Category Archives: Business

Pfizer sues Johnson & Johnson, alleging anticompetitive practices to maintain a drug monopoly

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(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Pfizer filed a lawsuit Wednesday against fellow pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for trying to squash a cheaper version of a powerful rheumatoid arthritis drug — setting the stage for a legal battle that could shape the price and availability of alternatives to the world’s most advanced and expensive medicines.

In its lawsuit, Pfizer alleges that Johnson & Johnson used anticompetitive practices to stifle Pfizer’s copycat biosimilar version of a J&J blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug called Remicade.

Remicade accounted for $4.8 billion in U.S. sales last year. After Pfizer won approval for its biosimilar version in April of 2016, J&J attempted to "suppress that competition and deprive society of those benefits … to maintain its stranglehold," according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Pennsylvania.

The legal challenge revolves around the role played by a new class of drugs, called biosimilars, copycat versions of biologic drugs, large molecule drugs that are typically administered by injection and are created by living organisms.

Biosimilars are a nascent market in the U.S., with a pathway for approval that was created as part of the Affordable Care Act. They are seen as a key safety valve on high drug prices, by offering cheaper competition to some of the most expensive drugs sold today.

The idea was to create a market, similar to the generic industry, that would allow competitors to make their own versions of complex biologic drugs after patent protection expired on brand name drugs.

Biologic drugs need a different pathway because they are created by living cells and are more complex than generics. Biosimilars were projected to lead to a $44.2 billion decrease in drug spending over a decade in an analysis by the RAND corporation.

Pfizer was among the first companies to launch a biosimilar drug, a copycat of J&J’s Remicade. In 2016, Pfizer won approval for its drug, Inflectra, and launched it at a 15 percent discount off its rival’s list price at the time (which has since increased).

Today, Remicade carries a sticker price of around $26,000 per year for most uses, and Inflectra’s price is around $21,000.

But the lawsuit alleges that J&J launched a "biosimilar readiness plan" and entered into anticompetitive, exclusionary contracts with insurers and hospitals and clinics — that ultimately blocked 70 percent of commercially-insured patients and physicians from having access to the drug.

"This is, in our view, a bellwether case — and what we are seeking is for J&J to refrain form using these sort of exclusionary contracting arrangements with insurers and providers," said Laura Chenoweth, deputy general counsel at Pfizer. "Most importantly, we want to create an open playing field for biosimilars… to bring these drugs to a broader group of patients, at a better price."

A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson said that the company was reviewing the lawsuit and would have a statement later in the day.

The lawsuit draws back the curtain on how competition allegedly plays out behind the scenes  — with Pfizer describing a situation in which its rival entered into contracts that would punish health insurers, hospitals and clinics financially if they used Inflectra.

For example, Pfizer alleges that the contracts "coerced" insurers not to cover Inflectra by threatening to withhold the rebates that they would otherwise receive on the price of Remicade.

"If Pfizer’s allegations are true and J&J is allowed to continue executing contracts of this type, it is likely to decrease incentives for biosimilar entry going forward," Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University School of Law said in an e-mail.

Cheaper generic drugs have been able to erode brand name drug’s market share, but biosimilars have not yet had similar success, she said. "This may be due to a number of factors… But if it is also due to the anticompetitive actions of innovator biologic companies, those actions really decrease the prospects for real biosimilar competition."

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The Fed is about to do something it has never done before

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Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday is widely expected to announce it’s going on the financial equivalent of a diet.

After the devastating Great Recession, the Fed took two unprecedented steps to rescue the U.S. economy and jump-start growth: It cut interest rates to zero for the first time ever, and it beefed up its balance sheet from about $900 billion in assets to $4.5 trillion. The Fed has already lifted interest rates to above 1 percent, a sign it believes the U.S. economy has finally bounced back from the crisis and recession.

Now, the United States’ central bank plans to start trimming down the $4.5 trillion, a move it has never done before.

“It’s past time to reduce the Fed’s balance sheet, because its role in the economy is unnecessarily large,” said Tate Lacey, an economist at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that has criticized the Fed for bulking up its balance sheet so much.

For the Fed, however, it’s not as simple as selling off all its assets at once. If the Fed moves too quickly, it risks unsettling stock and bond markets and driving investors away from investments with more potential to simulate economic growth. But if the bank moves too slowly, it could end up still sitting on a bloated balance sheet when the economy hits its next downturn — leaving it without some of the tools it needs to stimulate growth.

“If I had to bet, I would bet things would go smoothly, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it,” said Joseph Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who used to work at the Federal Reserve.

As Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen and the bank’s other leaders attempt this tricky process, they have no precedent to fall back on for a sell-off of this size. There was no guidebook for the Fed’s balance sheet to grow so large, and there’s no guidebook now for how to shrink it back down.

After nearly a decade of unprecedented efforts to pull the economy out of the recession, the Fed’s work is yielding results. The economy has added more than 15 million jobs since the worst of the crisis, and the United States is in the midst of the third-longest economic expansion in the nation’s history.

The Fed is trying to avoid disrupting this growth by telegraphing its moves clearly to avoid the type of uncertainty that tends to unnerve investors and rattle markets.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Fed will release a statement that is widely expected to say the shrinking process will commence in October. The Fed already outlined a plan in June to start small, unloading $10 billion worth of assets a month and then scaling up gradually over time until it is shedding $50 billion a month.

Analysts say that incremental nature will help prevent the Fed from knocking the economy off its growth path.

“The good news is the Fed has been planning this for a long time,” says Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust and a former Federal Reserve staffer. “It’s going to be a slow, careful and gradual process.”

While many worry the Fed might go too quickly, Tannenbaum says it’s also problematic if the Fed moves too slowly. The current process the Fed outlined will take four or more years to shrink the balance sheet to $2.5 trillion or $3 trillion, the level many economist say they expect will be the new normal for the Fed.

But if another recession hits the United States before then, the Fed may not have the tools it needs to stimulate the economy. The Fed currently owns about $2.5 trillion in U.S. government bonds, known as Treasurys, and the rest in mortgage-related securities. The Fed started buying up these assets in late 2008 to stabilize markets and keep interest rates low. It stopped the big buying spree in 2014. All the Fed’s purchases caused bond prices to rise and yields (the interest paid on the bonds) to go down.

Having such a big balance sheet already makes it difficult for the Fed to use this tactic again if a recession were to hit soon. The Fed is trying to get back higher interest rates and a lower balance sheet so it can deal with any future crises or downturns with a full set of tools.

The sheer size of the Fed’s holdings has caused so much concern about how the central bank could rattle markets when it unloads the assets. The Fed owns 15 percent of America’s federal debt, according to calculations by Northern Trust bank, and about a third of mortgage-backed securities.

So far, Wall Street seems fine with the Fed’s plan. The U.S. stock market is trading at record highs, and the bond market is also showing signs of calm. Investors don’t seem to be spooked by the Fed or even the devastating hurricanes, gridlock in Washington or North Korea’s threats about nuclear war.

“If there’s a time when the market is telling [Yellen], ‘Get on with it,’ is it not now?” wrote Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, in a note to clients.

If all goes well, few Americans will notice what the Fed is doing because it will be quiet and orderly — with economic growth and job creation holding steady and the central bank readies itself for the next recession. The only indication anything has changed might be for home buyers looking to get a 30-year mortgage.

“For the average person, it means mortgage interest rates might go up,” Gagnon says.

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Money Doesn’t Matter. Until it Does.

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money matters

[As part of our weekly column by Mr. 1500 of 1500Days.com – a fellow blogger who retired at 43!]

******

My cover as a blogger was blown last year when a story about us went viral.

I knew something was wrong when the blog went down. When it finally came back up, I had over 30,000 page visits and it was still before noon. On that day, we weren’t so anonymous anymore.

We then started getting texts from friends and relatives:

Hey, you’re on Yahoo!

You have a million dollars? What???? Huh??

To my surprise, it turned out to be a much less painless experience than I had assumed. No one asked us for money. No one treated us any differently. I was hoping that the article would trigger some interesting conversations about money, but that didn’t happen either.

Life moved on. Except for one person who did want to talk money.

Aunt K Loves Her Job!

One family member was excited to learn about our secret lives. The first conversation took place last year when we had the big publicity. It went something like this:

  • Aunt K: That’s so awesome that you’re planning to retire! Congrats!
  • Me: Thanks! How about you? At what age do you see yourself retiring?
  • Aunt K: Not any time soon. I absolutely love my job. I’d do it for free! I’d like to retire, but probably not until 65.
  • Me: That’s wonderful! If you’re doing what you love and you happened to get paid for it, that’s hardly working.
  • Aunt K: I know! It’s amazing.

Unfortunately, Aunt K’s bliss was not to last. A couple months ago, we saw her again and she was singing a different tune. While Aunt K loves her core job, there are other problems. She works in a school district that has issues with administration. The state that she teaches in is also mismanaging the teachers’ retirement fund, so she’s worried that all of the money she’s saving may be blown by politicians.

I feel bad for Aunt K. She loves teaching, but the circumstances around it have changed. Just last year, saving money wasn’t a priority and she dismissed the idea of financial independence. Now, she worries that she’ll never be able to stop working when she’s finally ready to.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I hear folks making excuses for not saving All. The. Time. Here are some of my favorites.

“I love my job!”

Aunt K’s excuse is the most common one that I hear. If you love your job, that’s awesome! What an amazing gift in a world where many folks dread their 9-5! You’ve got something wonderful there.

However, will your job always love you? Plenty of folks who worked at Enron loved their jobs too. There are always other factors at play. Robots and artificial intelligence are going to start taking more and more jobs. This will be a major societal change that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.

“I’m going to die young.”

This is the favorite excuse of a good friend. He insists that he will die before he’d ever retire, so he doesn’t save. I’m not sure why; both of his parents are in their 90s and he has no serious health problems.

And why would you want to bet on an early death anyway? What’s the backup plan if you don’t die?

“The money won’t be there for me anyway, so why bother?”

Bad things happen to good folks. Maybe you know someone who retired in 2008 right before the Great Recession clobbered us all. Maybe a family member got taken by a Bernie Madoff character. This stuff happens, but not to most. Put your money away and stop worrying.

“I could never do that.”

A friend recently lamented her financial position:

We have nothing saved!

I replied with:

Get rid of the new SUV.

And:

Rent your mother-in-law apartment on Airbnb.

And:

Take local vacations instead of exotic ones.

Every single suggestion was met with the same response:

I could never do that.

Well, I hope you plan on working until a ripe old age because you know that whole retirement thing? You’re never going to be able to do that.

Money doesn’t matter. Until it does.

My mantra in life is this:

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Optimism is the only way to go through life. And a little preparation can make you a better optimist. Because I’ve taken care of myself financially, I’m prepared to deflect the curve balls that life throws at me. Money doesn’t matter most of the time. But when it does, and you don’t have it, it’s going to hurt.

To the folks who make excuses for not saving money, I say this:

Financial independence isn’t about quitting your job. It’s about options. If you love your job, stay there. It’s much better to work because you want to than because you have to!

And also:

You get nowhere running on the hedonic treadmill. Stuff doesn’t bring long term happiness. Spending time with loved ones and meaningful activity does. A frugal, simple life is the most efficient and rewarding way to live.

If there is anything true about life, it’s that it’s an ever changing, unpredictable journey. If you would told me 5 years ago that I’d no longer be programming computers or have a job, I would have thought you were crazy. But, the serendipitous turns of life are what makes it fun and interesting.

Just save some money so you can embrace the fun opportunities when they present themselves. Save enough so you never have to worry. Money doesn’t matter. Until it does.

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The simple way to tell whether Trump’s tax plan is for the ‘little guy’ or the 1 percent

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America is about to find out just how much President Trump intends to help the “little guy.” In a matter of days, we’re supposed to get details about his tax plan, which is shaping up to be the biggest overhaul of the nation’s tax code since 1986.

The details released so far were weighted heavily against middle-class Americans. The White House released a one-page outline in April that showed massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy with no concrete way to pay for them. Trump campaigned on fixing America’s debt. But the April outline would increase it by a whopping $7.8 trillion over the next decade, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. About half the benefits would go to the top 1 percent. Meanwhile, millions in the middle class would see their taxes go up.

But it’s not a done deal yet. Trump shocked a lot of people, especially on the Republican side, when he told reporters last week, “The rich will not be gaining at all in this plan.” And as The Washington Post reports, the White House is now — in a bid to win over Democrats — seriously considering shrinking tax cuts for the wealthy and keeping the estate tax in place, which is only levied on individuals who die with more than $5.49 million in their estate.

The details are still “very much up in the air,” says Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

If Trump didn’t cut any taxes on the rich, the cost of his plan would shrink from $7.8 trillion to about $3 trillion, according to Tax Policy Center cost estimates. It helps free up money to what Trump claims his top priorities are: cutting businesses taxes to make the United States more competitive and giving the middle class a raise.


[White House seriously considers abandoning some tax cuts for the wealthy]

Strain is one of several Republicans The Post spoke with who predict the final deal will “have to include some Democrats.” A Democratic lawmaker actually introduced the bills for Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reform package (Democrats controlled the House at the time), and the final vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan (74 to 23 in the Senate and 292 to 136 in the House).

Getting Democrats on board isn’t just a political nicety. If Trump can’t get any support from the left, he probably won’t get much more than a George W. Bush-style temporary tax cut, which did little to juice the economy. Companies are a lot more likely to hire people and build new factories if they know the tax cut is going to last for a long time, not just a few years.

The president has been aggressively reaching out to Democratic lawmakers lately. Even Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s ultraconservative budget director, now sounds open to working with Democrats. “I did get a feel there was a chance for a deal on taxes,” Mulvaney told CNBC last week after Trump and other top White House staffers (including Mulvaney) shared Chinese food with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trump’s tax plan is going to need a major makeover if he really wants to help his working class base and lure some Democratic votes. As the White House rolls out the next version of tax reform, keep an eye on two items: all the tax breaks for the rich and whether there’s any mention of expanding two popular tax credits that only benefit the working poor, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

What happens with those items alone will reveal a lot about who Trump is prioritizing: the mega rich or the “just getting by.”


[Trump says his tax break will get companies to hire more workers. Companies say it won’t]

First, the goodies for the rich. Trump originally proposed slashing taxes for America’s wealthiest families from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. But that’s not all. Many of his other tax cuts, which come with hefty price tags, would exclusively benefit top earners like him.

He wants to get rid of the estate tax, which is sometimes called the “death tax” because it’s a tax assessed when someone dies and passes a property to a relative or friend. It only applies to properties worth $5.49 million or more. He also plans to eliminate the small 3.8 percent tax on investment income that was put in place under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that only applies to people making more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples).

He also calls for axing the alternative minimum tax, a mechanism put in place in the 1970s to prevent the rich from dodging taxes by taking too many write offs. It only applies to people making more than $120,000 a year. And he wants to make it easier for people who run their own businesses — often called “pass through entities” — to be taxed at a much lower rate (15 percent instead of 39.6 percent). This is often touted as helping “average Joe” small business owners, but that’s a fallacy. Nearly 70 percent of the benefits would go to households with incomes over $1 million, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.

“Small businesses get used as a smokescreen to help the wealthy,” says John Arensmeyer, head of Small Business Majority, a network of 55,000 small-business owners. He says the proposed change would mainly help hedge funds and celebrity consultants.

All of these tax breaks together cost over $4.5 trillion — more than half the total price tag of the bill, according to Tax Policy Center calculations. Is Trump willing to reverse course on any of these goodies?

Second, watch what Trump does with the child tax credit (CTC) and the earned income tax credit (EITC). These weren’t even mentioned in the April one-page outline, but they could make a big difference to Americans barely getting by. “Trump’s tax plan does so little for the working class in large part because it ignores the parts of the tax code that are best designed to support that group: refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit,” says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Republicans like to tout how they are lowering tax rates for everyone, but more than 45 percent of U.S. households don’t pay federal income taxes. Slashing rates doesn’t help them because they already owe $0. The way to aid the lower middle class is refundable tax credits, which means the working poor get a small amount of money back from the government.

Refundable tax credits like the CTC and EITC have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past because they reward work and alleviate poverty. People only get the money back on their taxes if they have a job and earned some money that year.

The CTC and EITC have also done exactly what they were intended to do: lift millions of people out of poverty. The latest report on poverty in America from the U.S. Census Bureau came out last week. It showed that refundable tax credits lifted 8.2 million Americans out of poverty in 2016, making the credits the second-best poverty reduction program in the United States after only Social Security.

Census povetry reduction tools

It’s telling that liberal groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute support doing more with the CTC and EITC.

“The EITC is a subsidy available only to households with jobs, and the amount of the subsidy rises with every additional dollar of earnings over an initial range,” Strain of AEI wrote in a recent Bloomberg op-ed that argued in favor of a tax package that cuts corporate rates and expands the EITC.

At the moment, Strain says a single guy earning minimum wage only gets $40 a year back from the EITC. A CBPP analysis says the average EITC check for a family without children is $293, compared with more than $3,100 a year for a family with children. Last week, new census data came out showing that American males, including some without kids, earn the same today as they did in 1972. If Trump wants to give working people a raise, bumping up the EITC for people who don’t have children would be an easy way to do it.

While the EITC hasn’t gotten much attention, Strain says there is “intense interest” on the GOP side to raise the CTC, which is worth up to $1,000 per child. Ivanka Trump and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are leading the charge. Lee and Rubio have been pushing a plan for the past several years that would increase the CTC to $2,500 per child.

The $2,500 credit would be refundable against both federal income taxes and payroll taxes. Payroll taxes come right out of a person’s paycheck to pay for Social Security and Medicare. The Tax Policy Center says 60 percent of the people who pay $0 in income taxes still pay payroll taxes, which is why the Lee and Rubio plan could make a difference for a lot of the working poor.

Of course, any policy change costs money. The Tax Policy Center estimated the bigger CTC would cost $1.5 trillion over the next decade and an expanded EITC would be another $1.4 trillion. Even with those price tags, expanding the EITC and CTC would cost a lot less than the tax breaks Trump initially proposed for the rich.

It’s about trade-offs and who should get the bulk of the benefits.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal in July, “The people I care most about are the middle-income people in this country who have gotten screwed.” In Trump’s tax plan, the middle class will find out how much that “care” is worth.

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White House seriously considers abandoning some tax cuts for the wealthy

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President Trump and the White House are considering keeping the top tax rate for individuals at 39.6 percent. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

White House and GOP leaders are considering major changes to upcoming tax legislation, including scaling back plans for large-scale tax cuts for the wealthy, as Republicans seek to win support from Democrats in Congress, three people briefed on the discussions said.

The White House is considering, among other things, keeping the top tax rate for individuals at 39.6 percent, decreasing the benefits top earners would see in the tax package by scrapping an earlier proposal that would cut that rate to 35 percent.

White House negotiators are also considering giving up on a push to repeal the estate tax, which is levied on individuals who die with more than $5.49 million in their estate. Republicans have long called for repealing the estate tax, but Democrats have raised objections, saying repeal would only benefit the wealthy and would add to the federal debt.

The White House and GOP leaders are still debating how to proceed, and they could end up proposing changes to both the top tax rate and the estate tax, according to the three people. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the party’s internal deliberations.

The White House and GOP leaders remain fully committed to reducing the corporate tax rate and delivering tax cuts for the middle class, the people said.

The fluidity of the discussions illustrates how President Trump has sought to reframe the tax discussions as a way to help businesses and the middle class and not the wealthiest Americans.

In April, the White House put out a one-page blueprint of its tax plan that would have repealed the estate tax, eliminated the alternative-minimum tax and cut the top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 35 percent. These changes and others would serve as a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans, budget experts found. The Tax Policy Center estimated that roughly half of all the tax changes would benefit the top 1 percent of all earners, with each person in that group receiving on average a $175,000 tax cut.

Senior White House officials for months defended the calls for tax cuts that would benefit the wealthy, saying they are necessary to help people invest in the economy and hire more workers. But Trump last week stated the tax plan would not — on net — reduce the taxes for wealthy Americans, and he predicted that some could even pay more.

Americans pay income taxes on a tiered system, and there are seven tiers. Upper-income Americans pay a 39.6 percent rate on all income above $418,400. They pay a 35 percent rate on all income between $416,700 and $418,400. And they pay a 33 percent rate on income between $191,650 and $416,700. There are four other tax rates for income earned below that amount.

The White House had proposed collapsing these seven brackets into three brackets, with the new top bracket sitting at 35 percent. If it decides to keep the top bracket at 39.6 percent and create two new brackets, it could still give everyone a tax cut but lessen the size of that cut for the wealthy.

The White House and GOP leaders next week are planning to provide more details of their tax push, though they could leave out key details as they continue to negotiate with members of Congress. The White House is hoping a tax cut plan can be completed by the end of the year, and support from even a few Democrats could help it reach an agreement sooner.

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Post Less, Boost Top Posts, and More: 14 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Page Engagement

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Engagement on Facebook Pages has fallen by 70 percent since the start of 2017, according to BuzzSumo who analyzed over 880 million Facebook posts by brands and publishers.

Buzzsumo study: Falling Facebook Page engagement

As a social media marketer, it is worrying to see these trends.

But we feel there are ways we can combat this organic reach decline on Facebook and we’d love to share some strategies with you.

In this post, we’ll share 14 straightforward ways to increase your Facebook Page engagement — many of which are proven and have worked for us. 

14 Actionable Strategies for Increasing Your Facebook Page Engagement

14 ways to increase your Facebook engagement

Starting a Facebook Page might be easy but with the falling organic reach and engagement, growing a Facebook Page can be challenging.

Here are the 14 tactics you can try today to increase your Facebook Page engagement:

  1. Post less
  2. Post when your fans are online
  3. Create specifically for Facebook
  4. Try videos
  5. Go live
  6. Share curated content
  7. Ask for opinions
  8. Boost your top posts
  9. Recycle your top posts
  10. Watch other Facebook Pages
  11. Experiment with new content
  12. Reply comments
  13. Host giveaways (occasionally)
  14. Create a linked Facebook Group

Let’s dive in!

1. Post less

Posting less grew our reach and engagement by three times.

Average Facebook daily reach visualization

But the main reason for the growth wasn’t just because we were posting less. It’s because posting less allowed us to…

focus on quality instead of quantity.

We were able to share the best content every day when we post only once or twice a day. When we were posting four to five times a day, we struggled to consistently find so much great content to share.

If you are a solo social media manager or a small business owner who handles your own social media, you might have experienced this before. Finding great content takes time, and you don’t always have the time to do that.

That said, if you are able to maintain the quality of your content while posting many times a day, don’t feel that you have to change your strategy. A few of our readers post more than 10 times a day to their Facebook Page and have found great success.

2. Post when your fans are online

We used to believe that there’s a universal best time to post on Facebook: early afternoon.

But not anymore.

We now believe that every brand has its own perfect time(s) to post. That’s because the best time to post depends on several factors that are specific to each brand: What industry are you in? Where is your audience based? When do your followers use Facebook?

A scientific way to find your best time to post is to look at your own data.

In your Facebook Page Insights, under the Post tab, you get data about when your Facebook Page fans are online for each day of the week.

Facebook Page fans data

Using your data, you can make educated guesses of your best posting time. I would recommend experimenting with times during both the peak and non-peak hours to see which works better for your brand.

3. Create specifically for Facebook

What works on Instagram or Twitter might not always work on Facebook. For example, hashtags are great on Instagram and GIFs are great on Twitter but both less so on Facebook.

It’s best to create your Facebook posts specifically for your Facebook Page.

With Buffer, you can easily customize your social media post for each platform when sharing to multiple platforms at once. You can even go one step further by customizing your article headline for your Facebook post.

Tailored posts

If you would like to give this a go, we would love for you to try Buffer for Business and experience the difference.

4. Try videos

If you’re wondering how to craft your Facebook posts, we think you should try videos.

From what we have seen this year, videos perform best on Facebook in terms of reach and engagement.

Facebook post types stats

The BuzzSumo study mentioned above also found that “videos now gain twice the level of engagement of other post formats on average”.

Here are three more tips to help you get the most out of your videos:

5. Go live


Facebook has also been pushing their Live videos a lot in this past year.

They tweaked their algorithm to rank live videos higher when they are live than when they are no longer live. Facebook reported that “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live” and “people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos”.

For our #impactofsocial celebration, we hosted five Facebook Live sessions, which received about 4,000 views and 30 comments on average.

Here’s a bonus: Your followers might be more likely to check out your content.

Social Media Examiner noticed that when they went live more often, their non-live content received more exposure. Their founder and CEO, Michael Stelzner, believes that when they go live, their fans are exposed to their brand even if they don’t watch the live video. That might have subtly encouraged them to check out Social Media Examiner’s Facebook Page.

To help you get started with Facebook Live videos, here are some ideas you can try:

  • Share behind-the-scenes of an event, your work processes, or your office
  • Host a Question-and-Answer or Ask-Me-Anything session
  • Interview industry experts using a software like BeLive
  • Explain or demonstrate how to do something
  • Discuss breaking news
  • Share weekly tips

6. Share curated content


It might feel weird sharing other brands’ content. That’s how we felt initially. But after experimenting with sharing high-quality curated content, the results changed our mind.

By sharing top-performing posts from sites like TechcrunchInc., and Quartz, we were able to reach a much bigger audience. For example, our recent 10 curated content reached 113,000 people on average.

We had less than 100,000 Facebook Page Likes until recently.

This helped us grow our Facebook Page, allowing us to share our own content with more people. Since the start of this year, our Facebook Page Likes have grown from about 79,000 to 100,000.

Facebook Page growth

There are two types of curated content you can share:

  • Third-party content from other brands
  • User-generated content from your customers

We mostly share content from other brands on our Facebook Page as that type of content resonates with our Facebook Page followers. Once in a while, we also share user-generated content from our community (which works amazingly on our Instagram account) on our Facebook Page. They tend to perform well, too.

Curated content

7. Ask for opinions

It might be obvious that people comment when they have something to say. But sometimes, we don’t offer them a chance to say anything!

Asking questions is a good way to offer our followers a chance to share their thoughts.

A practice I like is to share relevant news or blog post and ask our followers for their opinions. What to share might vary depending on your audience. If you have a professional audience, you might want to share industry news or articles. If you are a lifestyle brand, you might choose to share lifestyle news instead.

Here’s a recent example where we asked our followers for their thoughts on a thought-leadership blog post:

8. Boost your top posts

If you have a budget for Facebook advertising, consider boosting your top-performing posts. Your top-performing posts are proven content — content that is proven to engage your audience. This makes them suitable for a boost. With the right ad targeting, these posts would continue to engage more people, reach even more people.

And you don’t need a lot of money for this.

With a $40 daily budget, our boosted posts get up to roughly four times more paid reach than organic reach. As reach increased, engagement on the posts also went up.

Here are some recent examples:

Boosted post examples

9. Recycle your top posts

Besides boosting your top posts, you can also recycle them.

This will help you get more value out of your content. When you re-post a piece of high-quality content, it can often generate as much reach and engagement as the original post (sometimes, more) — essentially doubling the value of that content.

For example, we first posted a blog post as a link with a list as the caption.

Original post

As our followers loved it, we (boosted it and) re-posted it with a video. This time, it reached almost twice as many people and generated a little more engagement, with roughly the same ad spend.

Repost with video

Instead of reposting the top-performing post as it is, change the post a little. There are several ways you can make it look fresh again:

  • Add a video
  • Add an image
  • Ask a question

Generally, for Facebook, you would want to wait several weeks before reposting the same post if you are posting only once or two a day. This will prevent your followers from seeing the same post too often and getting bored of your Facebook posts.

10. Watch other Facebook Pages

The social media landscape is ever-changing. What’s working today might not work tomorrow. It can be helpful to learn from other Facebook Pages and see what has been working for them.

Facebook provides an excellent feature for this: Pages to Watch.

Facebook Pages to Watch feature

Pages to Watch allows you to compare the performance of your Facebook Page and posts with similar Pages at a glance. You can also easily check out each Page’s top posts by clicking on their Page name.

To access Pages to Watch, go to your Facebook Page Insights and scroll down to the bottom of the Overview tab.

11. Experiment with new content

Another way to keep up with the ever-changing social media landscape is to constantly experiment with new content.

Just a while back, images were the best type of content to drive engagement. Now, videos are taking the lead. Brands who started on video early before it became the norm were able to benefit from the trend the most.

Testing new types of content keeps you at the edge of the latest trends.

A technique we like to use was inspired by Coca-Cola’s 70/20/10 marketing budget rule.

Coca-Cola 70/20/10 rule

You can use this rule in many ways. Here’s how I like to think of it when it comes to testing new Facebook content:

  • 70 percent of your content should be the types of content that are already performing well now, such as videos and images.
  • 20 percent of your content should be iterations and improvements of your 70 percent, such as new types of videos.
  • 10 percent of your content should be experimental content, which might become the next big thing.

12. Reply comments


If you want your followers to engage with your Facebook posts, here’s something simple to try when they comment: reply to all their comments.

This would make them feel heard and be more willing to comment on your Facebook posts in the future.

There’s a psychological explanation for this, too. Moira Burke, who studied 1,200 Facebook users, found that personalized messages are more satisfying to the receiver than a simple Like.

Something we do at Buffer is to sign off each reply with our first name. This adds a personal touch to our replies. I like to think that many of our followers know that when they comment on our posts, they will be chatting with someone from Buffer and not simply commenting on a brand’s post.

Replies on our Facebook post

We use Buffer Reply to reply our followers on Facebook (and also Twitter and Instagram). Having all the comments in one single place makes it more efficient as we don’t have to jump from post to post.

Buffer Reply

13. Host giveaways (occasionally)

Our contest and giveaway posts generally get the most amount of engagement.

Here’s an example from last year:

There are two things we keep in mind while hosting such giveaways:

  • We do them only once in a while. Having giveaways regularly can sometimes annoy your followers (unless that’s the main objective of your Facebook Page). I would recommend leaving a few weeks or months between each one.
  • We give relevant gifts. Most of the time, our prize is our Buffer swag. That’s because we know that many of our followers would love to get a Buffer swag (and we are thankful for that) and they are the exact audience we want to engage with.

14. Create a linked Facebook Group


Finally, a potential resolution to the falling organic reach and engagement on Facebook is to start a Facebook Group and link it to your Facebook Page.

Linked Facebook Group

A Facebook Group with your most engaged followers would likely generate more discussions than your Facebook Page. My hunch is that the discussions in your Facebook Group will benefit your Facebook Page in several ways:

  • More awareness: As your members engage with one another in your Facebook Group, they likely have your brand at the top of their mind. You can also post and comment with your Facebook Page. All these might encourage your members to check out your Facebook Page, like live videos did for Social Media Examiner.
  • Facebook algorithm boost: This is purely a guess. Since your Facebook Group is linked to your Facebook Page, engagement in your Facebook Group might influence how your Facebook Page posts rank on your members’ News Feed.

If you are considering starting a Facebook Group, here’s our complete guide to starting and managing a Facebook Group.

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What have you been trying on Facebook?

If driving engagement on your Facebook Page has been challenging for you, I hope you’ve found one or two (or 14) tactics that might be useful to you.

One thing I would keep in mind when using these tactics is that it might take a while for the results to show. It took us some time to figure out what works for our Facebook Page. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t see an increase in engagement immediately.

Okay, that’s enough from me. I would love to hear about your Facebook Page strategy. What are some tactics you have tried and have been working (or not) for you? What are some of the tactics you would like to try going forward?

(If you liked this blog post, you might also like our blog post on the Facebook marketing tips that we had tested.)

Image credit: Unsplash

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Tax-avoiding mergers allowed U.S. companies to lower their initial tax bill by $45 million, CBO says

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(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

American companies that merged with foreign companies to avoid tax paid $45 million less in tax on average in the first year after the move, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

If current policy does not change, the agency projects future tax-avoiding deals will reduce tax receipts from corporations by 2.5 percent in 2027 — or $12 billion.

The idea behind the business maneuver, called a corporate inversion, is simple: a U.S. company merges with a foreign one and moves its headquarters abroad, avoiding the high U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

That effectively turns the U.S. corporation into a foreign company, taxed at the rate of its new home country.

According to the CBO analysis, companies that inverted between 1994 and 2014 experienced, on average, a $65 million drop in U.S. taxes in the financial year after the deal was complete. Their tax bills only dropped by $45 million, however, because they were paying more foreign taxes.

The first inversion occurred in 1983, according to CBO, but the deals have become notorious in recent years as a sign of the broken U.S. corporate tax code.

Politicians on both side of the aisle agree that inversions are a problem; on the campaign trail, President Trump criticized a proposed deal that would have allowed pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to leave the country to avoid taxes and President Obama called inversions one of the most "insidious tax loopholes out there."  But the sides have not agreed on how to address the problem, with Democrats introducing legislation to stop inversions and Republicans calling for comprehensive tax reform.

The practice has drawn more political scrutiny in recent years, due to an increase in the scale of the mergers being considered.

In the first nine months of 2014, 10 companies — with total assets of $300 billion — proposed inversions. Then, the Obama administration tightened the rules around such deals, making them less advantageous. Some of the biggest proposed mergers collapsed.

CBO is optimistic that the trend is slowing. Companies seeking to dodge taxes by inverting will have more trouble going forward, the agency said. That’s because the benefits will not always outweigh the costs, regulations could make it harder to pursue the strategy, or for practical reasons — there simply may not be a foreign company to merge with in a low-tax country.

 

 

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