One of my friends manages a Facebook account for a small survival supply online store. I asked him, “Have you noticed a decrease in your organic reach?”

“Yeah,” he said. “We’re only hitting about a fifth of what we were before.”

“Have you looked into advertising?”

“I’d love to, but my client refuses to let me spend any money on Facebook ads. He thinks it’s a waste.”

That client is in for a rude awakening six months from now when organic reach continues to dwindle. Why? Because he’ll be forced to turn to Facebook advertising, and he won’t have the experience or funding to do it right.

As Facebook fights back against “Likebaiting,” small brands that relied on organic reach (and tricks to boost organic reach) are in for a big hit. Here’s what you need to know to prepare and stay ahead of the curve.

First: Why Likebaiting Was Never a Long-Term Strategy

In Facebook’s own words, “‘Like-baiting’ is when a post explicitly asks News Feed readers to like, comment or share the post in order to get additional distribution beyond what the post would normally receive.”

Some examples of Likebaiting include:

-Frequently circulated content (such as the “heartwarming” video 15 of your friends posted)
-Spammy links (like those links that say “You’ll never believe what this 18-year-old did when her dad walked in on her! Like to see video!”)
-Meme photos that have little relevance to the Page they’re posted on

Anyone familiar with the SEO industry has seen this same pattern again and again. Someone will discover a “trick” or exploit that effectively games the system and provides a short-term boost in page rankings. As more and more SEOs use the same trick, some start to scale and spam to crazy amounts.

(Remember when sites like eHow dominated search rankings?)

Google takes a look at what’s going on and realizes searchers are having crappy sites served to them with cheap content. They determine what kind of algorithm change would penalize spammers, and bam! Tons of SEOs now have to find some new tactic to spam.

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Decreasing cheap, spammy content is REALLY important to Facebook if they want to keep their users on the site. Unlike Twitter, which accepts and embraces the temporary nature of its content, Facebook appeals to those who don’t want to miss anything. They feature the most popular or relevant stories so you, the user, are more likely to feel some sort of connection to your friends when you visit Facebook.

If you feel connected to Facebook, you’ll be more likely to keep using it. And if you keep using it, Facebook can keep serving you ads. It’s in their best interest to give you content you want to see and hide the rest.

You may have seen this, too. The simple fact is that there are too many photos, videos, status updates, and more from your friends to see them all.

So anyway, what do you need to know to survive the death of likebaiting?

1. Facebook Ads Aren’t Going Anywhere (And Are Actually Getting Better)

Unlike your organic reach (which we’ll get to in a minute), your Facebook advertising isn’t going to suddenly go away. As long as you’ve got an advertising budget, you can continue planning a successful social media strategy to find new customers, increase app downloads, and more.

2. Organic Reach is Dying (And Won’t Come Back)

The numbers don’t lie. Organic reach is decreasing pretty dramatically and pretty quickly. The tricks you may have used to expand your organic reach are being banned by Facebook. This makes investing in an organic reach-heavy Facebook strategy doomed from the start.

Will it get better, and will Facebook turn around on its decision to decrease organic page reach? Signs point to no. That means you have to turn to paid promotion.

3. Everyone Will Be Advertising Soon (So Beat the Rush!)

There is a LOT of money being put into Facebook ads right now. According to their January 2014 shareholder thing, Facebook made over $300 million in 2013 in mobile ads alone. Their total advertising revenue was in the neighborhood of half a billion dollars.

That’s a lot of money. And it’s only going to increase.

Big brands are seeing the value of Facebook ads, and small brands are beginning to feel the pressure to advertise. Fortunately, new platforms to help small businesses maximize their Facebook spending are available to help with this transition into paid ads.

By understanding these 3 crucial things, you’ll be better prepared to survive the upcoming death of likebaiting and instead have a strategy that’s smart, sustainable, and effective. If you haven’t started planning your transition out of an organic reach strategy and into a paid strategy, start today – while there’s still time.

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Matthew Hall
Matt Hall is a content marketing specialist for AdEspresso. His experience helping small businesses develop smart content marketing strategies has helped him achieve increased profits and sustainable growth for his clients. You can follow Matt on Twitter @matthewrhallesq