Facing up to Facebook

Fighting FacebookFrom large corporate clients to small soloprenuers, marketers who are using Facebook business pages are fighting mad. Since about July 2012 it appears that the reach (number of people who have seen your posts) has been on a downward slide. At the same time, Facebook has been touting their paid programs. Pay to get your content seen and just like magic your reach will improve. Assuming the skeptics are right and Facebook is adjusting their algorithms to paint marketers into a corner in order to increase paid advertising, marketers must realize that  Facebook has every right to do this. They own the platform. They are a business. They need to make money. So what is the problem?

 

The problem is that Facebook continues to play the innocent child. They claim they are only thinking of the ideal world for their user and would never purposely offend or harm businesses.  Basically they deny that any changes are related to making money or satisfying investors. After all, to think about making money might look greedy and wouldn’t be “Facebook cool”.

 

According to Brittany Darwell’s recent post: News Feed, EdgeRank and page posts: what’s really going on with Facebook?,  “Facebook is continuing to improve its algorithms to show users the posts they are most likely to engage with and not show the ones they aren’t.” Ms. Darwell’s post continues in Facebook defense by reminding us that other than a short experiment in 2009, Facebook posts have never reached 100% of their audience. Today due to heavy competition from other pages, people, groups and even apps, Facebook feels the need to police content for the user to make it a better experience for all.

 

There are two unsettling questions in all of this confusion and controversy:

1. Why doesn’t Facebook just admit they are trying to make money? Any business owner knows you can’t keep offering something for free. The pressure to show positive gains is intense. As of closing on November 8, Facebook stock was below $20. This must have an impact on their decisions. Admit you’re a real business and need to make money and move on.

 

2. If you’re truly trying to serve the needs of your users, why on earth are you making decisions for them? In many ways Facebook is a glorified email system. We get messages from our friends, businesses we’re interested in and gain access to games or online content. So if it’s so much like email, why not let users manage it like email?

Facebook could focus their attention on giving brands the option to categorize their posts (i.e. promotions, news, fun) and let users choose what and how they want to hear from the brands they like. Assuming money still needs to be made, Facebook could make the option to categorize posts a paid option while allowing all posts to go through for free. At the same time Facebook would need to make it very easy for users to unfollow offending brands. Users will react just as they do to email they don’t want, they will unsubscribe, or in this case, unfollow your brand. Therefore, if you use Facebook selfishly, you’ll only hurt yourself.

Admittedly users can control what posts they see from brands today, but it’s clunky and forces actions that the user may not want to take such as liking a post, clicking a link, commenting, sharing, visiting the brand page or adding the brand to the interest list. If Facebook is for the user then they need to put more control in the user’s hands and stop trying to parent.

 

What’s the Take Away?

Facebook is a business. Facebook needs to make money. Facebook does not need to provide free space, free advertising or free anything. There is no point in complaining about Facebook’s algorithms or paid programs. Instead, know how to use Facebook to your advantage or get professional help to maximize its use. Never forget Facebook is just one tool in your marketing tool box and it is a tool you only have on loan. It can be changed or taken away at anytime. Be certain you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. Every business should have an online property (i.e. website, blog) that you “own” for your content.

 

 Image courtesy of Stockfreeimages.com and Strategy E-ssentials.
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About Karin Khuhro

Karin Khuhro is a Digital Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Copywriter. As the owner of Strategy E-ssentials she works with other savvy marketers, digital specialists and business leaders to bring knowledge, know-how and solutions to small and medium sized businesses. Connect with Karin on Google+ or Linkedin.

Comments

  1. Chad Baures says:

    I’ve been explaining to my friends and colleagues that Facebook only shows friends/followers a SMALL percentage of their updates and is NOT a good medium for sending email-like notes/invitation/etc.

    There aren’t any number I know showing how many of our PERSONAL friends see our posts; however, the numbers do show that only about 15% of posts to BUSINESS pages are then shown to that organizations Facebook followers.

    My Conclusion:
    If you want your friends or clients to get a specific message then email may be your best tool.
    If you want people to leverage social sharing to multiply the effect of your Word of Mouth marketing then Facebook is the right tool.
    In either case businesses should remember that they need a plan to communicate the value propositions that lead people to take action, an action that benefits BOTH the business and client.

    • Chad you are absolutely right. It’s challenging for people to understand that their message is not getting through 100% of the time (far less) and that FB is not a replacement for email. Recent stats are showing business pages that don’t use paid advertising are actually seeing quite a bit less than 15% reach in most cases. Your FB strategy needs to take this into account and find other ways to engage your audience so they don’t rely on the news feed alone.

      Thanks for sharing!