Why Facebook’s pay for play is PR’s saving grace

Why Facebook’s pay for play is PR’s saving grace

Earlier this summer, I was checking the analytics on Facebook for a brand page I manage, and my jaw hit the floor when I saw one of our posts had only been seen by 60 people.

Out of 9,000.

Clearly, it was time to pull out the corporate credit card.

In the last few months, one of the biggest topics of discussion – and frustration, really – with my colleagues has been the decline of organic reach on Facebook, and the emergence of a new pay-to-play era.

And while it’s something we’re all going to have to get used to, I don’t think it’s the end of the world.

In fact, I think this move could actually be good for the practice of public relations. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Posts will become more strategic. If I had a dollar for every boring post I’ve seen a brand post on Facebook, I’d own Facebook. Seriously, does your bar really need to post that it’s Thirsty Thursday every Thursday? Now that brands are going to be paying for reach, it’s safe to assume that in the majority of cases, practitioners will think twice about what they’re posting. This means content will be have to become more relevant and applicable to the audience to rationalize the investment.

2. Content will incorporate storytelling and become more engaging. With more people paying for the privilege of showing up in a user’s News Feed, competition is going to be fierce. Practitioners are going to have to get more creative with creating engaging content that a user can connect with, and take action – whether it’s a click through or an actual purchase. Storytelling will have an integral role in this process as brands compete for attention and, ultimately, loyalty.

3. Expanded reach will result in expanded growth. Organic reach was previously dependent on seemingly random variables that changed by the day, but paid reach and advertising gives you the opportunity to really drill down into a very specific target market. Additionally, content isn’t restricted to people who like the page. Sponsored posts show up in more News Feeds – News Feeds of people who may not have ever heard of the brand. Facebook will become less about connecting with current customers, and more about connecting with potential ones.

4. There are some more numbers in the game. t’s hard to make the business case for PR because it’s been historically hard to measure. But Facebook continues to offer some great insight for paid reach that makes it easier to see how campaigns generate tangible results and affect the bottom line. While this is great for analyzing performance and evaluating the results of a campaign, these metrics lend more credibility to communication strategies, while also showing return of investment – which is going to be desperately needed by every marketing or public relations department in America in the next few years when someone from the C-Suite inevitably asks, “Why do we need to spend more money on Facebook?”

5. Earned media will return as bread and butter. A few years ago, some in the industry thought social media posed a huge threat to PR as we knew it. But now that a larger portion of advertising budgets is going to have to be allocated to social media strategies, earned space is going to become more important than ever. Those with strong media relations skills and contacts really have an opportunity to excel with securing superior placements that further a brand’s message right now.

While I certainly recognize these changes won’t be easy for a lot of organizations – nonprofits and small businesses in particular – the pressure on Facebook by its investors to create a sustainable business model means reach will continue to decrease without dollars, and we’re all going to have to adapt our strategies moving forward to ensure our clients’ stories are front and center.

I say bring it on.

Amanda Kane is a writer and publicist in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amanda is the principal of Game Face Public Relations, a sports publicity agency that works with professional athletes and their agents to develop winning personal branding strategies. Amanda's work in public relations has been honored with several Cumbre Awards from the New Mexico chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and in 2009, New Mexico Business Weekly recognized her on their annual 40 Under 40 list. You can follow her on Twitter at @TheMandiKane.

Photo: Facebook page via Facebook's Brand Downloads

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