Abandoning Facebook

This is a repost from GovDelivery’s Reach the Public blog, originally posted 11/14/12.

Yesterday, ReadWriteWeb posted an article detailing why Dallas Mavericks owner and tech billionaire, Mark Cuban, is taking his social media engagement elsewhere, effectively abandoning Facebook as the Dallas Mavericks’ primary social media tool for connecting with fans. Why?

The short version: “He’s sick of getting hit with huge fees to send messages to his team’s fans and followers.” In fact, Mark tweeted a screenshot of the Mavericks’ Facebook page, showing the option to pay $3,000 to reach 1 million people.

First, some background. If you’re not steeped in social media news (and who really is these days?), Facebook recently changed their algorithm, also known as EdgeRank, which is a formula used to manage which users receive messages on their News Feed. In news stories around the release about a month ago, the changes were noted more as “tweaks,” which were supposed to simply make it “more likely that posts from brands with high engagement get priority placement in feeds over posts with little engagement.”

Image from Sanders Says

But Mark Cuban, along with many other users, has seen a distinct change in their Facebook activities. A private company designed to help brands manage their EdgeRank score commented on this change, saying,

Over time we’ve seen Reach slowly decrease as more Pages, and more users, create content. The more content that is posted to the news feed, the less likely your Page’s content will reach your fans. Facebook has also been rumored to provide 80% organic content, and “20% paid content in the form of sponsored stories” for Pages. So, tweaks in EdgeRank can cause fluctuations in metrics for brands on Facebook.

And daily Web magazine, Slate, reported yesterday that there was a workaround, detailed in a Washington Post article, but that the workaround was quickly shut down by Facebook after it started gaining buzz.

But aside from all this Facebook-changing-its-algorithm-to-drive-revenue drama, Mark hits on a key point that is critical for government organizations:

The big negative for Facebook is that we will no longer push for likes or subscribers because we can’t reach them all…Brands have invested in getting consumers to like their Facebook page with the presumption that every like is created equal, that the brand can reach the user easily. That is not the caseFacebook has never allowed 100% reach. I think the disconnect is that not everyone realized that they didn’t allow 100% reach. I bet if you asked anyone who has subscribers if their posts reached 100% of their subscribers, they would say yes unless they have seen the dollar box for promoted posts show up. (emphases mine)

Mark makes an incredible point here that is as relevant for the owner of a multimillion-dollar franchise as it is for a government organization.

It’s impossible to ignore Facebook as a communications channel: if you are hoping to connect with citizens where they are, it’s almost a necessity for your organization to have a Facebook presence. But if your communications strategy is built upon the number of likes you receive or number of comments you get on posts, you should rethink what it means to connect with your stakeholders – and the budget you have to do so.

Mark’s decision to move to the Mavericks’ communication efforts to Twitter or Tumblr or even MySpace is based on the realization that, through Facebook, he doesn’t have the kind of direct connections that lead to the incredible reach that he feels is critical to the success of his business and the franchise.

How does this translate into public sector?

Direct connections matter. The breadth of your reach is critical. Again, if your audience is participating in social media, it may be important for you to be there. But fighting through all the noise on social media also means that there are people you want to reach who aren’t getting your messages. What you need are true direct connections with citizens and stakeholders to help meet your organization’s program goals and initiatives.

Mark makes it known that he isn’t removing the Mavericks’ page from Facebook but that he’s going to start driving Facebook fans to Twitter while looking to build out a Mavericks’ brand page on other social media sites. At the end of the day, he knows that reaching those people who’ve already raised their hands to say that they like a brand or an organization is only the start – the true worth of that action is in how easily and directly an organization can communicate and engage with its fans.

What do you think? If your organization is on Facebook, have you seen a decrease in the reach you have with your posts? Would you follow in Mark’s footsteps or rethink your outreach and social media strategy? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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