Congratulations: it’s now harder than ever to reach your Facebook fans.
This is a problem that’s been going on for years, and highlights the extreme pitfalls of building relationships on someone else’s platform. The reason is that they control the shots, not you, and that can wreak havoc on years of hard work. And, when it comes to Facebook, consider yourself lucky if you get any advance notice of changes. The rug often gets ripped out overnight, leaving you a certain type of sandwich for breakfast.
Accordingly, Facebook has just announced yet another change to its algorithms for sharing content on News Feeds, one that puts artists and bands at a severe disadvantage to actual ‘friends’. For better or for worse, someone not directly connected to a Facebook user is now facing an uphill battle.
Immediately downgraded are posts from Pages, which covers nearly every musician, label, or band accounts (not to mention brands, businesses, and publications like Digital Music News). This time, Facebook was nice enough to at least warn some people that their ability to reach fans will be seriously crippled starting around now:
“…we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience. For example, if a lot of your referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it, there will be less of an impact than if the majority of your traffic comes directly through Page posts. We encourage Pages to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.”
Facebook is also making a lot of effort to steer users towards their closest contacts, which means friends and family over bands and businesses. That makes sense to many users who want to keep connected to their inner circle. But even if a band plays a huge role in someone’s life, that band is not considered a close connection and will suddenly have a more difficult time piercing through the veil.
At this stage, it’s tough to say how serious the impact will be on artists. People are just trying to sort out what these changes mean. But it’s safe to say that artists won’t be gaining more exposure to fans or prospective fans, so prepare yourself accordingly. Instead, band posts will be taking a back seat, though you can always pay Facebook to boost posts and possibly gain more visibility (funny how that works).
Again, bad idea to invest too much time (and money) into Facebook, simply because you don’t know how this platform will change. Back in 2014, actor George Takei took Facebook to task for making him pay to reach his fans, despite years of investment in the platform. Artists even started confronting Facebook executives, but nothing changed. Facebook felt that feeds were getting overloaded, and they needed to start monetizing the platform they created.
The shift offers another motivation for artists to make chances. One quick strategy could be a greater focus on video, given Facebook’s heavy emphasis on upstanding YouTube and making a multimedia mark. Another is to bolster platforms that offer a more controlled connection to fans, most notably email. Surprisingly, that channel has become a far better promotional platform over the years, thanks to companies like Google (think spam-free Gmail) and Mailchimp (think easy opt-in/opt-out bulk emails).
Giving up Facebook is probably not the best idea at this stage, given the massive audiences. Your fanbase is still there, after all, it’s just harder to connect to them. But shifting marketing and outreach efforts towards other platforms makes more sense than ever, especially if the pound-for-pound response is greater.