Earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg announced a change in Facebook’s algorithm – friends and family would be given priority over brands and media in the newsfeed.
With limited marketing budgets, this becomes a problem for much of the craft beer category who rely on social media as their primary channel for reaching customers.
The news doesn’t come as a surprise to many in the advertising industry. Zuckerberg’s post is just one of many blow in what has become the long decline of organic reach for brands.
But let’s take a step back.
What is organic reach? This is the percentage of your followers who see your content when you post. In the early days of Facebook, brands were encouraged to build page likes (called fans back then), under the assumption that when you published something to your wall, your followers would see it in their newsfeed. Brands began to invest heavily (both financially but also in new social media and content resources). They grew their communities thinking once you acquired your audience it would be a ‘free’ media channel.
But that organic reach eroded over years. Facebook realised to monetise they needed a more traditional advertising model, in which brands pay for media space. These days organic reach often sits below five per cent. For smaller pages it can be higher, the irony being the more you grow the fewer people you reach.
This means that for every 1,000 fans of your page, you might only reach 50 of them with a post. If you browse a random sample of Australian breweries on Facebook you’ll find hundreds of posts that have only been seen by a handful of people with little to no engagement.
And it’s not just Facebook. All social media channels are moving in this direction.
Having worked with a number of big and small brewers, I’m surprised more brands aren’t alarmed by this. If you’re spending time (or worse, paying someone else) to create content, publish it and moderate it – make sure you know how many people are actually seeing it. If you go into your Page Settings then Insights, you’ll see how many people you’ve reached in the past month.
Remembering that most people ignore branded content and ads (yes, even in the craft beer category) – if the number is not in the tens of thousands you might not be having an impact.
So where are the current digital marketing opportunities for brewers?
Promoted social content
Social media has become a paid media channel. If you want to play here, you must support it with media investment.
Consider doing fewer posts, but of a higher quality. Spend less resource creating volumes of content, and instead allocate budget to promote it to potential buyers. It doesn’t have to be much, as little as $30 will reach 1,000 or more of your target audience.
Don’t worry about growing your followers. Every day they become less valuable. Focus instead on reach, this should become your most important metric.
And don’t waste it by posting memes. Or any content you’ve ‘borrowed’. Use this opportunity to tell your brand story – who you are and what you fight for. Your brand is how you distinguish yourself.
Be creative to capture your audience’s attention. Don’t forget you’re competing in the newsfeed against baby photos and pictures of doggos. Facebook actually rewards good content by showing it to more people.
Instead of posting daily, focus on one great post a week (or if you’re feeling bold, even one a month). Then promote it to make sure people actually see it.
User generated content
If you don’t have budget to promote content, encourage your drinkers to do the heavy lifting. Leverage the social side of social media by getting your customers to share content with their friends.
Bribe people to check in at your bar with a free pot. Or use your packaging to ask people to share photos.
It creates free awareness, but more importantly comes naturally with their endorsement.
If social is about reaching new customers then email is where you can most cost-efficiently talk to existing ones.
Grow your database by collecting emails on your website, at events or in the bar. Send a monthly newsletter with new news – talk to your customers about new distribution, sales promotions, new beers, events in their area and more.
Unlike Facebook it’s underutilised by brewers. And it’s a free channel that doesn’t fall over if Mark Zuckerberg changes his mind.
The decline of organic reach is a clear trend, and it’s not totally unimaginable that at some point soon brands won’t be able to post without paying for the privilege. As they say, be aware of building your home on rented land.
In digital marketing, opportunities come quickly and go just as fast. Last year’s strategy may not be right for 2018. But irrespective of what year it is, the most effective way to grow your brand, and your sales, will be reaching as many potential buyers as possible and telling them your story.
Zac Martin has developed marketing strategies for some of Australia’s biggest and smallest breweries. He writes about advertising at Pigs Don’t Fly.