Page Nation: How to reverse drastic declines in Facebook’s organic reach.
Let’s say you’re giving a lecture on architecture to five hundred of your most ardent followers. It’s something you care about deeply. Years in the making, multiple more-than-satisfied stakeholders, leading engineers working around the clock, advanced, sustainable technologies, major impact, along with a Pritzker thrown in for good measure. As you look up in the auditorium you see what you expect to see because you’ve presented in this place before — about 16 percent of your ardent followers are listening. The rest are pursuing triple word scores playing Words with Friends on their cell phones.
And that’s ok with you. You can live with 80 real listeners.
But how about 6 percent or even 2 percent?
At what point do you break your laser pen in half and just walk away?
Now something similar is happening with Facebook pages. The page that had a 16 organic reach a few years ago has declined to less than 6 percent. Bummer. You know the importance of this Facebook page. It often comes up on search feeds even before your firm’s own site. You’ve spent a lot of time building it, freighting it with expensive photos, search-engine-optimizing every word and now this drastic decline in reach! What will happen to your visibility as a firm, the possibility of getting in front of potential clients, if those are the numbers?
Barbara Dixon is one of the go-to branding and communications strategists in the world. Formerly the architecture editor or Architectural Digest, then its managing editor, then founding editor-in-chief of Elle Décor. I engaged her to straighten out Design Times when I feeling lost. Now I was feeling lost again: what’s going on in this social media landscape where it’s so easy to get irretrievably lost in one’s hunt for golden clients?
“I don’t do social media for my architecture clients” said Barbara when I called to ask her advice. “I hire someone who specializes in social media for architects.”
“Who, then, pray tell,” I asked.
“Tyra Bombetto of Deep Blue Social. I’ll put you in touch,” said Barbara.
I reached Tyra after a few days of phone tag on Nantucket, her brief respite from New York’s social media grind. “No one knows how Facebook does their algorithms to push those organic reach percentages downwards, but down they are going and fast,” Tyra says, confirming my worst suspicions.
“Facebook’s serious about getting page managers to pay or play now. They call it ‘boosting’ your page or post, rather than advertising, and that model works for many clients. For $50 even a relatively small page that reaches 1,000 can ‘boost’ its reach to 10,000. Moreover, Facebook targeting tools are getting better and better, though they seem to change all the time, as well. You have to monitor what’s going on with your page every day — or, better yet, pay a pro to do it and make the necessary tweaks.
“The big news, however, the real excitement, about Facebook pages is that just a few months ago Facebook launched Live Video for Facebook pages. Now it’s already established that video increases reach over photos 135 percent on average. And videos are also appearing first on feeds, thanks to the mysteries of the Facebook algorithms. You could increase your organic reach back to that 16 percent range just by posting a scripted video of your firm doing something or talking about something you really care about (if you care, chances are others will too!).
“Scripted videos are fine —after all you have control of your content,” she continued, “But the stats on Live Video are amazing. Viewers love it and watch it three times longer than scripted. Sadly, the way a lot of people became acquainted with FB Live was the video Diamond Reynolds made of her boyfriend Philando Castile shot during a traffic stop in Minnesota last July.
“Facebook already has 8 billion video views per day. Snapchat is even higher with 10 billion, though with 60 percent of users 18 to 34, all your future clients. There’s also Instagram and YouTube with their own versions of live feeds. Some of these productions are pretty shaky, taken with phones, but they give off an air of spontaneity and authenticity many firms are looking for today. Of course, a professional videographer can always help.
“The interesting thing about these Live Feeds is that the longer they are the better. As long as you care about it, and don’t post too frequently or in a sales-y un-social way, it’s worth some informed risk. For example, let’s say your firm does a lot of university work, labs, and libraries. You want to get in front of college presidents. You can take your live feed which is now living on your page and start targeting it to say people who live in New York, who make over $200,000 a year with an interest in education.”
“While it’s true that all your resulting followers may not be architectural consumers, that’s okay as long as they are not abusive. They may be cousins of the university president, or they may be someone like you — a media person looking for stories.”
Now Tyra and I both agree there are still some details to be worked out with architectural live feeds that may not be quite there yet. For example, if I Google the Facebook Live Map right now, I see the world marked with blue dots for Live Feeds. Click on a dot and you get Lillyanne, the Psychic Medium from Michoacán, ZDoggMD Straight Outta Onc-ton, an Oncology show from what I can make out, and Ghana Stands in Worship Live from Accra (religious revivalism) Nothing about architecture that I can find, and no way to search it. Maybe you will have better luck. What I wouldn’t give to see:
- Gwen Jorgensen run an entire triathlon, not just the finish line triumphs you see on the networks.
- My architect friend in a meeting with a glassblower and a blacksmith to sketch out a chandelier inspired by a tractor part
- A meeting at another architect friend’s studio between clients from China and the engineers working out the details of a university in the making.
Boring, tedious? I don’t think so, at least not for me. It’s a look into a world otherwise hidden.
After checking the Live Map, I go to Facebook itself and search architecture. Across the top of the page there’s a video option fifth from left. I click on that and I get all sorts of co’pol stuff that could hold the attention of architectural consumers for hours (from How Architecture Changes for the Deaf with 1,584,282 million views to a promotional video on the Architecture Master Track at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands with 197,186 views) but no live feeds designated as such, and no search capability that I can find easily, if I’m just me, or if I am a university president looking to hire an architect for a new science building.
Needless to say, the search business needs to be worked out — unless it already has been and it is only a matter of time before a reader sets me right, or the whole thing is fixed tomorrow. We are also trying to figure out how to boost a live feed, as opposed to video already in your timeline.
What we do know is that video beats photos by 135 percent, that live is three times as engaging as scripted, that it often pays to play by judiciously boosting posts. Bottom line: if you find yourself reaching a dwindling number of your followers organically, consider upping that percentage by boosting videos and live video feeds.
As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said last April, in five years Facebook will be mostly video in any case. So why play catch-up?