Facebook made headlines last year when it revealed that it was running out of advertising space in its news feed. Marketers have felt the effects of that decline, in the forms of diminishing organic search returns and pricier ads on the social network. Still, there may be a silver lining here in the relative performance of user-generated content (UGC).
Even though the average number of posts per user declined by about 30 percent compared to 2015, UGC posts featuring brands earned almost seven-times more engagement than brand-generated posts in 2016, according to a new study by influencer marketing company Mavrck.
"[Brands] need to start activating their Facebook fans to share content that includes their brand on Facebook rather than investing time and budget into trying to do their own content ... because we know organic reach is always declining now more than ever," says Liz Gottbrecht, Mavrck's director of marketing.
The study—which analyzed more than 25 million user-generated posts throughout 2016—found that news feed engagement has been on the rise since March 2016, when Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize Facebook Live video and user-shared content. This marked a reversal of a seven-month long trend of steep news feed decline, according to the study.
In terms of leveraging fans to better drive performance, Mavrck advises marketers to pay special attention to "micro-influencers," people in the 75th influence percentile who have 500 friends or more. "We're looking at the actual user-level influence versus someone who is a celebrity or has a sponsored [page] or brand page," Gottbrecht says.
Still, UGC will likely not be a perfect solution to the fluidity of Facebook's advertising environment.
"One challenge we do have around UGC is that Facebook doesn't release the number of impressions that a post created by a consumer earns, only the engagements in terms of likes, comments, shares, and clicks," says Lyle Stevens, CEO of Mavrck.
Marketers are ultimately operating in a walled garden when it comes to social networks, especially in the case of Facebook (a company that has a history of not being as intuitive and transparent as some marketers would like). But with the news feed becoming a more fiercely competitive space for advertisers and the channel showing few signs of waning, marketers need to diversify their approach on Facebook.
—This story first appeared in DMN.