Blackburn BID is backing the Fair reach campaign – urging Facebook to help UK businesses reopen safely and therefore save both lives and livelihoods through the recovery phase of coronavirus pandemic.
The social media company has been asked to temporarily suspend its practice of limiting the reach of posts by businesses as firms seek to re-open safely after lockdown.
Facebook has been limiting the organic, or free, reach of corporate posts for a number of years, instead offering companies the chance to pay to reach a larger audience.
Not for profit business organisation Aberdeen Inspired, fears this practice could put people at risk as companies try to communicate safety and social distancing messages as they reopen.
The business improvement organisation, which is led and funded by businesses in the city, has written to Facebook asking that the tech firm consider giving firms 100% reach “for as long as Covid-19 remains a threat to both lives and livelihoods in the UK”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also been asked to support the proposals.
Adrian Watson, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “Many of us have battled through both personal and business pain over the past few months and rightly followed the lockdown guidelines put in place to protect the NHS and save lives.
“As we move towards opening up our city centres we need to ensure that we do so in a safe and pragmatic fashion, and in so doing businesses across all sectors throughout the UK will have crucial messages to communicate to their customers.
“Many businesses have spent years and many thousands of pounds building up their followers and page likes on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
“However, as a consequence of changes to the platform’s 2018 algorithms most find their messages are reaching just 10-20% of their followers, with Facebook looking for money to reach the rest.
“For a business with40,000 followers, this can mean just 5,000 people are seeing some of their content, messages and promotional material.
“As businesses re-open, almost all will have critical safety messages to communicate with the public regarding social distancing and hygiene measures. Should Facebook continue to limit reach, these messages could be missed, potentially putting people in harm’s way.
“We have written to Facebook asking them to change their algorithm or give free post boosts to businesses for up to 12 months. Even short-term help would be welcomed by businesses, given that Facebook has become the primary communication channel for a vast number of organisations.”
Many local radio stations, newspapers and commercial television channels have been offering help – including free advertising – to support businesses.
Facebook, which has come under pressure for paying just £28.5million in tax in 2018 on UK revenues of £1.65billion, has yet to follow suit.
Aberdeen Inspired is being supported in its campaign for Fair Reach by many business organisations including Scotland’s Towns Partnership and the Association of Town and City Management, who between them represent and provide a voice for tens of thousands of businesses through the UK and Northern Ireland.
Ojay McDonald, CEO at Association of Town and City Management the largest membership organisation of its kind in Europe said, “Reopening our town centres and commercial destinations during a pandemic is not easy. We believe this can be done safely, but it will require clear and coordinated communication.
“Businesses will need the tools to speak with their customers so they can convey their local situation which may include altered working practices, and staggered opening times, all with the aim of keeping people safe. They require support to achieve this.
“In the middle of both a health and economic crisis, we all need to work together. We hope Facebook will pledge its full support to those businesses who need the maximum reach to achieve their dual aims of supporting lives and livelihoods. We all have a role to play in repairing the damage to society that COVID-19 has caused“.
Phil Prentice, Chief Executive Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership and National Programme Director for Scotland’s Improvement Districts added, “Facebook often faces questions around transparency and taxation, perhaps they could improve their image by providing some payback to the thousands of small Scottish businesses who in better times have paid handsomely for advertising and boosting; a simple measure to protect future revenue streams while helping wider society should be a no brainer for Facebook to agree to”.
Mr Watson said offering fair reach to businesses would allow the social media firm to make a “substantial contribution” to UK business recovery.
“There would also be tangible economic gain for UK from this change, if supported,” he said.
“Allowing organisations to reach all their followers would be like putting a free marketing budget in the hands of every business. Facebook’s support would be a welcome boost and instrumental for UK businesses at this critical point in our collective recovery”.