvest Firm.