More and more businesses are realizing the power of promoting themselves on Facebook, and with 500 million Facebook users spending 700 billion minutes on the social media site each month, the potential for exposure is astounding. In fact, local business pages get 645 million views, and 13 million comments, every week. Clearly, Facebook is a powerful marketing tool.

facebook-logoBut we have some bad news: Facebook has been reconfiguring the algorithm they use to determine which posts show up in users’ news feeds.

As they continue to tweak their system, one thing is sure: organic distribution of posts on business pages has declined rapidly, and will continue to decline.  It is projected that eventually, the updates you post on your business page will only appear in 1-2 percent of your followers’ news feeds.

Wait, what do you mean “organic”? I assume you’re not talking about pesticide-free avocados.

When we say “organic”, we’re referring to the automatic distribution of your posts on news feeds. In the past, clever content that received likes, comments, or shares would nearly always appear in the news feeds of your “fans” or “followers”. This was due to Facebook’s algorithm and how they determined which posts people wanted to see.

However, the news feed algorithm is evolving to place less emphasis on popular content, and more emphasis on paid advertisements. Simply put, Facebook wants businesses to buy advertising and is making it tougher for businesses to reap the benefits of free Facebook exposure.  It can still be done, but it may require a different approach than the one you’re currently taking.

Why is Facebook doing this? Are they evil?

We tend to forget that social media isn’t a free service provided by a benevolent billionaire for our personal amusement. It’s a business, created for profit, just like yours. As Facebook has realized the immense value of content sharing, they naturally want to capitalize on it. Not to mention, with so many businesses and individuals using Facebook, every post cannot show up in every news feed. As Facebook grows, the news feed algorithm must grow as well. This means your posts won’t be seen as often as you would like.

So now what do we do?

First of all, if you have been posting quality content, you’ve been doing something right all this time.  The good news is that you’re getting this news NOW, in plenty of time to adjust your posting and sharing habits. Since getting “likes” on your Facebook business page is no longer a guarantee that users will actually see your posts, you will need to take a more active roll in your Facebook strategy at a grass roots level within your business.

Encourage your clients to click the “follow” button on your page and to share and comment on your posts. This will help them see more of your posts in the future. You can do this any time you have personal contact with clients, such as when they are in your waiting room or when you communicate with them via email or phone. Offer a discount to those who “check in” on their Facebook page while at your establishment. Post photos and stories about existing clients and tag them when you do.  Post success stories, testimonials, and other content that gets them involved.

The bottom line is that if you want customer engagement on your business Facebook page, you’ll likely need to become more active in the process.

This is frustrating. I feel like giving up!

So do your competitors – and many of them will. This means there is tremendous opportunity for businesses that refine their methods, invest in their social media strategy, and stay ahead of the curve. Facebook is changing, but as long as you change with it you can still reap the immense benefits of social media marketing.