Is Facebook still considered a viable earned media opportunity for brands?

Facebook is a top non-paid platform for PR-driven campaigns firstly because the platform's focus on quality content in the feed has the same focus as Google.

Yes
Ephraim Cohen
SVP and senior partner at FleishmanHillard

More than 20 years’ experience in public affairs, PR, technology, and digital media industries

Facebook is where the audience is and where people are discussing what matters to them. Too much of the debate has been binary: should brands be on Facebook or shouldn’t they? If your audience is using Facebook as its main social network to discover information and connect with friends, you have to be there.

After all, in media relations, you wouldn’t ignore the most popular publication for an audience simply because it was difficult to place a story there. You would work harder to figure out what story would perform well in pitches, and be recognized for conquering a difficult goal.

Facebook is a top non-paid platform for PR-driven campaigns firstly because the platform’s focus on quality content in the feed has the same focus as Google. Both add up to regular, highly engaged usage. Like some top news publications, being difficult to secure non-paid media and being important to do so at the same time tend to go hand in hand.

Second, this challenge goes directly to our core strength: coming up with the stories and content that people want to not only click on, but also share and discuss with friends. PR’s roots are in coming up with the brand programs that drive earned media. We simply can’t do what advertising-driven social programs previously did: buy our way into hearts on Facebook.

Also, PR teams should leverage strong relationships with influential journalists for earned media and do so with influential consumers. As with news media, we will then know what they want to share and discuss.

Brands should not use Facebook as a non-paid platform, they should use it as an earned-media platform. It is not just semantics. By returning to the fundamentals that made communications-driven programs valuable in the first place, brands will earn their way into the consumer conversation and have their story told via word of mouth.

Brands should take the time to talk and listen to customers and leverage analytics to understand what they want to read about and what these consumers want to share and discuss with their friends.  

No
Suzy Hill
VP of media, Racepoint Global
Has led teams across categories such as retail, packaged goods, e-commerce, and nonprofit

With the recent change in its algorithm, Facebook became a pay-for-play medium. By staying the course of non-paid, a brand on Facebook is missing out on a huge opportunity.

It would only be talking to its most loyal customers, who are already engaging with the brand on the platform. In order to keep a brand top of mind and relevant, it needs to be speaking to and engaging with new customers – and in Facebook’s new world, this requires a budget. 

For those who are hesitant to start paying for something that used to be free, they need to remember Facebook is not a nonprofit, and the company needs to continue to make more money. I wouldn’t be surprised if organic reach gets even lower. 

While this may be frustrating, keep in mind that Facebook currently reaches about 71% of all adults and 85% of moms. And, despite recent declines, it is still a very valid audience that cannot be ignored until other social media platforms gain similar scale.

A marketer’s focus should be on finding the right consumer and providing relevant and engaging paid messaging in order to increase brand affinity and purchase intent, while keeping cost efficiencies in mind.

With its very strong targeting capabilities and efficient pricing, Facebook is a strong platform that will stand up against other digital and offline channels. And, lastly, we can’t ignore the engagement that can occur with each post made on the social network platform. When was the last time you made a comment on a magazine page or TV commercial and shared it with all your friends?

However, be sure to keep a few things in mind as you consider your spend on Facebook. Just because you are paying does not mean people will automatically be drawn to your posts or to the page that you created.

You still need to create content that resonates with your target and speaks to your brand. Test different combinations of pictures and copy and continually add new options to combat fatigue. The beauty of digital advertising is the ability to test and learn to strive for optimal results, so be sure to take advantage of this.


PRWeek’s View
Brands should not yet give up on Facebook as an earned media play. Is it more difficult? Sure, but so are all media placements. They should take their games up a notch on the platform before moving to a paid strategy.

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