Over the past year or two, there’s been no shortage of marketers and brands complaining about “the ineffectiveness of Facebook”.
- We’ve seen brands like Eat24 step away from Facebook with dramatic breakup letters.
- We’ve read post after post by marketers and business owners expressing the trouble they’re having with updates receiving less exposure (reach).
The frustrations are understandable, as Facebook is perceived to have shifted from a platform that gave almost limitless access to your audience for no charge to a platform that gives limited access to your audience unless you pay.
So, what gives?
- Is Facebook really pulling the rug out from underneath businesses and marketers?
- Are there legitimate reasons for abandoning Facebook?
First, let’s establish one thing…
No, Facebook Isn’t Perfect
The lack of transparency surrounding Facebook’s algorithm can be annoying.
And the perception that this was a bait-and-switch move by Facebook does have a tiny bit of credibility. Emphasis on tiny.
But consider this.
The news feed algorithm that filters updates and determines which posts users see is a revolutionary algorithm in many respects.
This complex concept of recording social activity and creating a custom, targeted news feed for now over a billion individuals is uncharted territory.
Facebook didn’t model their business or algorithm after anyone, because there was nothing to model.
So, of course there are going to be flaws and major changes that require adaptation on the part of Facebook.
One has to recognize, with 1.7 billion users today, Facebook simply cannot function the same way it did when there were only 500 million users.
Consider the enormous volume of updates that comes with a user base that size.
- As of 2013, 4.75 billion pieces of content were being shared daily. It’s fair to assume that number has grown significantly since.
Consider the now-limited space brands have in the news feed, given that basically every major brand and small business has a Facebook page.
- There are an estimated 60 million Facebook pages, making on average 1-2 updates per day.
The perception is that Facebook is intentionally narrowing the funnel to squeeze money out of brands and advertisers.
That makes sense on the surface, but when you dig into the numbers and you look at the history of Facebook’s algorithm/news feed changes even prior to their IPO, there’s more at play than Facebook conspiring against advertisers for a quick buck.
The fact of the matter is there must be a filtering algorithm in place or the flood of updates would be absurdly overwhelming for users and the overall experience would be negative.
Now that we have context for why algorithm must exist, the question is…
What Are You Giving Up By Abandoning Facebook?
Straight to the point.
Facebook is arguably THE most targeted, most powerful, and most affordable advertising platform in the history of the industry.
With the exception of paid search advertising, leaving Facebook means you’re tossing aside the most prominent and effective means of advertising to your customers.
If you haven’t delved into Facebook’s ad options, you’re truly missing out.
Below are a couple simple examples of Facebook’s ad platform in action, which any business can use to immediately attract new customers and generate more revenue.
Imagine a potential customer visits your website and browses to a specific page.
Maybe they’re still in a discovery and research phase, so instead of making a purchase or filling out a lead generation form right then, they decide to hold off and exit your site.
But they’re still a hot prospect and it would be nice if you could follow up with them somehow, right?
With Facebook’s Custom Audience targeting, you can place a tracking code on your website that allows you to re-target these website visitors with ads on Facebook.
So, the next time that prospective customer logs in to Facebook and scrolls through their feed, Facebook would know to show this individual an ad about the specific page they visited on your site.
With this ad, you could easily drive this prospective customer to another landing page on your site that has even more information about the product, walks them through why this product will solve their problems, and has another strong call-to-action driving them to purchase or fill out a lead generation form.
This ability to expose your company to hot prospects or leads even after they’ve left your website has huge potential to close a sale that may very well not happen otherwise.
Taking it a step further, you can even re-target Facebook ads to people who:
- Made a purchase through your website — a prime opportunity to generate repeat purchases and build customer loyalty. You can break this down by price as well (e.g. only show ads to visitors who spent at least $100). This is also a perfect opportunity to advertise a complementary product (e.g. advertising phone accessories to someone who purchased a smartphone from your website)
- Registered for an event or webinar through your website — follow up with registrants and show ads with relevant information or reminders about the event
- Spent the most time on your website — target only the top 5%, 10%, etc. of your website visitors to make your ad budget stretch
- Performed a specific search on your website — a helpful option for eCommerce stores to target customers looking for specific types of products
Targeting Email Subscribers
Another great example is targeting Facebook users who are subscribed to your email list.
When you upload your email list, Facebook matches their user emails to your list, allowing you to target individuals on your email list with Facebook ads.
This is really awesome, because you can:
- Target email subscribers with Page Like ads, encouraging people to Like and follow your Facebook page. This gives you more opportunities to get in front of your customer and engage in conversations with them
- Target people who have obviously expressed interest in your brand and blog content, but aren’t necessarily fans of your Facebook page. This goes a long way to increasing reach and engagement on your posts
- Target people who are likely ready for a product upgrade. If you’ve segmented your email list well, you probably have a list of people who purchased Product X. Let’s say your company is about to release Product Y, a new and better version of Product X. You could use your email list to target Facebook ads at owners of Product X, explaining why they should upgrade or offering them a limited-time special deal to upgrade.
These Custom Audience ad types are money makers that go well beyond the already-powerful generic Facebook targeting that includes filters like:
- Targeting based on the job title a user listed in their profile
- Targeting based on employer
- Targeting based on activity (e.g. liking a certain page or update related to The Walking Dead)
- Targeted based on Interests
- Life events, such as new job, recently married, etc.
- General demographics like specific age groups, education level, income, location, language spoken, and so on
The options are limitless.
Okay, okay…not really limitless, but you get the point.
The Beauty of It All
There’s minimal guesswork if you know your target market well.
If you want to target people who are subscribed to your email list, ages 25-48, interested in cooking, and live in California, you absolutely can with confidence your ads will reach those specific people.
If you want to target male Facebook users ages 21-35 who are in the top 50% of your website visitors in terms of time spent on site and who enjoy camping and hiking, you absolutely can.
Again, with confidence the ads will reach those specific people.
All of these options and plenty more are why I’m left baffled when I come across marketers and brands so quick to abandon Facebook just because they’re not being handed a free marketing megaphone any longer.
With all that said, I have to emphasize…
By giving up on Facebook, you are giving up on perhaps the most targeted, powerful, and affordable advertising platform in the history of the industry.
That’s Not All…You’re Giving Up On Talking to Your Customers
Yeah, the thought of voluntarily neglecting your customers is insanity.
Look, I get it.
I’m not happy about the decrease in exposure for my updates either.
It’s definitely troublesome for people like myself, because I primarily use Facebook to share free, helpful information like this post and there’s no significant revenue stream for me to budget a large ad spend.
However, even if you don’t have a significant ad budget to offer, neglecting Facebook means you’re abandoning an important avenue of communication with your customers.
Sure, that avenue to your customers may be more narrow than it was a year or two ago, but there’s still plenty of room to drive, so to speak.
For sake of discussion, let’s go with the popular (yet misleading) assumption that you’ll only reach in the ballpark of 16-20% of your Facebook fans with any given update, if you don’t put money behind your posts.
That notion frustrates you, so you decide to stop caring about Facebook so much.
How is leaving 16-20% of your audience in the dark a positive business move?
- If you were a car salesman, would you ever ignore 20% of the people who walked onto your lot.
- If you went to a trade show, would you ignore 20% of the people who walked up to your booth?
- Would you continue to employ a sales rep who refuses to answer 20% of phone calls from leads or existing clients?
Let’s say you have just 5,000 fans, which is pretty low these days for a lot of brands.
That’s a relationship with 800 to 1,000 people who are clearly interested in your business and you’re now voluntarily neglecting them, primarily to serve your ego.
How is that a rational business move?
Sure, maybe those customers will find you somewhere else after you leave Facebook — as Eat24 is now claiming.
Or maybe they won’t, because you’ve just made it clear you don’t care that much about communicating with them and you’re no longer present where they hang out.
That’s shaky ground to walk on, to say the least.
The Choice Is Seemingly Clear
Frustrations with Facebook’s imperfect, evolving algorithm leaves you with two critical questions to answer:
- Are you willing to toss aside the most targeted, powerful, and affordable advertising platform in the history of the industry?
- Are you willing to toss aside relationships with a sizable portion of people interested in your business?
The choice is entirely your own, of course.
In some cases, you may weigh the cost-benefit of having a great Facebook presence and decide the cost isn’t worth it. That’s fine, if you have solid rationale behind the decision.
But I encourage you to think hard about this decision and avoid knee-jerk reactions to nothing more than seeing a low number in your reach column — it’s an overstated metric and shouldn’t be the key determinant of whether you stick with Facebook.
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