The rumour had been around for a while amongst the social media professionals crowd; in January, Ogilvy’s  Marshall Manson  published a widely commented white paper aptly titled Facebook Zero: the death of organic reach  based on systematic observation of over 100 Facebook brand pages (thumbs up for the smart cross-agency data analysis). Three months down the line,  the consensus seems to be officially that Organic Facebook Reach (also known as Unpaid Reach) is no more, at least for Facebook Brand Pages.

An analysis by Social@Ogilvy of 106 country-level brand pages found the average reach of organic brand posts had plummeted from 12.1% in October 2013 to 6.2% in February.

Chart source: AdAge, "Four Reasons Your Brand Posts Are Fading On Facebook", March 2014

Chart source: AdAge, “Four Reasons Your Brand Posts Are Fading On Facebook”, March 2014


Over the last couple years, many industry observers had written on the danger of “digital sharecropping”, a complicated-sounding concept which can be summed up as “Facebook, with its easy management and relatively inexpensive advertising, is creating a honey trap for brands big and small but remember that the only digital property you fully own [display, engagement, analytics] is your own website”. The argument was sometimes tinged with dubious antagonism towards Facebook as a company- which is is fairly pointless- but some of it was nonetheless valid, as the recent development showed.


As every other platform, Facebook went through a (more impressive than every other platform) cycle of growth based a “free for all” (people, brands, publishers) model which allowed it to gather the biggest user base on the Internet; then it started selling display advertising space; the monetisation of exposure for branded content to its user base was just the next logical step in Facebook search for a viable business model.

Whether you’re a big brand or a small business, you’d better stop whining and start thinking how to handle the shift.


From what has been circulating so far, it is fairly simple – companies will have to “pay” (in one of the many formats and options that Facebook now offers) to reach the very same people that “liked” their page back then – in the days when a giveaway or a clever Facebook app would reap thousands of fans and all it took to keep them entertained was a post of a smiley dog every Friday – never mind if you were selling life insurance.

In those same days, “Facebook experts” mushroomed around the Internet, trying to lure small businesses around the world into paying them for nondescript services in exchange for the chance to reach thousands of customers and prospects “for free” and without having to set up mailing lists, websites or a proper CRM process.

Whilst big brands and their agencies had to quickly come to a realisation that some media spend was required to grow an audience, most SMEs and cornershops were happy with just making use of Facebook as a cheap alternative to a website, occasionally dabbing in a small-scale Facebook Ads campaign. Those business, together with big brands who failed to diversify in a consistent, multi-channel content+reach strategy and just put most of their eggs in the Facebook basket, are going to be hit the hardest by the change if they don’t react quickly.

In a way, with this move Facebook is accelerating an industry shift which was already taking place, led by some of the most forward thinking brands and agencies – by forcing everyone to realise that content is king, but without distribution it is a king with no kingdom. And that neither content nor distribution are free.

lazy social media content

Lazy social media content was lousy anyway – example from the always funny “Condescending Corporate Brand Page” on Facebook

Media budget managers and media agencies are probably now very happy, but does this spell doom for (good) content producers?


Well this is my opinion at least: hell yeah, for the simple reason that it will raise the bar for social media content in a way that no regulation could ever do: by making it necessary for companies to put their money where their mouth is, literally. Hopefully, by now most marketers (from the C-suite and below) have realised that “social media is free” is the new “build it and they will come“: naive at best, dangerous at it worst.
Good content will need to be supported by paid reach, so hopefully sloppy, routine content will be abandoned to focus on the one which is worth supporting with serious media $$$. 

With our News Feeds increasingly cluttered by an annoying “background noise” of silly chains, spammy tagging, fake sensationalists news and lame attempts by brands to hijack the latest meme, this may be welcome news.

Facebook acknowledged in December 2013 that it had tweaked its news-feed algorithms to surface more links to articles from media organizations, especially to users on mobile devices. That has helped yield a massive spike in referral traffic to publishers like Buzzfeed [...]. (Ad Age, March 2014)

“Brand as publishers” will be more and more the name of the game – and with higher stakes in play, we will likely see a new and better model emerging with more companies taking cues from Red Bull, Coke and Dove and producing content with the potential to go viral, and committing the financial and creative resources to make it happen.

The latest short movie from Dove, “Beauty Patch”, was launched simultaneously in 65 countries with a considerable paid media effort to kickstart its viral potential.

What do you think about the death of Facebook reach? Let me know in the comments

P.S. when I was halfway through editing this post today, Ogilvy’s James Whateley (AKA Whatleydude) wrote for The Drum on the same subject.  We seem to agree on a few points about the drop in Facebook reach and its impact for brands, and  I take it as a confirmation that I am not the only one to welcome this change. You can read James’ insghtful piece here.




sxsw asia trends

SXSW 2014 trends from Asia – Pacific: lots of music, little digital

So, SXSW Interactive has been and gone for 2014 – and no, I was not there so don’t expect any namedropping and bragging about party antics  snippets of digital wisdom from me this time. I have been following the event mainly on Twitter on the #SXSW hashtag, and occasionally tuning into a live streaming.

With over 1,300 sessions going on (check out this cool infographic on SXSW 2014′s numbers by the folks at Simply Measured), “death by content” wasn’t an unrealistic scenario at SXSW; also, you would expect the average attendee to have an above average level of activity (and for some, influence) on social media. Result: over 2 million mentions of #SWSX on social platforms over 10 days (source: Synthesio).

SXSW creates an insane amount of noise – on the web and in the real world -it’s very easy to get lost in it all. The place is swarming with freaks and geeks, one in ten of whom are panelists, all of whom have LOTS to say and aren’t afraid to tweet about it. Keynotes, panels, hashtags, conversations, demos…it’s a 5-day content bender.

(Scott Woodhouse, Campaign Brief)

Being the analytics freak I am, I have read a few roundups and summary pieces (I recommend the one quoted below from Campaign Brief) and then turned to my favourite social media listening tool* – for some  data-based evidence.

Looking at the social media mentions of #sxsw  from 7th to 16th of March period, here’s a few pointers:

SXSW has become a global event but its social footprint it’s still America-centric

The volume of buzz generated by Asia-Pacific countries (including users localised int hose countries, including those travelling to Austin), although not small at over 100k tweets over a week, still only accounts for a fraction (around 5%) of the overall buzz.

What has Asia been talking about the most during SXSW?

sxsw asia trends

Data courtesy of Synthesio

Unsurprisingly, NOT about amazing innovation, revolutionary technology and cultivated debates about digital: CATS (ok, pets) and RAP MUSIC were the hottest buzz topics.

Music acts from the iTunes Festival, and especially Australian acts got the most attention alongside Lady Gaga’s and a rapper called Tyler, the Creator who allegedly incited a mob at his gig and almost caused another fatal accident.

The feel good factor went through the roof thanks to the exposure given to Austin’s local pet charity APSCA campaign for visiting and resident geeks to adopt a pet. Cue doe-eyed puppies and adorable cats next to tattooed and bearded tech types, as featured in Mashable - Australia went literally abuzz.

homeless pets rescued sxsw

SXSW collateral events drive buzz in peripheral Asian markets, tech & innovation in more mature ones.

Indonesia, the single biggest country after China in the region, accounted for the highest share of SXSW buzz followed by English-speaking Australia , Japan,  India and the Philippines. China is not even on the top 10 (!). These figures seem to reflect closely the estimates on social media penetration for APAC in the We Are Social  “Social, Digital and Mobile in APAC” 2014 report.

interestingly,  users in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia were mostly retweeting celebrity news whilst the bulk of conversations about the “serious” stuff happened from India and Australia.

Was Asia a topic at SXSW?

Looking at which Asia-related topics have surfaced in the SXSW buzz, well – on a macro level, none. Entertainment at SXSW, rather than discussions about digital trends in the region, had the lion share again. The highlights:  a concert by Japanese classical music act Yoshiki getting a big wave of support amongst local fans, and the gig by Side Effect – the first Myanmar band to ever play at the event.

On the actual content side of SXSW, a few topics which made (small) ripples on social media buzz included mobile apps from the Korean contingent.

korea startup sxswOrigami, the ancient Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes, is getting a makeover for the 21st-century. A new puzzle game for mobile called Let’s Fold made its debut at SXSW in Austin [,,,]. The startup behind the game, South Korea-based FiveThirty, was part of the Korean startup delegation dubbed Geeks from Gangnam (source: Tech in Asia)

A talk about “How Overcrowded Asian Cities Inspire Innovation” by SIngapore-based marketer and researcher Tara Hirebet did not seem to generate significant media buzz, although the topic seems most intriguing and the speaker very qualified. With the sheer number of official and unofficial events going on over 10 days at SXSW though, this is probably unsurprising.

Now that the dust has settled over an edition of SXSW which someone has defined as “an orgy for brands“, I am looking forward to  in depth wrap-up pieces with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region- hopefully without annoying  music and psychedelic backgrounds like this ambitiously titled “The SXSW Wrap: Lessons for Asia” (I am kidding- good try, guys).

 *Disclaimer: Synthesio is my current employer. But they are awesome. Promise.


Content from Coke: “Social Media Guard” campaign ridicules #FOMO

Coca Cola – “Social Media Guard” (2014)

Like it or not, Coca Cola really does have a way with content marketing – in fact, it is probably the brand that has best embraced the storytelling revolution, second only to Red Bull in my modest opinion, and it is in it for the long run, as outlined in their “Content 2020″ digital agenda. [And if you are rolling your eyes and thinking "storytelling" is an out-of-date circa 2012 buzzword, then come up with a better word for the billions of user-generated stories from their latest integrated campaign (you can read the "Share a Coke' case study from The Drum here].

The “Social Media Guard”  well crafted, tongue-in-cheek video  is a further example of how the brand manages to keep relevant to different audiences – this looks to me as a bit of an inside joke for marketeers and social media people. It definitely draws on a current trend for expressing social media fatigue and sometimes going into withdrawal (just recently, my favourite blogger and self-diagnosed social media addict Emma Gannon declared the end of her Facebook love story).

the offline world is [...] that thing that happens when you run out of battery

At a more basic level, it contains the key elements for a viral video:

- appeals to emotion (classic elements: children; pets)

- contains a twist: the infamous #FOMO is often blamed on social media; here, the mesage is “social media addiction is making you miss out on life”

- it tells a story, and one most people can relate to

- it is easy to consume (tight editing, catchy music, masterfully produced)

The “Social Media Guard” is another well-placed tile in the overall Coca Cola storytelling mosaic. Of course, not every attempt is equally great and some will find this particular piece contrived, or cry at the irony of mocking social media addiction…on social media – but that is beside the point. I think that, if one criticism can be aimed at the “Social Media Guard” idea, its link with the “Open Happiness” brand message appears less immediate.

I find it impossible though not to admire the conviction with which the world’s most recognisable brand is pursuing its strategy and investing – wisely – not just on big stunts but on a constant stream of quality content.

Now…where is my Social Media Guard? I am a true social media addict, but now have an unmissable appointment with the rest of my life. 



digital.content.social business.good stuff.