Barsha Bhattacharya, 20 hours ago
Don’t Blame Facebook, Digital Agencies Killed Organic Reach
How often have you heard your Digital Agency cribbing about how Facebook and other social media platforms have severely limited Organic Reach to 1% or less than that? We are not saying that it is not true- yes, Facebook and other social media platforms have limited organic reach massively and is continuing to do so almost every single month. However, is that really the problem?
Like your Digital Agency cribs about decreasing organic reach, you might have noticed how vociferous and enthusiastic they are when they suggest you to go for paid promotions on Facebook and other mediums. The standard operating procedure for Digital Companies follows the following style of proposing a paid campaign-
“Sir, you know how Facebook has decreased organic reach. They just want money all the time, without paid promotions, nothing can happen, no followers, no likes, no lead generation campaigns, nothing…If you want things to move quickly, paid promotion is the only way out. What can we do? It is all Facebook’s fault. They are only interested in money!”
The evolution of Social Media Marketing Agencies is a rather new development. After the advent of social media in our lives, thousands of such agencies sprouted almost overnight. They are in charge of maintaining profiles of clients on several social channels or mediums.
When the business started, the best practices meant working intensively, creatively, and investing in the people doing the work. Just to give you an example, a standard Social Media Post on Facebook is created when (and this is a best practice)-
Yes, there are many other variables involved, but I hope you get the picture, in terms of it being an intensive process. This is where questions on economics and financial feasibility for agencies and companies started to erupt.
When faced with such problems, agencies started questioning on how best to optimize themselves. After a lot of trial and error, and brainstorming by some of the best of them, they concluded, and realized something very important- The Short Cuts to Attaining Best Results.
In every business and industry, there is a right way to do things, and there is a wrong way to do things. Some industry best practices are specific to every business. When the discipline of Social Media Marketing started, companies evolved teams of creative individuals, who would brainstorm, ideate, create a story-telling process, and grow the client’s business organically over a period.
This required investment, higher retainer fees, managing people and teams, and setting up processes. This is a period in history where Facebook’s organic reach was quite high. Everyone was happy, good work was being done, customers were happy, agency people were happy. However, as all good things must end, so did this too honeymoon period for agencies, clients and social media fans.
The new model of business meant that organically growing traffic, investing in terms, taking time, and building a solid foundation was eclipsed by rapid results, quick turnaround performances, financial considerations and the increasing number of digital and social media agencies all over the world.
Paid promotions became the order of the day. If you want to have a follower base, you need to run a ‘Follower Campaign’. If you want more likes on your page, you need to run a ‘Like Campaign’. If you want some sales driven ROI, you need a ‘Lead Generation Campaign’. Please bear in mind that such things happened even before companies and agencies did not invest in paid campaigns. You could still increase your followers, likes and generate leads without spending any money.
Where did it all start, who was responsible for it, and who benefits at the end of it all are some questions that will be addressed in this section? As I stated before, the proliferation of digital and social media agencies meant that they started jostling and competing with each other for clients.
The same compelled them to offer unrealistic retainer fees to the clients so that clients would have no problem getting them on board. With regard to the clients, they analyzed and evaluated their options mostly with regard to who was asking for lesser money.
Many agencies——Competing for Clients——–Lesser Retainer Fees———-Economic Crisis
With companies competing for low retainers (monthly fees from clients), they could not pay entire teams of creative individuals. It just did not make financial sense. At the same time, the client keeps expecting ROIs, as had been promised before by the agency, which had shown them the moon and the stars.
The solution- rather than investing in teams of creative people (who were following the best practices, investing in long term economic growth, building brands) agencies started the Paid Promotion Propaganda. Why not hire someone, in this case, a Media Buying/Paid Promotions Expert and ask clients to get the same ROI in a shorter period by investing some money.
CEOs of many Digital Companies and Social Media Agencies started a fear psychosis in the industry-
“Sir, you see your competition. They are only doing paid promotions. We cannot compete with them, and you already know, Organic Reach and its diminishing returns orchestrated by Facebook. What can we do? As your agency, I suggest you spend money on paid promotions to increase likes, followers, and leads.”
A CEO of a digital agency
The fear psychosis has a cyclic effect. It relegated the importance of teams of individuals (who were being paid individual salaries), to a paid advertising expert, one who could run campaigns on social media channels (salary to one individual). From a feasibility point of view, Agencies charged a commission on the entire campaign money spent. For example, if a client was running a Lead Gen Campaign on Facebook and the budget for the same was $1000, the agency commission stood at 10% or $100.
Supposing that there are ten campaigns running with similar costs involved, the agency stood to make a lot of money from just one individual, who could run campaigns. If you look at the other end of the spectrum, a creative team would be more expensive, need a lot of time, and be difficult in terms of managing, and creating so much content, with a strategy, proper creatives, copy, was a bit too much.
A common experience that you must have had with your agency would be them exhausting campaign budgets faster than expected. Have you ever asked yourself why? It is because the faster you burn your money, the faster is the agency commission credited in their accounts, the better their balance sheets.
I am not saying that all campaigns perform poorly, or that you would never get your ROIs. What I am trying to say is that shortcuts would not usually work after a point. However, as we do not have any patience, and want immediate results, clients do not hesitate in allocating huge budgets for paid campaigns, but will not invest in bigger retainers to grow themselves organically.
Before criticizing Facebook or Instagram, or any other social media channel, we need to ask ourselves one question- if you are a private business, and the market presents you with an opportunity on a digital silver platter, why would you not tweak your business to gain better profits?
The point that I am trying to make is that Facebook or any other companies who run billion dollar social media channels are not saints, but that they are merely responding to a loophole or vacuum that they saw increasing profits.
Digital Companies started abandoning the entire long-term investment required for organic research on account of pittance as retainer costs, cost escalations, lesser efforts, and faster ROIs.
Clients ditched viable agencies in favor of agencies which shouted ‘lesser retainer fees’ and there were thousands of them. Clients wanted faster ROIs and better results, so they gave in to the fear psychosis of paid promotion propaganda.
Facebook benefitted from the unhealthy climate that began festering and changed its algorithms for money. The highest bidder gets the most visibility.
If you have gone through the entire article carefully, you would be wondering what started it all. Should we blame agencies, should we blame clients, or should we continue blaming Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook?
Every industry or business segment goes through changes, and it is necessary. A healthy environment is often held hostage to ransom through greed, lesser mortals, and several other variables, which one cannot control.
Agencies wanted to survive, to be successful. They thought of a quick-fire solution. Clients needed to save on retainers but wanted the same ROIs. They too thought of a solution. Facebook kept sitting and observing thinking that if I am getting money for the same thing I was destined to do in the first place, why should I keep doing it free.
Blaming or finger pointing an agency, or a client, or even Facebook without actually understanding the fundamental changes in the industry is like missing the forests for the trees. After having observed all three variables from close quarters, I have come to the conclusion that it should have been the prerogative of the Social Media Agency to structure the business environment and keep faith in organic reach.
As an agency, it would have been its duty to educate and teach clients that organic reach offers a solid foundation that can never be replaced by paid promotions. The credibility, genuineness of followers, likes, and loyal fans gained through organic reach can never be compared to the blitzkrieg of a million dollar paid campaign.
For all those brands reading this, I am one of those lone soldiers who still say that investing in organic processes in the Digital realm is still the way to go. Remember a time when digital meant democracy, a time when digital stood for equality, a time when the net was free and accessible for all. Those were the founding elements of what it all stood for.
Call me a hopeless romantic, but I still feel that if more and more clients and agencies start adopting best practices for organic reach, putting in the hours, the effort, the creativity, brands, businesses, and clients will flourish through good old organic reach.
Like any other business, digital companies are fighting a war with ethics, and right now, they are losing it badly. The need of the hour is to re-evaluate and restructure the business right from the grassroots. It cannot be restructured from the top- you cannot request Facebook to change itself. It will only change once it sees that more and more agencies and businesses are going back to organic reach formulas.
Creativity and great individuals are getting lost at the altar of Paid Promotions Propaganda. What can be built organically through thought, people, and processes cannot be substituted for short cuts and quick fix solutions. It can be a stopgap arrangement, but it cannot be sustained in the end.
Ask the team working on your social media account about the last time they went on the following sites and read about them, their best practices, and the changes that they are working on, etc. The sites are-
I would love to hear your responses in the comments section below.