By Randy Parker, Founder & CEO of PagePart
The press has made a lot of fuss over Facebook’s changes to keep overly promotional posts out of our news feeds. Some think Facebook has pulled the rug out from under local business owners - first encouraging the cultivation of “likes” and now expecting payment in order to reach those fans.
As a result of these changes, many of you are seeing significant decreases in distribution of your posts (if you are a page admin, you will see the number of people reached under each post you make). The reach is often just a tiny fraction of your fans.
Social media consultants jumped on the bandwagon, decrying these changes. This has fanned the flames against Facebook so much that in a recent survey of small businesses, 67% of them said they would not pay for promotion on Facebook. However, if you read the comments by survey participants, those who had really tried Facebook advertising were frequently in favor of it, sometimes strongly so.
Where do we go from here? How do we move past the knee jerk response of "never, I won't pay" and do what is right for our businesses?
You can see the glass as half-empty, but it’s really half-full. You don’t want to be relying on a polluted medium. If Facebook does not clean this up its promotional policies, then we all suffer from viewers paying less attention to posts on their news feed. And it’s our own fault -- we all post too much. Facebook claims they have to choose just 100 or so posts to show you from over 1,500 possible posts. We’ve accepted that Google downranks promotion-only pages; soon we’ll accept that Facebook downranks promotion-only posts.
It was overdue. There is no free lunch. Facebook is a great place to reach customers. Of course this value needs to be captured for their shareholders. Name another reliable and profitable marketing channel that remains totally free to merchants. I’ll wait…
Ignore the power and value of this medium at your own peril. There is a lot more to come from Facebook. We’ve only seen the beginning of the powerful targeting they can provide with their intimate knowledge of your customers. What other advertising medium can let a pet shop owner place an ad ONLY to moms who live within 3 miles of the shop and haven’t yet purchased? That combination of demographic data, geographic data and integration with existing customer information is extraordinarily powerful.
So, like most changes in life, we can wring our hands over Facebook, or we can get on with accepting the changes that have come. We are small business owners – we’re too tough to give up. There’s certainly a way to make this work.
Here are three simple steps you can take to make Facebook keep working for you:
1. Learn about how paid Facebook ads might work for you.
Don’t think of paid Facebook ads as the enemy when they could bring you great success at a small cost. They are cost-effective and permit targeting that is unmatched. You can run promotional offers, during daytime only, to new moms, who live within five miles of your business. Or test a new product or service by running an ad that can only be seen by existing fans.
2. Posting great content is more important now.
So the standard “here’s a picture of our soup of the day” post may not get through, but maybe a puppy in a pumpkin costume is the photo to accompany your homemade pumpkin soup announcement. It’s all about posting something that will catch the eye. Here are some tips from Facebook.
3. Make Facebook a two-way medium.
Encourage engagement from your fans. Get them to respond to your posts, not by shouting, but by asking the right questions. For example, ask your fans things like, “What's your cure for the winter blues?” “Which of the following spring designs do you like best?” You can also offer exclusive deals to your fans to incentivize them to share your posts with others. Facebook sees engagement like this as a positive signal when deciding whether a post is worthy of display to others.
Finally, it's important to keep in mind that Facebook is changing rapidly. Along the way, they may make mistakes or communicate things poorly, but ultimately, they will get it right. And they must. After all, their monthly advertising revenue (more than one billion dollars per month) entirely depends on making ads that really "work" for small business.
About Randy Parker
Randy Parker is the founder and CEO of PagePart and the founder of Constant Contact, a highly successful online marketing suite for small businesses. He has been an advocate for very small businesses for 20 years, using his foresight and understanding of the mobile movement to help these business owners succeed.