Have you noticed anything different about your Facebook posts lately?
I know I have, and so too have a bunch of big brands and small business owners that I've been talking to. They're all actually quite frustrated with it.
They're frustrated by the sudden drop in how many of their Facebook fans are actually seeing their content. And I'm not just talking about a tiny drop either -- the stats I've seen and heard show that reach is way down.
Peter Stringer, for example, head of digital media for the Boston Celtics and my recent guest on the Inside Social Media podcast, told me their reach has dropped from around 5% down to about 2%. That may not sound like a lot but when the Celtics page has 7.2 million fans, that 3% drop is game-changing (yes, pun intended).
If you're wondering if your brand page is affected, go check out the Insights on your business' Facebook page (at the top of your page, click See Insights > Reach). Look at how many people your posts have been reaching over the past three weeks. Notice a drop?
I'm guessing you're seeing a big dip too.
The reason for this is Facebook announced yet another change to their News Feed algorithm about two weeks ago. You know, that area you scroll through on Facebook to read all the updates from your friends and the companies you follow?
And this latest update is a doozy.
Facebook reps say the updates are a result of their "getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you're a business is to pay for it."
They went on to say, "We expect organic distribution of an individual page's posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site."
Translation? When it comes to Facebook, we've reached a point where if you want to play, you're gonna have to pay.
Happy holidays from Facebook, indeed.
In all seriousness, I'm not all that surprised with all of this. I mean, Facebook has essentially been a free advertising platform for businesses up to this point. And with 1.1 billion people using Facebook and putting out lots of content, they need to figure out a way to sort through it somehow.
What Do You Do Now?
So what now? Is it time to jump the Facebook ship?
Helllll no. Like I just mentioned, there's 1.1 billion people using Facebook and it's still the cornerstone of social media. It's not going away anytime soon.
It continues to represent an ah-mazing opportunity to build relationships with your customers and potential customers -- and ultimately sell to them.
Here's what I recommend you do now:
Along with this "pay-to-play" announcement, Facebook has made a point to say the content they are going to show the most in the News Feed is original, high quality content that adds value to your fans.
So, before posting something to your page, ask yourself, would I find this valuable? Would I share this post? Does it entertain people? If the answer's yes, go for it. If it's no, think about how you can make it better.
Facebook ads. If you're serious at all about marketing your business on Facebook (and you should be), ads need to be part of your strategy. I know you probably don't want to hear that, but it's true. With all these recent changes, that seem to be here to stay, there's never been a more important time to understand Facebook ads.
The fun part about it, though, is you don't need to spend a lot of money on Facebook ads to see success. When done right, they can be ridiculously effective in selling your products and/or services.
It's always been this way -- the most successful businesses on Facebook use a mix of organic posting and strategic paid ads.
High quality content that people want to share + strategic paid ads = Facebook success.
Related: 5 Social Media Predictions for 2014
A version of this article first appeared at RickMulready.com.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.