Why Facebook Stopped Working for You and How to Change That

Not that long ago, it seemed like Facebook was going to be the great equalizer for smaller brands and local businesses. It was a cost-effective way to talk directly to the people who self-identified as fans. It was a heavily trafficked digital channel that didn’t require any web design, and you didn’t have to wait until you had enough content to fill up a newsletter. Best of all, it was free, free, FREE!

Facebook Icon with Smoke

(image courtesy of HTSABO)

Except it wasn’t, really. Sure, Facebook didn’t charge you anything to use their platform, but if you wanted to get people to like your page, you still had to buy those likes one way or another. (Anyone remember like-gated sweepstakes?)

The pitchforks and torches came out when page owners started to realize that Facebook was dialing down the organic reach of posts (even though some of the reason for that was that Facebook was dialing down the organic reach of crappy, overly promotional posts).

And you can’t blame them for being angry. After being told for years that they had to spend money to acquire as many fans as possible, suddenly page owners were being told that they needed to spend more money to reach those same fans who they already paid to acquire.

For a lot of business owners—especially small business owners—that was the beginning of the end of their relationship with Facebook. And that’s a shame, because Facebook still holds a tremendous amount of value for those same business owners.

PAY TO PLAY

As with so many healing processes, the first step toward reconciling with Facebook is acceptance. Take a deep breath and just accept the fact that, yes, you have to spend money to get the most out of Facebook. You don’t have to spend a lot, but you do have to spend something. If that’s upsetting, consider this: Facebook is also way more useful to your small business than it was when you thought it was free.

For starters, regardless of when you might have lost faith in it, Facebook has a lot more active users now than it did then, and that’s true whether you’re looking at global users or just US users.

Facebook’s ad platform has also matured significantly. There’s a reason that Google tried (and failed) to replicate it with Google+. No matter how carefully you craft an AdWords campaign, you’ll never target a more relevant audience than people who have already self-identified as fans of yours. And that’s what you’re doing whenever you boost a post to your audience.

Screenshot of Facebook Campaign Objectives

And seriously, if you haven’t checked out Facebook’s Ads Manager lately, give it a look. Did you know that you can exclusively target people within one mile of any address? Or that you can target potential customers who visited your site but never bought anything? Or that you can post a gallery of several product images, each of which link directly to the relevant product page on your site and automatically optimize for conversions?

If your view of Facebook Ads begins and ends with boosted posts and those little sidebar boxes that everyone ignores, then you owe it to yourself and your business to dig a little deeper (or let us help you do the digging).

CONTENT IS STILL KING

As mentioned previously, while it’s true that Facebook dialed down the organic reach of all page posts, they really clamped down on the ones that were excessively promotional. Obviously, Facebook would rather that you paid them to run an ad, rather than just distribute them for free to an audience that you paid to acquire once, a long time ago.

But there’s a more practical and, dare we say, slightly more altruistic reason for that. Facebook’s News Feed is built on a principle of surfacing content that is most likely to provoke some kind of engagement, because Facebook wants to create an experience that pulls you in every single time you visit. So posts that earn a lot of likes, shares, comments, etc. wind up in more News Feeds, and posts that don’t, don’t. Guess what doesn’t generate a lot of engagement? Boring, self-promotional posts by companies and brands that only talk about themselves.

If your immediate concern is getting new customers for your product or service, then this seems like a hassle and a cash grab on Facebook’s part. But it’s also part of Facebook’s strategy to keep marketers from driving off users by subjecting them to a non-stop barrage of content that they don’t care about.

So how do you win at Facebook? Understand your audience. Talk about what they’re interested in. Respond to them when they ask questions or leave comments. Be witty, or interesting or in some way useful. And when you have to promote something, accept that you’re going to need to spend money to do it, and take full advantage of all of the different ways that Facebook allows you to do that.

Want some help figuring out the Facebook strategy that works for you? Drop us a line and put us to work.