Hidden Secrets of Facebook Organic Reach Algorithms

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For the last 12 months, I have been working on proving some of the theories on Facebook’s Page algorithm reach and I think it is time to unveil them.

In 2015, Facebook organic reach was pegged at about 2 percent. It is a ballpark. So how this is measured is pretty simple. If you have 1000 followers on your FB Page, that means only 2 percent of them will get shown your post. This is in all technicality a penalty to get you to ante up on some advertising credits.

Facebook advertising is like a blackhole that will suck up all your cash without giving you the ROI you’d expect. But at the same time, some Facebook pundits want to prove that you can beat the low organic reach on Pages with a few tips and tricks, many of which don’t actually work.

In some of my previous post, the only ones that are true so far are the following:-

  • Short Videos uploaded to Facebook increase organic reach by 4 percent
  • Post that generate comment and sharing generates 3 to 4 percent increases
  • Facebook organic reach for non paying post tops out at 1 percent of your followers
  • Followers will see your post more often only if they subscribe to your notifications

These are the rules so far that has brought results. And here are the rest that has to be dispelled before you hit that steep incline and fall off a cliff.

Posting Often on your Page will generate better Organic Reach

False. This is where the Facebook algorithm kicks in. It gets the idea that you want to reach more people and you will incur a penalty for this. It starts with one post every few days, two at most for a week. Anymore and the penalty kicks in. This penalty reduces the visibility of your post to your followers.

Posting at Odd Hours so that your post will appear on your Follower’s Feeds

False. I have scheduled post to reach people at odd hours of the morning and the organic reach fell off a cliff. What I did was to schedule some news post during the morning hours between 1am to 6am, and did this every two hours. It didn’t work as the Facebook algorithm penalty kicks in once they detect you are posting more and more often.

Boosting your post with a paid fee will generate Better Organic Reach

False as the amount of budget you have allocated is dependent on the amount of followers. I now owe Facebook 20 bucks for testing a few post to see if they grow organically within a 935+ strong followers of my page. What happens when you boost a post is that more of your followers who have not turned on their notifications from your page will see them, how much more? It is about 1 to 3 percent more over the 2 percent average. This means if you have 50 dollars to spend, that would only be for one post served up for about 100 followers.

So if you multiply the number of followers you have just to maintain that 80 percent average for 1000 followers, you have to be spending big bucks for boosting each post. The catch here is that the moment you pay Facebook to boost your post, you don’t have to do anything but sit back and see the organic reach grow. This is only for ONE chosen post so it’s not cumulative for all other post.

Difference between Organic Reach and Organic Growth

Organic reach refers to post that you make to your own FB page that is viewed by your followers which you did not pay Facebook to show on their timeline. Organic growth however is about the followers you gain for you FB page which you didn’t pay for.

Organic growth during the test period conducted only improved by about 3 people, meaning it is minuscule for a Page with 930 followers. So that’s less than 1 percent, so with it you can assume that organic growth is dead.

Organic views is limited to 2 percent by default for post you make every two days. Make anymore than that and that, then you will be penalized by Facebook. This 2 percent organic reach is free to you…but you got to earn it if you want that 2 percent reach per say. So if you want more, then you gotta pay for the eyeballs.

What’s the Best you can do for Organic POST Reach?

Here’s my take on it. If you post often like three to four times a day, your organic reach falls below 1 percent of your total followers. This means you’d be hitting around 0.3 or 0.1 percent of the total crowd. So NEVER post often. In fact, it is better to stagger your post to a maximum of 2 a week. This is where the Facebook algorithm gets worried and start to knock on your door to see if you’re still alive. 

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It is a chicken or egg issue when it comes to getting your post served up to your followers and having them liking it in the process. If your followers do not see your post, then your post becomes irrelevant. Don’t even hope to see your page promoted to those outside your followers unless you paid for it.

You can spend hours crafting a post but when it doesn’t get liked by your followers, then it gets pulled.

However you still get your 2 percent organic within a 24 hour cycle. 

Using Comments to maximize a 2 percent reach in 24 hours

This apparently works but it takes a lot of work and is not worth you time. During my test period of 4 weeks, you need to show that you are actively posting comments on other Pages with your own FB Page’s altered ego or persona.

For example, if you are the owner of a page, start to comment as your FB Page identity in all your post. The Facebook algorithm assumes that comments that get Liked by others are a form of engagement and that means your FB post will be shown to more of your followers all for free.

Facebook assumes that as long as you did not pay for a reach, it will award you with a 2 percent organic reach as long as you get an average of 35 Likes for your posted comments in ONE day.

Wow, 35 post comments Likes per day. And this is only to extend your organic reach to the maximum allowable 2 percent a day…consistently. Facebook will NOT give you any more organic reach for your post above 2 percent a day unless it was a video post and one that is shared by your followers.

Beating the facebook algorithm on organic reach

Just remember that the Facebook algorithm will give you a two percent maximum organic reach a day provided you are actively commenting and getting those 35 Likes for these comments. If you add more than one post a day, say two…then your two post per day will have to share that 2 percent allowable organic view between them.

This is why you should not post often.

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Conclusion, it’s not worth it

Once you work so hard, curate the best content or by creating them, the organic reach within your own fellowship is going to hover around the 1 percent average in a week without doing anything. For all your older post, there is no limit on how far this growth will grow. Right now, I am see a five week old post gaining over 20 percent organic reach.

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Facebook’s own algorithm only detects engagements and sharing as signs of interest, so if someone indulges your post, chances are they will see more of it. If the majority of us like to sit back and read stuff without lifting a finger to say something, then those post will decline in importance and they won’t be seeing them anymore unless they have subscribe to all notifications from your page.

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This insight is crucial if you are a small business operating in a social media environment. When your page stops engaging others (and I do not mean spamming them with links), you need to work around how to achieve your desired goal within the limited organic bandwidth Facebook allows without paying.

It’s different if you say you want an immediate reach to your followers by advertising say 100 bucks to boost a post. Even then the ROI is subjective since you cannot see who are your paying customers.

Within the Facebook ecosystem, you can already sell directly to your followers but for that to happen, you will need to spend money or in this case, milk that 2 percent organic reach per post a day. In five days, you’d have 10 percent organic reach, in ten days…20 percent. So if you are planning on a month long promotion. You could possibly get 80 percent organic reach using this formula.

So if you are a small business, plan well. Be active with your FB page persona, say the things which gets Liked and in return, Facebook will eventually reward you with the much deserved organic reach without you having to pay for those eyeballs.

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Time to Dump the Facebook App!

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Finally, you can junk your space hogging Facebook app once and for all on Android and iOS.

For the longet time, I detested the app for being a storage and RAM hog as it still to pile on all those extra features. When FB finally spun off Messenger as a separate app, the FB app didn’t quite slim down either. So I dumped it and resorted to using the mobile web access on my chrome browser.

Previously, the downside of using chrome browser access to your FB profile was that you can’t get any notifications. But as of today, the browser access for FB has been revamped, and you can now get notifications from friends and family who you are following just like the desktop version. Mobile browsers such as Chrome and Firefox are supported and these browsers would request for permission to send notifications to you. All you have to do is click YES, and you now have full FB access to all the notifications that appear on your feed.

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This new feature officially makes the FB mobile app totally redundant.

One of the caveats of using Facebook mobile app is that you can’t get any virtual translation when the post is written in a foreign language. So you probably had to guess what your foreign friends are talking about provided you were psychic.

The FB app just didn’t make any real sense since the FB mobile site can jump through far more hoops than the mobile app could.

So from now on, all you have to do is log in to your FB profile using Chrome browser, and confirm the status when FB ask you if you wish to receive notifications from the browser and you have hit a home run.

What you get on the mobile web site is precisely what you get on a desktop browser, so saving a few megabytes of space would be worthwhile if you had an older smartphone with limited memory. Device owners who have only 1GB of RAM available should be able to free up some valuable space in light of this.

To keep the browser based notifications on, you only need to allow the browser that is logged into the FB account running in the background.

Facebook cripples Flipboard NewsFeeds

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In another amazing twist of algorithm changes, Flipboard, the beloved newsfeed aggregator will be crippled by Facebook’s new algorithms by April 2015. The reason? Facebook wants you to see their adverts and there is no way of doing so within Flipboard itself.

Social Magazine no longer Social

Flipboard was one of the very first social/news aggregator that came out at the time of iPad 1, it was a hit and became a killer go-to app for the iPad. It wasn’t until two years later that Flipboard was introduced as an Android app on Samsung Galaxy devices before making its prime time debut on the Google Playstore.

Today, Flipboard is available even on Windows mobile and Web browser for all PCs. It has certainly gone a long way. Over the years, Flipboard added innovations such as the curated magazine, where you could literally curate and add content to your own social magazine which can then be shared with customers, friends or the public.

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Facebook’s Paper Versus Flipboard

Facebook released the Paper app on iOS over 2 years ago with Flipboard like news aggregation, except that it was more restrictive and didn’t allow you to add custom news channels.

Flipboard on the other hand allowed you to add your Facebook and G+ newsfeeds so that you don’t have to go to the dedicated apps to read your timeline updates. This meant that people could stop using Facebook app and turn to  Flipboard as the news reader for both social and news items, after all, Flipboard serves up its own ads while removing ad streams from Facebook. This became a huge problem as Facebook took this as a revenue leakage. So it had to plugged.

Starting late April, your Facebook account on Flipboard will only show up newsfeeds from Pages and Groups that you follow. Your personal newsfeed to the Flipboard will be crippled. Nothing will show up if you want to know who commented on your post or about friends who post stuff to your newsfeed. 

New user of Flipboard after April will not be able to add Facebook as a news channel even if it’s only for Groups and Pages you follow. This has been officially crippled so if you want to have some news from Facebook after May 2015, you better add your Facebook newsfeed to Flipboard now!

Facebook to get more Aggressive with Content Feed

 

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Content is king. Facebook doesn’t create any so it has no way to keep you glued to their mobile app unless it’s about USG. All user generated content is free for use on Facebook, unless of course when it is copy protected music or movies, you can’t share them.

Content on Facebook is vaporous at best. There is no way to search out old news or postings from other users unless you have added that on your own timeline. This degrades the content aggregation possibilities within the Facebook app whereas on Flipboard, you can virtually read anything posted and flip that into your own social magazine for sharing later or for bookmarking purposes.

Facebook’s attempt with the Paper mobile app is probably the closest it gets to being a Flipboard wannabe, while it achieves some news aggregation, it still has to be shared onto your own timeline to be ‘logged’ and searchable. Sharing it is entirely up to you, you can do it publicly or with friends or family only.

So far, Facebook’s Paper app seems to be doomed to development hell. It has not made it’s debut worldwide or for that matter, outside of the iOS ecosystem. It has poor newsfeed refresh rates for curated news items and will face the same problem as Flipboard as content belonging to news agencies will have to paid for in some ways. Flipboard gets around this with a truncated content summary by asking you to hit the link to read more. Facebook’s Paper app is taking this same route but with less success, thanks largely to the limited curated feed approved by Facebook itself.

Facebook’s crippling of Flipboard’s newsfeed channels is not the end of it all. You can still curate and make your own social magazine and sharing that on Facebook. You can still post links to your Facebook account directly with the Flipboard app as well.

What annoys me most is that none of these news aggregators are paying for the content being carried on their news channels. Instead, they will try to reposition the content and sell adverts to support it, just like Flipboard does when you suddenly see an advert popping up midway through reading a content feed.

Content development is a thankless task and it’s kinda funny to see how these two duke it out with content they never paid a cent for but wants your eyeballs for it.

Content 101: Why having a Strategy Matters

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The idea behind having your content is two fold. One is to get on top of a SERP, the second really for social media. Both count towards your eventual goal of reaching the top 10 but let’s not also forget that content plays a huge part of it all. Whenever you do a search, UGC from different sources (country IPs) also help to boost your visibility. Whenever you do a search for a product or service, reviews from consumers and users will show up results that is linked to your brand. This is why having a solid content strategy matters.

Back in the days where social media was nothing more than online communities (it still is btw) you posted stuff you did, stuff you want to do and shared some pictures online. It was like, Buzznet, and my profile is still active there too. Social media like Foursquares, Tripadvisor, Linkedin, Facebook and G+ are intrinsically linked to content found on Tumblr, Blogger and self hosted WordPress sites.

Facebook and G+ changed it all in recent years as your social profile also became your brand and what you associated with. So if you happen to run a business or work for one, they would have their own presence online outside of the traditional website. The game changer was that your businesses could  qualify as an online entity thus was born the need for social media content. This entity should be alive, as determined by Google Algorithms, and updated to show it is alive.

Online Brochureware versus Content Development

Still relevant in today’s online world are online brochures to show you have a company presence for people to drop by and browse your services/products. If you are lucky, they might even send you email. But any long forgotten and undated revision to your website will only show that your strategy isn’t about content but more of a online brochure, with that your SERP gets gunned down by Google for being too plain and unhelpful. Brochure ware sites are Zombie entities, not entirely living or dead so this gets bumped down the search chain over time. Using keywords within your brochure site  isn’t going to help you rise to the top of a SERP but at least you’re somewhere in the top 100, or maybe top 1000. Oh…maybe that wasn’t your intention to begin with?

Why Site Planning Matters

There are plenty of places to host your own online brochure. That one page calling card which you call a website has many advantages, like maybe your email and fax number for contact. However if you want to be found outright in a SERP, you need to invest.

First, you don’t have to do this. Your business is going great and you won’t miss those emails screaming for orders from the darkest corner of Africa. However if you want to sharpen your online presence, you need to take note of a few following details.

1. Migrating to a CMS System

When do you graduate from a website to one that is content friendly? This is time you finally decide to use a CMS or Content Management System. If you have no content, heck you can even do that on a free WordPress account. Free hosting too. It’s done so let it sit! But if you have regular updates (meaning weekly or monthly as opposed to once in a year revisions) then that needs to be managed. There are three popular CMS platforms for self management, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Having a web designer isn’t the ultimate solution. Designers work on design and are totally clueless when it comes to your content needs.

2. Web Designers are Not Content Developers

This is another thing that people have to understand, web designers are not content developers and have little or no regard to what makes your business work. They do not come out with content on the fly or make that work with social media. Designers create sites which suit the content you have or the content strategy you have in mind. They worry about how the system will perform and how the content will look. The also have to think about the back-end system based on your content requirements.

3. Web Designers are not SEO Consultants

Here is another problem people face, if you want to have an SEO friendly site, you don’t hire a designer to do that, this is not their role. 5 years ago, SEO was real easy. You could use Black Hat techniques to fool search engines to display your site ontop of a SERP. There were web tools and even downloadable programs which can do this. Those same tricks aren’t going to work now as the whole SERP business has gotten a lot more complicated. This is where the SEO consultants come in. Today, SEO consultants have to transition to content consultants as their role to find the easiest way to the top of the SERP has gotten so much harder. Most of them are snake oil salesmen. And you know why? They cannot guarantee a metric in which to prove any success. Pageviews or web traffic can be generated without having to hire a consultant, you can pay Google to put your name on top. Web traffic can also be gained by putting up banners on partner sites. SEO consultants can lend a hand to boosting your SERP rank but they cannot guarantee a return on your investment. So go figure.

4. Content is Dynamic

Content has to be shared via multiple platforms that we all know as social media. People want to know what works and how to do things. Even B2B sites need content that showcases their services or products in the best light. This is why so much effort has been given to Google’s Hummingbird update. There is no point of having content that is locked into a particular platform. That platform has to help disseminate your content to a wide audience. This is why YouTube works so well. It is share friendly. You can post videos you made to both G+ and Facebook. However if you post video to Facebook, that content gets locked into that platform and it can’t be shared outside of the FB community.

Google’s algorithm is being tweaked all the time. Every month, they do something to adjust it and this can be viewed on Mozcast, a site that monitors the SERP turbulence created by these minor changes. These changes affect how your content is placed in a SERP and if you are chasing a SERP rank, you probably need to have full time staff monitoring such changes that affect your site ranking.

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5. Know your limits on Budget

From the onset, having a CMS isn’t going to be easy as you need someone to manage it. Then there are other cost factors for each strategic decision. For example, shooting a video and putting it up online might seem relatively easy but you have to ask yourself who is going to do this if you’re not video savvy. The same can be said about graphics for your site. If you want a highly customized graphic, then you need a web designer who knows how to manipulate images in Photoshop or create one digitally in illustrator. Do not expect that to come from one person. Everyone has a different role as what your want sometimes lies outside your intended budget. Let’s not forget the budget for SEO consultants and content developers if you don’t have the time to develop them yourself. All this adds up as part of your ongoing budget.

6. A Dead Site is a COMATOSE Site

There are plenty of comatose sites on the Internet. Businesses who concentrate mainly on existing customers do not update their own company websites when they have new products. This becomes very exasperating for customers when they hear of something new and can’t find any resource on it. Just coz you paid for the hosting and put up a static front page isn’t helping you or your customers in any way. Today, people are information driven. They need information to make credible decisions. Having a static site that sits there minding its own business is a waste of money.

One way of avoiding this is to cross post content from Tumblr, Instagram and even Pinterest to your own website. Social Media management systems like Hootsuite, Buffer and IFTTT.

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IFTTT.com is probably one of the most creative uses of web action fucntiions where you can trigger cross posting of content to various other media channels. The only downside is that it doesn’t support either Pinterest or G+ for the time being but Facebook profile, pages and groups are supported.

Online isn’t cheaper than Print

One of the age old paradigms is that having a website is going to be cheaper than printing a brochure as it was suppose to disrupt the traditional way of doing things. Not anymore. It cost more to get your brand recognize and even more for you to make money from it.

You should instead take websites and social media as complementary channels for your marketing strategy and not rely on it solely to bring home the bacon.

Online has gotten to be as expensive if not more than what it takes to print a brochure. One of the reasons is that technology has made it more complicated to reach out to new customers as everyone else is clamoring for that same piece of the pie. Your voice gets drowned out if you don’t shout loud enough in the marketplace and this is where you need to strategize your priorities. Big brands with millions of dollars in advertising budgets never have to worry because they have what it takes to create their own online presence whereas for the SMB, your budget is limited. Competing with the big names isn’t your priority but find your niche is. This is where you have to formulate strategy to get things going for yourself.

Content marketing is all about attracting eyeballs and you need to spend time, effort and money to make it all work.

Facebook Video: The next Content Revolution?

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Why do I need to create video content? How the heck do you justify spending on creating video content? Is video really necessary in this day and age of the Internet?

Facebook is preparing to attack Google’s YouTube on the content front and that’s something you have to sit up to take notice. When it comes to churning those eyeballs, Facebook hopes to dominate with its own Video uploads.

Why Video Content Matters

When Techcrunch uncovered the secret missives, they had a whole lot of data from FB stalwarts to show that they are preparing to attack YouTube with a new Video Channel. This is tantamount to declaring war, Pearl Harbor style, on your rivals…except that, well the plans leaked out too early. So no surprise attack.

For the moment, most of the videos uploaded on the Internet today is on YouTube, and to a lesser extent, Vimeo. Facebook doesn’t even come to mind when it comes to uploading a clip unless it’s through Vine or Instagram.

Nothing is stopping you from recording a video and uploading it through Facebook’s mobile app but no one really cares to do it, at least for now.

The YouTube Conundrum

Why is YouTube so hot? Why do you even want to start producing video content? Good question.

Now video isn’t for everyone. You have to know that from the moment you started your business online. The problem with video is two folds. First, you need some form of creative talent to produce something worth watching. If you are a budding Spielberg, then fire away but video production can be produced for as cheap as that five dollar hooker down at the red light district or as expensive as what DC shoes have shelved out for Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos.

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There are plenty of statistics to justify producing video for promotional purpose. If you have the mind to digest numbers, head over to socialblade.com for more information. What’s more, video content affects your SEO rankings in the eyes of Google…after-all, Google owns YouTube.

Why do people only flock to YouTube?

Original content partners—that’s the term parlayed around on social media. This alone is driving most people to YouTube. There is a little known fact that original content developed for Internet release will get to partner YouTube for revenue sharing on adverts. Pop stars and music labels see this as an added boon to their bottom line and they create or develop channels to release video content. With so much video content onboard, people will naturally flock to YouTube to cure their boredom.

If you took the trouble to create a YouTube channel, fed it with original content, you too can make money from it. So why not right? Except maybe that you haven’t the faintest idea on what works and what doesn’t.

Social Landscape and Video Sharing

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Recently, Google tried to tell its G+ members to upload and comment video based on your true identity. This is probably the first step to verifying that the comment and vid came from a credible and verified source and not by someone who claims to be Elvis—the venerable rock star who croaked decades ago.

Facebook is heading towards the same direction though I am not sure if that includes some form of partner program for original content producers.

The Reality of Video Development

Scripted or unscripted, you can’t produce a promotional video for you business without some kind of planning. There are some people who produce Guerilla videos for much lower cost with the optional car chase scene thrown in, but that takes persistence, luck and a whole lot of creativity.

You can of course create videos for next to nothing just to decorate your social page on Facebook or G+, but you still need someone to shoot them if you are not hands on with a smartphone.

There are plenty of lessons to learn when it comes to developing content on video and I will probably take my time to revisit this subject on a later date…if you are interested. For now, I’m in a Christmas mood. So Happy Holidays everyone!

Facebook revises Newsfeed: No more Brand Spam?

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Facebook has been in the news for all the wrong reasons but lately, they have come out to support content with a revised Newsfeed Algorithm that takes a swipe at brands who spam.

From now on, Brands who wish to engage their customers through Facebook’s Pages will have to ante up on the moolah. In an apparent move to emulate Google’s Hummingbird, Facebook’s own Analytics will pay more attention to original content instead of the usual nonsense being passed around as Branded Spam.

The whole idea isn’t new but the analytics seems to be a bit Neanderthal. For example, if your friend ‘likes” a content feed, then it will appear on your newsfeed. The new analytics will also monitor  comments made by friends so that it will show up more prominently and more regularly so you could be seeing the same story on the top of your newsfeed as more of your friends start to comment on them. Facebook’s own analytics do not for example analyse the content in the same way as Hummingbird does in Google searches.

Facebook’s has this to say about the revised newsfeed algorithm:-

Our surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favorite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme. Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile. This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.

Creating Engaging Content 

This is probably the tough one for Brands. Facebook doesn’t like giving out freebies to commercial entities and will be watching your Pages with the revised analytics. Apparently it will take your post down a few notches so as to challenge you to come out with better content. Now what makes for better brand content? Facebook is looking for some form of social engagement so that should give you an idea on what to expect.

DisplayMediaBrands who want to see their post up on all their fan’s newsfeed will have to pay for the privilege. Facebook isn’t too keen to let you off the hook so easily as it hopes to bump up its stock price on the NYSE.

If the average person has about 100 friends who are active on Facebook, you could be seeing a whole lot of content from them instead of the Brand marketing stuff one has come to expect from the past.

Brand engagement will be more expensive on the long run and there is no alternative.

What about camping out on G+?

Probably a better place to start but that doesn’t mean you can jump ship and hope your fans will follow you to Google. At the moment, Google is still beefing up its social platform but it is free for all for the moment. You can post anything you like and as long as the person has circled you as a follower, you can expect a lively newsfeed.

New-Google-logoGoing forward, Google will eventually make G+ a paying social platform. Right now, there are no ads as yet but it will come eventually. It’s just a question of time before this happens.