Facebook Marketing For Small Business: Dying Or Already Dead?

By December 9, 2013July 1st, 2015Social Marketing
Facebook Marketing For Small Business: Dying Or Already Dead?

I’m calling B.S.

According to this AdAge article, Facebook is about to make it (yet again) a little bit harder for you to get your posts in front of anyone.

Or should I say… harder to do it without paying for it?

The reason this bothers me? Irritates me? Puts me on a rant? Is not that Facebook is pushing businesses and marketers to pay for the honor of being seen but the way in which they’ve gone about it.

In other words, contrary to everything Facebook was supposed to be… you know, that “engaging” place, where we all got to “tell our stories” and have “meaningful conversations”.

Turns out that was corporate code for “get people entrenched before we yank the rug out and then force them to pay us to put it back.”

Here are a few things that you as a business owner and marketer need to know about the expected Facebook changes for business pages, why it matters and what you may want to think about so you can be prepared.

A Business’s Job Is To Make Money

Facebook is not in the business of making anybody happy. Facebook is in the business of making money.

And Facebook has a long track record of angering people and still managing to profit from it, so the lesson they’ve learned is clear: do what you want. People will get over it.

All you have to do is think back on just about any change Facebook has made. When they changed our news feeds. When they redesigned our Timelines. When they started sorting what we got to see and forced us to unsort it if we didn’t agree with their priorities. When they changed our privacy settings. When they changed our privacy settings. When they changed our privacy settings.

But we did get over it. And we kept going back to Facebook. And Facebook kept making money.

I’m not opposed to making money!

Nobody is in business to be altruistic. As a publicly-traded company, Facebook not only has a right to make money but it also has an obligation – to its stockholders and investors.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that Facebook has any other mission. The rest is marketing-speak, things that businesses and corporations say to soothe the unwashed masses.

Do you honestly believe that the news feed was changed to “improve our experience”? That adding “sponsored posts” and tacking our friends’ names onto ads not only without their consent but without their knowledge was an improvement? That hiding stories from us, that jacking other stories to the top, that requiring us to sift, filter and list things was an improvement?

The point is this: user experience and what YOU want – as a person or as a business – only matters insofar as it makes Facebook money.

If you start from that point then the rest becomes very simple.

EdgeRank Or Precursor-To-Death Rank?

We all had a bit of a meltdown when we first learned about EdgeRank – that odious algorithm that supposedly decided whether our posts were worthy of being seen by anyone.

According to EdgeRank, the more “engagement” we got, the more likely our posts were to be seen.

So we ran around posting fun photos, witty quotes, compelling questions and unique links. We sat around and waited for someone to like them. When that happened, our reach went from 30 people to 50 people. Win!

Meanwhile, only 15% (or so) of our fan base ever saw one of our posts, unless we got that coveted like or comment, then it might increase to 20% or 25% or on a particularly magical day, 50%.

It seemed to me at the time I first heard about EdgeRank that Facebook had forgotten that it’s not Google. We as users are not on Facebook to find the best results. We’re there to… wait for it… engage. It’s what they drilled into our heads as the purpose of the site, no?

Except suddenly Facebook wanted to decide what we got to engage with. And apparently Facebook decided that if one person liked a post, everyone else would, too. A great, big groupthink.

And to compound the frustration of EdgeRank, it was clear that Facebook also decided that any posts with links that led off Facebook – you know, to your website or blog or sales page – were not nearly as interesting as posts that kept people right where they were. Link posts were consistently demoted, almost 100% of the time – likes, comments and shares notwithstanding.

The good news, though, was that you did have some measure of control over how far your post reached. If you were clever or entertaining enough you could get those likes and comments and boost that post all over the place.

But now even that gravy train seems to be coming to an end. According to the news circulating about this generation of changes, Facebook will be reducing our reach even further by default. Now, instead of those initial 30 people seeing a post, you may only get 4.

And with a single-digit percentage exposure to your fan base, exactly how much engagement do you think you’re going to get in order to boost that post? I sure hope those four people are really, really, really dedicated fans!

Time For Some Unlearning

Remember how we were encouraged to “tell stories”? With photo-heavy posts? That were “visually engaging”? Seems like that’s going by the wayside, too.

Facebook is now demoting those types of posts – the memes, the photos, picture-quotes, the posts we could rely on to “engage”.

It is instead going to promote quality content; more specifically, not the photos and memes and image quotes and funny things we posted in the interest of boosting engagement and subsequently exposure.

It’s also going to start boosting link posts. Lest you think that’s good news, that applies specifically to news-based links from prominent media organizations.

Good for the Wall Street Journal. Not so good for small businesses. And so what if we post news links and get a ton of exposure? That doesn’t help our blog posts or webinar announcements or product launches or questions.

Oh, and I don’t know about you but I write some pretty darned good “quality content” yet somehow I don’t think that links to my blog are what Facebook intends to promote.

No, there are ads for that.

Killing Us With Hypocrisy

That’s a strong word. I debated using it.

But here is the quote from Facebook’s recent document outlining its changes that convinced me to use it:

“We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

Uh-huh.

Is there anyone who believes that and who doesn’t read between the lines to hear, “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure that businesses pay more to advertise and contribute to our bottom line?”

If you don’t believe that, there’s also this:

“We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

And if you still don’t believe that, I really, really, really want to hear from you.

Again, Facebook’s desire to make money is not a bad thing. If they want to continue to exist then it’s a good thing.

But to couch it in terms of “creating a meaningful experience” and “reducing spam” is just as disingenuous as it was when Google told us they were taking away the keywords in our analytics for “privacy reasons” (Google rant coming next, please stay tuned…)

Few things rile me quite as much as listening to someone try to snow me. I listen to telemarketers do it. I listen to salespeople do it. I listen to banks and car dealers and even other marketers try to do it.

Reading everything Facebook has said on the matter of stripping away our post reach just makes me wonder how stupid they think we are.

So welcome to Facebook’s marketing department, everyone. You have been recruited – some five years ago, now – to get more and more people on Facebook and following your brand and engaging so it would become ingrained in their psyche. Thank you for your time and dedicated efforts to building Facebook’s platform. You can start paying now.

The Flip Side

No, not the flip side of the rant or the hypocrisy, but the flip side to the idea of being forced to pay to promote our posts to our fan base.

And that’s this: what’s the incentive for a consumer to like a page if that consumer knows the only thing he will ever see from a brand is a paid ad?

That’s what we’re being reduced to. No longer engagers and community-builders on Facebook, we are now simply advertisers supporting an ad platform.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to pay $5 to “boost” every post to ensure that a fraction more people get to see my witty quote or blog link.

I can’t afford to “pay to play” so to speak. I bet a whole lot of small businesses can’t, either.

And what if we have a product or book or event to promote? Well, then we’ll pay, because we want the eyeballs and hope for the conversions. But what happens when the only thing our fans see anymore is promotional content?

Just this weekend we sent out a dozen Facebook posts, some linking to our blog, some news, some to the blogs and articles of other marketers we know and value. Perhaps the 20 people who saw them found them worthwhile.

Sadly, the other 900-or-so people will only ever see our advertisements.

I suppose if we were Coca Cola or Walmart or Disney offering coupons and discounts and freebies, that wouldn’t be so bad. But it seems as if we small businesses have been relegated to sometimes-advertisers who can offer little to no incentive for people to like us on Facebook other than “so we can occasionally tell you about stuff we want to sell”.

Bitter, Much?

So far this has been a big ‘ol bunch of sour grapes, hasn’t it?

The truth is, I heard about these changes and rolled my eyes and said, “Whatevs. Like we didn’t see that coming.”

My marketing basket is wide. Facebook can come and Facebook can go and it won’t put all that much of a crimp in my efforts.

But then I read that AdAge article and the complete BS birthed this post. I told you I hate to be snowed, right?

And then I started thinking about my small business clients (and prospects) who are either fairly new to social media or just getting educated. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, too, about how they have to be on Facebook and how everyone is on Facebook and how they need to try Facebook.

And I just look at them and ask them if they know that fewer than 10% of any fans they recruit will ever see their content unless they pay for ads. And every time, without fail – even some who have been using Facebook for a while – look at me with wide-eyed surprise.

“Really?” they say.

“Really,” I say.

“Oh,” they say, and there goes my job. Guess I’m not as good at building Facebook’s platform as I used to be.

Time To Get Real About Marketing

You may have spent years building your fan base just for the privilege of showing your posts to half a dozen people on any given day. It’s about to get worse.

If you’ve been paying attention and diversified your marketing then this will be a bit of a thorn in your side as you recall the effort you put into earning and engaging fans. It will blip across your radar and you’ll move on.

If not, you’ve got a bigger problem.

Either way, you’ve got options.

The most obvious is simply to pay to play and pay to advertise. If you can afford that (and you haven’t done anything dumb like buy fans) then you’ve got a targeted base that you can spend on.

Boost, promote and advertise to your wallet’s content. It may be worth it to you to build a fan base that serves as your go-to advertising target.

Another option is to find another social network. There are plenty, from Twitter to Google Plus to Pinterest to Instagram to more off-the-beaten-path communities like Reddit.

You customers are somewhere else, trust me. And will you have to put all that work and effort into finding them and getting to know them and engaging them all over again? Yup. Just make friend with that idea now.

If you do that, be just as mindful that any social network and any site can change its rules at any time – whether they benefit you or not.

Which leads me to the best advice that I can give you and it’s this: grow your own platform.

I don’t mean build your own Facebook, but your home base. Your website. Your email list. Instead of insisting on people liking or following or friending, how about insisting they subscribe? Instead of recruiting people to Facebook and contributing to their ad base and profits, how about getting people on board your train? One person who lets you into their email inbox is a lot more valuable that a hundred offhand clicks of the like button.

Once you have your own website and your own email list you can build your own perfectly targeted community of people where you get to make the rules. Want to send photos? Memes? News? Offers? It’s your playground.

Nothing hurts me more than to see people spending time tweeting and Facebooking while their last blog post was sometime around 2012 and they say things like, “What email list?”

Finally, for you solos and personal brands out there, my advice would be to skip the Facebook business page entirely and stick with a personal page. After all, YOU are the face and heart and soul of your business.

There are limits to how many friends you can have – 5,000 to be exact – but wouldn’t you rather have 5,000 targeted, personally-selected connections who actually get to see your posts than 50,000 button-clickers, perhaps 5% of whom (2,500 if you’re doing the math) may see your posts?

I know a whole lot of small businesses that are pretty happy with their 200 fans. The friend limit doesn’t sound like such a deal breaker to me.

Don’t Be Angry. Be Smart.

Funny, coming from someone who just had a 2,000 word rant, right? I feel so much better now, though.

Facebook has been disingenuous from the day it started and apparently we’re perfectly ok with that because we continue to hang out there and post our dinner photos there.

But once we digest the newest nonsense and realize it’s just more of the same nonsense we can move on. To Twitter. To Google Plus.

To our own websites.

If there’s only a single thing you take away from this it’s that you need a strong platform of your own that doesn’t rely on a third-party.

And then you can get about the business of deciding how Facebook may or may not fit into your marketing.

If you need help figuring that out, or if you’re inspired to boost your website instead of a single Facebook post, let me know. I’d love to help.

And if you have any thoughts on the changes, or ideas for making the most of them, let me know in the comments.

Oh, and why not Circle us on Google Plus? At least for now…

Join the discussion 58 Comments

  • Claire Pitts says:

    Brilliant article, thank you.
    It validates what I’ve been saying for a long time, which is that small businesses need their own website. Reliance on Facebook is the same as working for Facebook.
    Have to say I didn’t realise it was as bad as this though, so thanks.

    Think I’ll share it on Facebook 🙂

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      lol, thanks Claire 🙂 We stand a lot better chance of getting our posts noticed as individuals than as businesses!

      This new round of changes is specifically directed at getting businesses to pay to have their posts seen. Last I checked, it was minimum $5 to “boost” a post to a few more fans. Imagine doing that several times a day? Or even once a day? How about even once a WEEK? Over time that adds up, so those posts had better be leading toward conversions.

      I always advise people to put their best efforts into their websites. If you own it, nobody can change the rules on you. Thank you for reading!

  • Lisa Buben says:

    Carol, Facebook for small businesses is way too challenging and now costly and timely! Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest are fantastic options. I’ve always said never to put all your social eggs in the Facebook basket.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Facebook has sucked people in like the vacuum of social media. We had to see this coming, its been moving this way for a long time. And you’re right, there are other social networks!

  • augieray says:

    “A Corporation’s Job Is To Make Money.” True–but while you attribute it to Facebook, don’t forget that pertains to all those “small businesses,” too. In the end, users win (and so does Facebook) when consumers’ news feed show what people want to see–not a string of promotional posts from SMBs and large brands but things shared by friends and family.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thrilled with Facebook’s strategies, either, but I sometimes think we forget that in the last five years EVERY brand, small and large, embraced Facebook expecting it to be the path to free earned media. But that’s not what the CUSTOMER wanted–if we signed on and simply saw a string of posts from every business we “fanned,” we’d stop signing in. More brands showed up on the platform and they posted more often, but consumers only have so much appetite for business posts.

    The paywall that is making it harder for brands to get through may be a revenue strategy for Facebook, but it also helps to protect users’ newsfeeds from becoming a feed of things businesses want to say rather than a feed of things consumers want to see.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Hm, I agree and disagree… to clarify, I am separating corporations from SMBs from the standpoint that a corporation has a LEGAL responsibility to earn money for its stockholders. We do not. We can make money, lose money, give things away, to our heart’s content. Of course we ALL want to make money in business and that’s a given. But our driving impetus is not the same. There’s even some debate over whether a corporation should give money to causes – as that takes it away from their stockholders. We have no such restrictions.

      I do agree that people do not sign onto Facebook to see promotional posts. There is, however, a very simple solution to that: don’t “fan” pages if you don’t want to see the content! You also have the ability to hide posts from pages or individuals. I believe, however, that the new paradigm is going to force people to see MORE promotional content. EdgeRank mitigated the “overwhelm” effect to some extent but now that we’re essentially being required to pay for ANY of our posts to be seen, doesn’t that turn all of our content into promotional and paid ads? As an SMB who can’t afford a daily $5 to “boost” an interesting story or bit of information, my fans will likely only see the next thing I advertise to them. That is, to your point, NOT why they joined Facebook. Nor is it why they became a fan of my page in the first place.

      I don’t agree with the idea that news feeds will be what consumers want to see. Facebook has already tinkered with that so much that here’s what I see: ads, occasionally “sponsored” posts, “you may like” suggestions (ie: more ads), endless game requests, whatever story someone posted that got a lot of comments even if I’ve already seen it ten times and a pseudo-sorted list of things Facebook has decided that I want to see.

      I have to work pretty hard to see things that my real friends and family post and it has nothing to do with page content intervening (I like very few pages and only those of personal friends). Sometimes I go days without seeing a single post that my own husband makes, unless I seek it out. I wonder how Facebook comes up with that priority?

      As to expecting “free”, you’re absolutely right… Facebook has never been “free” and this is something businesses didn’t want to believe. So lots of people jumped on someone else’s platform and rode that gravy train. Now reality is setting in. It can happen with any social network or any site that isn’t our own.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I really appreciate it.

      • augieray says:

        Thanks Carol. Great discussion!

        While SMBs may not be legally required to make money, the fact is that SMBs still WANT something from others. While friends may post to inform, entertain or share info that friends want to see, SMBs post to get a beneficial response. There is a different intent when Augie Ray posts than when Augie LLC posts.

        And as for not following brands you don’t want to hear from, I absolutely agree, but remember that people follow many SMBs to demonstrate support, not because they want to see brand posts every week/day/hour. (Facebook made a giant mistake by not separating “like”–a signal of advocacy–from “subscribe”–a signal that I want to hear from the brand at least periodically.)

        I use an analogy to supply and demand with respect to Facebook and commercial posts. In the past five to ten years, companies of all sizes went from talking with consumers rarely (a periodic campaign, an occasional direct mail piece, a weekly or monthly email) to trying to have a constant daily/hourly “conversation” with customers via Facebook and Twitter. But while the ‘supply’ of branded communications has skyrocketed, the ‘demand’ has not–consumers still have two ears, two eyes and VERY limited attention for commercial communications. As with any supply-and-demand curve, the price is dropping on branded content, and since consumers don’t actually pay cash for content, the price is dropping in other ways–organic engagement (thus the need to pay for it), trust and attention.

        I don’t see more promotional content than before, unless you do not consider free/organic branded content to be promotional. I do–whether a brand pays to get onto my timeline or gets there for free, it’s still commercial/branded/promotional content to me. And, while I agree it is tougher for brands to get there without paying, I still see some brand posts from companies that aren’t paying but with which I engage (such as my former employer, USAA.)

        I just think we marketers acted as if Facebook had delivered a new, free way to get people to see more of our promotional content, but it didn’t. That was never its intent. I just have a hard time blaming Facebook for 1) protecting consumers’ news feeds from the flow of branded content marketers want to deliver, and 2) monetizing the fact that consumers use Facebook and marketers want to reach them there.

        Don’t forget, the best marketing isn’t a brand posting but a customer/advocate posting, and those posts still get through every time. The more marketers can do to encourage others to post rather than focusing on their own campaigns, the better.

        Thanks for the conversation.

        • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

          I did make a qualification (and correction) to the post after talking to you… I realized I wasn’t being clear about “corporation” when what I was really referring to was a *publicly-traded* corporation.

          Also to clarify, I’m making a distinction between “buy/join/act” promotional content and “here’s a cool news story that might interest you” type of content. The former is what we will (in my opinion) end up seeing more of because SMBs won’t have the resources for the “fun” soft-sell anymore.

          I see a lot of promotional content by way of ads and sponsored “stories” and at this point, most of that is experimental. Wait until it’s mainstream!

          Also, being a SMB and knowing so very many of them, we tend to take more of a “relationship building” approach to social media rather than a selling approach. Not to say we don’t promote and advertise but there is a lot less by way of coupons and deals and stuff that keeps people interested in big brands. So it’s a big lose for us – paying to schmooze online isn’t in the budget 🙂

          I totally agree that too many businesses took the free lunch and expected it to stay that way. We have this odd expectation that everything should be free on the internet – our music and movies, content and networking, marketing and you name it! It’s a wake up call. Not surprising or unexpected or even wrong – just a fact and smart businesses will make sure that they understand the dynamic.

        • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

          Also I forgot to mention… YES to like vs subscribe!

  • Mike Brooks says:

    This is an interesting discussion that will continue to rage on. Facebook is the breakthrough company. They didn’t invent social media but they brought it into the mainstream. While I still post to my page and do so for clients, it is now not the end all, be all. There are many, many social networks out there. Many new and exciting ways to connect with people. I say we all forget about the tool and go out and just worry about connecting.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      I totally agree – we put way too much faith and effort into one “tool”. Maybe now people will start to get it – if you don’t own it, you don’t control it. And also something about no free lunches, huh? We post to our page, too, but holy cow sometimes you have to wonder why. Fewer and fewer people seeing them. We’re definitely putting less effort into it. These days a “like” is more like a “cool, I approve” than any real interest. And on we go!

  • Nicole Fende says:

    Well written post Carol Lynn. As I’ve said countless times, I was dragged kicking and screaming onto FB. I’ve never depended on it, or even used it as a primary source or leads. I’ll keep a presence there, however what you’ve shared has just reaffirmed why it’s NOT my main focus for marketing.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      I hate to be a marketer with a social marketing product line and consistently hate on social networks but it’s just reality. Better to go into it eyes-open than depend on it and get knocked out.

  • susanpayton says:

    Carol–
    How do you REALLY feel? 🙂 I’m so over Google and Facebook making changes that upset the apple cart. Like you, I don’t rely on any one tool in the marketing mix too much for this very reason. Change upheaves everything. Excellent rant, by the way!

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Why thank you! Sometimes it just feels good to get it out 🙂 The problem is too many people don’t see Facebook and its ilk as tools. If we could ring THAT bell, we’d be having a lot fewer of these conversations!

  • Ironically, I saw the link to this post on G+ — not Facebook. LOL And while I still occasionally sponsor a post (you’re right! the ones I sponsor ARE promotional!), the only thing I really use FB for anymore are the groups. Many more actual conversations happening. And a great place to do some research, too.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Totally agree on groups. It’s the one haven left. Maybe that’s the trick for SMBs… skip the fan pages, go for a group. A lot smaller and more targeted and manageable. Still I wouldn’t put too much faith in that either, at least not insofar as it continuing to be “safe” forever. Next week FB could decide to do away with groups. No ad opps. Who knows.

  • Frederic Gonzalo says:

    Well, that was quite the rant, Carol Lynn 😉
    I also took notice at this recent AdAge article and the findings regarding Facebook marketing, now that they’re admitting organic content will be even less effective than ever, making brands pay to achieve results.

    I think you sum it up pretty well, and it’s what I keep telling my clients: focus on your owned media, i.e. website, email lists, blog, podcasts or case studies. Sure, social media like Facebook help to have the content spread to wider audiences, but we obviously need to reconsider the spending, considering the low results now achieved because of a stricter EdgeRank.

    Cheers from snowy Quebec City!
    Frederic

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      I wish more people paid attention to their own media! Maybe this will be an eye-opener. Sadly, we have to make sure people know about the algorithm in the first place. Plenty of people still don’t understand that.

  • Seems to me that if your business uses a C2C model (ours doesn’t), then advertising on Facebook to its 500 million or so users means it’s still relevant as a marketing tool.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      There’s a difference between marketing and advertising. You can advertise to your heart’s content as long as you’ve got the money. As for the marketing, the sharing and conversing and discussion… that will slowly die for small businesses.

  • I couldn’t have written this better myself. I’m pretty pissed at how my organic reach diminished just overnight on my fan page, and I’ve been leaning towards more on my website, solidifying my mailing lists, and spending more time on other platforms. Rant on, it’s all true, and it sucks.

  • Sylviane Nuccio says:

    Hi Carol,

    Well, that’s a very interesting one right there. Probably took me 40 minutes to read 🙂 but what a great read.

    That’s why I always say that the only site where we have full control is OUR own private one. May they be called Facebook, Squidoo or Google+ they will always do what they want to do in the end, and because they are so big, they don’t even care at all if we like it or not or if we leave or not.

    It’s their home, their rules and we are only little guests there, that may or may not be allowed to do something.

    Of courses, I’ll do other more important things before I pay $5 to promote a post, because they may be big but they’re not alone either. They do have tons of competition where to turn to.

    Thank you for this super post, and have a great day!

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Hi Sylviane,

      Well thanks for your persistence though I’m sorry I took up so much of your time 🙂

      I agree that Facebook is not the only game in town! It’s too bad so many businesses spent so much time building up an audience and now it looks like they are going to lose it unless they pay up.

      Fortunately we still have groups. But in the meantime I will be doing what you said and find more important things to do! Thanks for stopping by and for getting through the whole thing!

  • Hey Carol,

    I don’t care about FB, not anymore (the only reason I visit FB these days is to keep myself updates on the comics industry; I am a great comics fan). I still have a fan page, and I post regular updates, but I think I do that out of conformity.

    Reading this blog post has discouraged me from investing more time into FB. Perhaps I should just spent that time on other social networking sites, where I can get better results?

    As for Facebook not caring about users’ complaints, I am not surprised. The same thing goes for governments. One of the biggest problems with today’s world is getting over what we don’t like.

    When the governments (or corporations) of the world does something that enrages the public, most of the public doesn’t respond – I mean, they do spend an enormous amount of time discussing the issues, but no action. So, the governments continue to do what they do.

    Same goes for any public issues. Sure, we all are happy to like that post about children not getting enough food or water, but how many of us really take any action to help them?

    (I am not going to go further….let’s get back to the topic).

    Our blog should be our community. It should be our number one priority (plus, it is under our complete control, relatively speaking).

    I do appreciate you sharing this rant, Carol 🙂 I am probably going to keep maintaining my Facebook page, but I will be thinking about it. I am not going to waste my efforts on a site that only cares about making money.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      You have a point there about governments and corporations! The problem is exactly what you said – people get angry and talk about it but no action is taken. You made a great point about people liking the photos of children and other causes but that’s always been a big problem for those types of organizations – people “like” it but don’t act. It doesn’t translate to donations they way you might hope so it’s mostly a meaningless gesture.

      As for Facebook, the problem is not that they want to make money – they have to or they will go out of business – I personally don’t like the way they’re doing it. They’re making it almost impossible for small businesses to market there. And maybe that’s how they want it, just big brands paying a lot to get noticed even more. In the meantime I think it is not a great marketing platform for small businesses anymore. I would much rather see someone put their time and money and effort into building a great website and a great emil list. Like you, we’ll continue to have a presence there but I certainly won’t be wasting my time worrying too much about it.

      • Yup. I have read that our brains have a hard time to visualize big numbers (and that being the reason for us to not be moved by the statistics that are presented to us…not enough to convince us to take any action).

        I am not sure whether that is true (I hope it to be true, because if it is not, well then the only other explanation I can think of is selfishness).

        Yeah, that’s probably what they want (They might be earning a lot more from a few big companies than a million small businesses).

  • Whoa Susannah says:

    Well, this was brilliant. I was *just* about to pay for some FB fans, but what you said about focusing more on my email lists really struck a chord with me. I will save that cash for a charity like homeless pets or something worthwhile. While most of my 750 fans can still see my updates, I’ll plead for them to subscribe to my blog instead of paying them to see my Clark Griswold memes and status updates about Wal-Martians in rubber corsets and Pooh Bear pj pants. Thanks for writing this!

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Hm. Based on that I REALLY want to see your Facebook page 🙂

      You can certainly spend wisely on ads on Facebook, but as for marketing (and sharing those fun photos and things), that is slowly dying. Our reach has plummeted in just a couple of weeks, it’s quite remarkable. But to your point… YES, grow that email list!

  • Alain Azzam says:

    Excellent post, Carol. Here’s an idea: why don’t we start an Open Source platform, where decisions on the platform are taken by the community at large? What exactly would prevent us from starting this seriously? Community-funded. $1 a year per user. When you connect, you can import all of your Facebook data! Revenues from publicities and memberships go to the local communities. If your area generated 1M, a project is created in your area for this amount. Where’s my Nobel Prize??

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Go for it! I’m on board 🙂 They say Facebook has 500 million users, right? At $1 a year that’s not hard math to do! A social platform to the networking world as WordPress is to the blogging world. Perhaps we’ll be fortunate enough to see that happen.

  • Mike Wise says:

    AWESOME post. Thanks for taking the time to research, write, and share. Btw, I learned about this post from Disqus as a Disqus Follower of @augieray:disqus – so another important aspect of Social Tech: Blogs – yes, but Commenting Tools, too.

    I’ve got one thing to add that hasn’t been mentioned yet. @HubSpot and Inbound Content Marketing. HubSpot has been doing a terrific job these past several years in Content Marketing and building their own lists and spreading themselves around all the SN’s and enabling their employees as brand ambassadors, etc. etc. etc.. I believe that HubSpot, along with Marketo, Eloqua, and the other “Marketing Automation” category players, is the critical next-gen architecture for Web sites.

    Curious on your thoughts, as well as other readers. Isn’t it super important that, circa 2014, Web sites be as powerfully sophisticated as possible?

    Oh yeah, one other thing: I also really like the idea of proprietary networks built on tools like Jive Software. In my mind, Crowdsourcing and Virtualization are the future. Internal Collaborative Networks will be crucial. And to the corresponding point of “Profile Burnout”, it’s just a matter of time before someone invents the “My Profile” app that facilitates the User ID process – so that we DON’T have to use Facebook, Twitter, or Google for that.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Hi Mike,

      First, I’m glad you found us and I love the path! Definitely proves the point of blogs and communities. I’ve found a lot of people through commenting platforms. So underrated… sounds like a topic for another post, I think!

      To your point about tools like Hubspot, that’s an interesting thought. It’s quite possible that those will spread farther and wider and they do offer a lot of great tools that streamline marketing and give you plenty of analytics to work with.

      The concern I see with those platforms is part of what you mentioned, which is the proprietary nature. Once you’re using a tool like Hubspot you’re pretty much committed. You can’t pick up your site and move quite as simply as if you had something like WordPress. There’s no such thing as a simple migration, no matter what kinds of site you have, but in my experience, at least with a lot of the businesses I’ve worked with, there are time and budgetary constraints that make the “always on” marketing paradigm of Hubspot a bit of a challenge.

      It’s a non-negotiable ongoing cost (as much as I try to convince clients that marketing is ongoing, sometimes it’s impractical to think there won’t be a break or hiatus) and unless someone has a lot of time on their hands, it’s cost for a consultant.

      I think those are great tools and can serve a purpose for the right kind of business. Some businesses are in a different space – I’m thinking of some local clients with super small audiences whose websites are more informational. So I think there is room for automation and room for “other”.

      I do, however, think that a website is where the action is. Websites have to serve their purpose for their intended audience. Whether they’re high tech or strictly text – what do those website customers want and need? What will drive sales and conversions? Once those decisions are made, the rest follows.

      I think businesses who are getting on board with their websites in 2014 are already behind the curve! So yes, those sites have to be powerful – whatever that means in the context of the business – and they have to be home base. The rest, including social networks, are just tributaries that lead in.

  • Chris Carter says:

    Such AWESOME information…. thanks SO much for sharing it all and I am nodding all the way through. YES! Ugh. Off to get subscribers…. 🙂

  • Adrienne says:

    Hey Carol,

    Well I for one appreciate your rant so thank you for getting that off your chest and I’m feeling ya girl.

    I knew this crap was coming as soon as they went public! Hello!!! Now I have a serious question for you. I don’t have a business page to necessarily sell to everyone although when the time is appropriate I have used it for that. I also don’t even have a 1,000 fans so do you think it’s best to just get rid of the business page and stick with my personal page? I mean I have some good connections there that I’d like to keep for personal reasons but if no one is really going to see what I share anymore then why the hell hang around right!

    I’m sure not paying to boost my content since I don’t have a huge following to begin with. I’m not going to lose any sleep over getting rid of my business page but I’ll probably hang around because I have family there that post pictures I still would love to see. I’m thinking that eventually that will all stop too. Man, that really ticks me off but what do you expect. I knew Facebook was going to the dogs.

    Thanks for sharing this Carol and I’ll look forward to your response.

    ~Adrienne

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Adrienne, I think you’re a prefect example of someone who could do with a personal page instead of a business page. Now, that would mean you have to add all your “fans” (or whoever wants to stick with you) as “friends”. Depending on how you use your personal page, that might be good or bad. Once you add people as friends, you are opening up your personal Facebook page to a lot more people who may be business connections but not really true friends and family. If you’re ok with that, then I say go ahead because you already have great relationships with people so you’re not going to just spam them with junk in their news feeds, and they like you already so why not be “friends”?

      For me, I don’t use Facebook to post personal things. I am connected with a lot of real friends and family and I do post photos of my cats and my dinner and all that sort of thing! But I also have plenty of connections to clients and leads, so I am mindful of what I say and I always make sure it would be ok to say it in public. Some people prefer to only have connection on Facebook who are personal and they don’t mix it with business.

      If you don’t mind mixing it up, then that would be a better way to keep your relationships and also get people to see what you post. Otherwise, you’re going to end up reaching only a handful of people. We have just about 1000 fans and yesterday we posted something that even got shares and comments and do you know how many people saw it? 24! Out of 1000! Makes you feel like it’s a waste of time.

      I would say that if you’re comfortable with having personal connections and business connections then invite people over to your personal page. You’ll have a lot better chance of reaching them!

      • Adrienne says:

        Thanks Carol for giving me your opinion. My personal page is below a 1,000 friends as well mainly for this reason but a lot of bloggers like to connect with me on my personal page too because I don’t allow you to see anything unless we’re friends. I don’t even post a lot of real personal stuff there but I have old school friends and my relatives that connect with me there as well.

        I do share blog posts on my personal page but they’re more relationship type stuff or tech things people love. I don’t share “business type posts” on my personal page so that would definitely change.

        Problem is, no one is hardly seeing it on my business page anyway so I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. Damn, this just really ticks me off but just one more thing that I can tell is something I don’t need to be wasting my time with.

        Thank you Carol.

  • Adi says:

    It does seem bizarre that you have a group of people that you’ve gone out of your way to build, yet Facebook filter which of those people see anything from that group on their homepage.

    Kinda past the point of caring much about what Facebook do. Are they any closer to dying off do you think?

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      I really doubt they’re dying off, though it would be nice to see them slide into reality with the rest of us. They have a deceptive revenue model and we, as spectators, get no say in the matter. There’s no reason to market there anymore. Advertising, maybe, if you’ve got the money. Otherwise there are plenty of other options!

  • Gazalla Gaya says:

    Hey, Carol Lynn. Excellent stuff. I feel exactly the same way about Facebook and have decided that I’m going to spend little time trying to engage on that platform. Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, all the blog sharing networks are much better – am even going to start on Pinterest. Facebook just wants to squeeze the poor small business owners and like Google they’ve learned that they are big enough to be the 7-foot bully on the beach that no one can do anything about. The more marketers and brands ignore them, the better it is for everyone. They will be forced into being nice!

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      I wish that would happen, Gazalla! Part of the problem is that the big brands will keep spending and the average consumer doesn’t know what’s going on, so it won’t matter to them. It just annoys me that Facebook basically said ok, bring everyone to us, thanks, and goodbye. There are a million ways to make money. Do you know what I would have preferred? If they had just said, hey businesses, it’s $10/month to have a page. Pay or get off. At least that’s paying for a service and you can choose to, or not. But this nonsense with “taking away” our reach. Imagine if Hootsuite said ok everyone, you can use our service for free, but we’re only going to send out your posts SOMETIMES, maybe one out of ten. HA! Well, I’m moving on. No point in putting effort into something that will yield almost nothing. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on Google Plus 🙂

  • Misa Jovcic says:

    You don’t have to lie down at the spot where FB update has thrown you…

  • ArtsyShark says:

    Thanks for your rant on this, Carol. But not just for that – for emphasizing to small businesses out there that it really is their own email list that they have the most control over. Putting yourself and your business at the mercy of any platform can’t be a good thing.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Absolutely – and that’s true for any platform. If you don’t own it, you can’t control it and then you’re at the whim of someone else’s business.

  • You know what ticks me off? Not that we have to pay to play.. we all knew that was going to happen eventually and I’ve been telling my clients for over a year to expect it. What ticks me off is that the pages that ARE spending money are still taking a hit. I have one client with over 5k likes and they’re spending on average, $300 a month and the number of eyes on their posts is still around THIRTY. That’s insane. And their content is good. I’m afraid that FB has backed itself into a corner on this one because they’re only interested in the whales and not the millions of little fish.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      You might be right. Time will tell how this plays out for small businesses and also for Facebook. There’s a lot you can do with $300 a month that’s more effective than reaching 30 people.

  • Josh says:

    I am not bothered by these changes because I expected something like this. I am not saying I am prescient because I am not but as you mentioned Facebook has behaved like the proverbial 800 pound gorilla for years.

    They do whatever they want and I have long been worried about what happens if they decide my page or a client’s violates their TOS.

    They could pull it down without notice and we might not ever get it back. So at best I saw it as an outpost.

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Using Facebook as an outpost is smart! Any platform that we don’t own should be exactly that. If we can’t control it… well, we see what can happen!

  • Angela McCall says:

    Hi Carol,

    Ya know first it was Google who now charge you for “keywords” and now THIS. I do remember Facebook asking me that my timeline will change and that my friends will not see my posts. I thought what the heck….do I even have a choice!? If they wanna change things I have no say…

    So you said it’s better if you use your personal Facebook one than business page right? So if I post something on my personal profile ALL my friends can see my post on my timeline right?

    I only have 295 people on my business fan page. So even if post something there chances are these people will never see my post. However I have over 1200 people on my personal facebook profile. Do you think I should just keep my personal profile and dump the business page?

    Angela

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      It’s tough to say whether you should keep the business page without knowing anything about what you’re doing, but in most cases, it won’t hurt you to keep your business page if you update it once in a while so it doesn’t look dormant. If you have a lot of personal connections who are interested in your content, you could always share it on your personal page. (Or you could share it in both places).

      • I swear a month ago I saw this statement on top of my timeline that said, “Your friends will not be able to see your post anymore.” I thought what the heck….are they joking or what? No wonder my sister doesn’t see my posts anymore because FB doesn’t post my post to my friends timeline anymore. So that includes our personal FB right?

        • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

          I don’t believe that applies to personal pages, although there is some math going on as to who sees your personal posts and when. It’s more a matter of perceived popularity and who you interact with most rather than Facebook specifically demoting your posts. Either way it’s not a real-time stream like Twitter.

  • Rastafarian says:

    I closed my Douchebook acct 2 years ago and have not been back since.