If you spend time on Facebook, you’ve seen a great weeping and gnashing of teeth as Pages realize that they’re only reaching a tiny sliver of their audiences with each post.
Facebook’s noisy, overvalued IPO means they need a better revenue model. Page owners are being
strong-armed encouraged to pay to “Promote” posts to get a wider reach to the audiences they built in the first place.
For a business with a really large Facebook audience, this can run into tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Does this suck? Yes, it sucks.
Should you have seen it coming? Yes, you should have.
This phenomenon isn’t as new as people think it is. Pages never reached 100% of their subscribers. But a recent algorithm update does appear to be making things noticeably worse.
This morning we republished our post on digital sharecropping, which is the dangerous practice of building your online business on someone else’s (virtual) land.
The latest in a long line of Facebook messes is a prime example of just what makes that a dangerous strategy. And the dangers won’t stop with Facebook.
Social platforms are great tools for expanding your audience. But there are three things I want you to keep in mind if you still want to use Facebook (or any platform you don’t control) to promote your business.
Principle #1: Facebook owes you nothing
You may think they do. You may argue that you attracted a certain number of users to “Like” you, thus helping them build an audience they can show their spammy display ads to.
Facebook, much like honey badger, don’t care.
You can keep thinking that your relationship with Facebook is a two-way street. And you can keep being disappointed when Facebook pulls another lousy stunt and you get shafted.
Or you can use Facebook for what they’re good at — having conversations with people who might become customers. If you can do that without becoming dependent on Facebook, you’ll do fine.
Or you may decide that Facebook isn’t worth the effort. That’s fine, too. Contrary to what some will tell you, not every business “needs” to be on Facebook. It’s a tool — nothing more, nothing less. You need to make an informed decision about whether or not the tool makes sense for you.
Principle #2: Understand why people use the platform
People go to Facebook to share duckface selfies, pictures of grandkids, and memes from George Takei. Silly and personal are the watchwords.
Some businesses can fit into this pretty well. Health coaches, wedding photographers, and gluten-free cupcake bakers are part of their customers’ personal lives, so using Facebook (judiciously) can work well.
Nonprofits with the right message can also do well. The Occupy Sandy organization (or un-organization, as the case may be) uses Facebook and Twitter to quickly recruit volunteers and donations for hurricane relief and rebuilding in the Northeast. Their supporters’ webs of personal connections are incredibly well suited to this. It works.
It can even work B2B, if you have the right brand. Superstar business author and coach Pam Slim does a great job making audience connections on her Facebook page.
But you need to watch out for two things.
First, the minute you actually depend on Facebook for your business, they will change their terms of service in a way that causes you pain. Refer back to Principle #1.
Second, “engagement” does not equal “customers.” I see too many coaches in particular who have magnificent engagement on Facebook. They get tons of shares and comments and likes. But that’s not translating into business.
That’s not marketing, it’s an annoying hobby.
Principle #3: Facebook is an outpost, not your home base
I’m not here to trash Facebook. (That’s Brian’s longtime job.) I’m here to encourage you to use Facebook if it makes sense for you, and to protect yourself against the Terms of Service roulette.
One popular Page I saw was recruiting her Facebook fans to move to Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Never build up an outpost at the expense of your home base. Your home base is something you control — a place where you pay the bills and you make the rules. In other words, it’s your primary site.
Your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and any other fans/followers should have frequent opportunities to come back to your site for content they can only find there, and to subscribe to your email list for even more premium content.
Think of social sites as trade show booths. They’re excellent places to spark conversations, find new leads, and spread the word about what you do.
But you still have an office where the main work gets done. That’s your primary site. Keep it … well, primary.
Still want to use Facebook?
Next week, we’ll be running a detailed reference post on how to make the most of Facebook today, if you decide it’s a good outpost for you. [Editor’s note: to read said post, click here.]
We’ll talk about:
- How to reach more of your audience
- The advantages of images versus text-only posts
- Whether and how to use Promoted Posts
- Whether the Interest List will save your engagement
- What Page Notifications are and whether they can help
Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog updates so you don’t miss it.
And this week, do yourself a favor. Create a fantastically useful piece of content for your primary site. Use Facebook (or wherever else you hang out) to drive traffic to it.
Spend a little less time and emotional energy on your social media outposts, and a little more building the asset that contributes to your long-term business success.