Social media conceptFacebook has warned big brands they will have to cough up for advertising on the network – just like everyone else. With changes coming to the News Feed in January, organic reach on Facebook will take another step towards 0%. Which leaves paid advertising as the only way to effectively reach your audience on the platform.

None of this comes as a surprise of course because Facebook has made no secret of its plans to phase out organic reach for promotional posts. But a few gasps will have been heard in the executive boards of big brands as the network tells them they will have to dig deep as well.

Facebook becomes an authority

It seems the executives over at Facebook aren’t too worried about who they upset these days. This warning to brands about paid ads comes just after the network shocked investors by announcing plans to spend billions on ventures that may never generate profit.

And now Facebook is telling marketers they will have to cough up if they want to reach customers with promotional content – no matter who they are. Which is a pretty bold move when big brands play a fundamental role in commercial content on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Facebook execs say this is all for the benefit of their users as it aims to deliver the content people most want to see on their news feed. A claim that nicely diverts from the topic of advertising revenue as Mr Zuckerberg tightens his grip on the online ad space.

The reality is that Facebook holds all the cards here and it can pretty much demand what it wants from brands that use the network. Not only does it have the largest social audience but it has accumulated one of the biggest vaults of user data that exists – the two things a marketer craves most.

The effect on small businesses

Smaller businesses have had a tougher time on Facebook for a while now. Organic reach is already as low as 2%, meaning only a small fraction of your fans will see your content unless you pay up for Facebook ads. Which means budget is the obvious concern for businesses with a tight marketing spend – especially those who enjoyed some early success on Facebook, without paying for it.
Things will be even tougher after January once the News Feed changes come in, but all signs suggest businesses will invest more in Facebook advertising next year. The social network has moved on from existing as a free advertising platform and the message is clear: if you want to market yourself on Facebook, you need to pay for an ad. So it’s time to start thinking about Facebook as an investment and consider how valuable the network can be for you.

If you can’t make an ROI from your spend on Facebook marketing then you need to take a serious look at your social strategy and reassess. Although the move into paid-only advertising could make Facebook too competitive for smaller budgets – something marketers and business owners will have to keep an eye on. But as things stand, Facebook remains the most effective social platform to market a brand – as long as you invest in it correctly.