On September 2011, Mashable published an article titled “Why Facebook Will Never Charge You to Use It. Here is Why”. The article was a response to a viral “hoax” that was spreading across the internet that Facebook intended to charge users to use its new profile.
Facebook responded to these rumors with the following statement on the 25th of the month, putting an end to all the speculation:
“A rumor on the Internet caught our attention. We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It’s free and always will be.”
Back in March of 2012, Facebook reported that on average only 16% of Facebook Brand Page posts were read on average by the fans of those pages. For all the money spent on Facebook advertisements, they resulted in a CRT (click-through-rate) of 0.051%. Businesses howled, but they stayed, and they paid. In May of 2012, Facebook began allowing business to “Promote their Posts” after killing off the previous “Reach Generator”, a program that GUARANTEED at launch that it would reach 75% of Facebook users that had liked a Brand Page, but only produced an average of 16% reach.
Again, users and Businesses howled, but they continued to stay, many agreeing to pay large sums to reach their audiences each day. The complaints were growing, but remained a murmur until one celebrity noticed that his reach was not growing but falling, although he was posting updates on Facebook on a regular and growing basis.
In June 2012, fed up with what he concluded as Facebook blocking his ability to reach his huge audience of Facebook fans, George Takei of Star Trek fame contacted Facebook about his concerns, and was told “buy more promoted posts.” Takei watched his reach dwindle while the number of his posts remained the same, and decided it was due to EdgeRank, the Facebook algorithm that determines who gets to see a user’s updates.
That’s right, you read correctly, Facebook determines who sees users posts, not the users and you get to pay for this! In June, George Takei established a profile on Google+, where 100% of his messages would be available to his friends at zero cost.
In October, after Facebook stocks had been pummeled all summer by bad earnings reports, Facebook officially announced that “Promoted Posts” would be expanded to all users, at a minimum cost of $7 to post an update that would reach 100% of a targeted audience or group. I have spoken with people at NASA, which has a very large following on Facebook. They are paying upwards of $7500.00 PER POST, to reach 100% of their audience. May I remind you that you fund NASA through your taxes? You are being charged by Facebook to hear from an organization that YOU fund.
Note: To those who have not yet used Google+, all posts, no matter how large the audience, are free of charge to 100% of your followers.
When I talk to businesses about why, in the face of such dismal advertising returns, they are still concentrating their Social Media efforts on Facebook, the answer is the same, about 90% of the time: Facebook Groups.
Businesses on Facebook have come to rely upon Groups to create and maintain specific audiences from which they can focus their communications efforts. It is easily the most effective tool Facebook has for matching Businesses with potential customers.
Facebook Groups represent a place for organizations and individuals to share their common interests, express their opinions, share related content and coordinate activities related to a common cause.
Despite the current dissatisfaction many businesses feel regarding Facebook essentially holding their potential customer information hostage under Edge Rank and promoted posts, many businesses viewed Groups as being effective at the very least in creating a commonality between a business and its curated audience.
A business or organization of any kind did not have a competing option in most cases. Businesses want to be where their customers are. With 1 Billion users, many business owners and managers assumed there was no alternative to remaining on Facebook and paying to erractically reach 5-15% of their audiences through promoted posts.
But no more…
On December 6th2012, Vic Gundotra announced the creation of Google+ Communities.
Upon reading a few posts about Communities followed by the official blog post from Google, I returned to my own Google+ Stream, and announced “The Game is Over.”
What if I told you there is now a place where all those things you did from your Facebook Groups to develop a relevant and interested audience for your business, could be done easier, smarter, more effectively, and free of charge?
Google+ Communities, because of the added services available to Google+ Users and integration with all the other benefits of the Google infrastructure, simply blows Facebook Groups out of the water.
There are four types of Google+ Communities available:
Two are private Communities, and another two are Public. Anyone can join a Public Community and create posts, leave comments on others posts, share images and video, join a Hangout. The owner of a public community has the option of leaving the community unrestricted, or can make community membership subject to an invitation, or approval from a Community Moderator.
Here is the kicker: All of the content from a Public Google+ Community is indexed, and discoverable through Search on both Google and Google+. This is something that Public Google+ Community Moderators need to consider when creating their destinations.
For Businesses and Organizations wanting or needing to maintain a level of real privacy, there are two options for Private Communities as well. Private Communities can be restricted to its invited members only, but remaining discoverable by search. Or, a fully private Community can be created, similar to a private YouTube channel, where it can be found only by knowing the specific URL of the Community.
Meanwhile, frustration continues to mount against Facebook for the practice of charging its members to communicate. One member of a Non-Profit group recently expressed his concerns in an open letter to Mark Zuckerburg.
Example: Consider the implications for a Non Profit, or Charitable Organization on Google+, as opposed to Facebook:
Any organization can create a Google+ Community that is open and available to anyone without an invitation necessary. To get the word out, all the moderator needs to do on Google, is share their Community to the Public Stream, which will inform not only 100% their circled followers, but the announcement is now part of the worldwide Google Index, and available through a keyword search, along with the content of every post, every image, every video.
Contrast this with Facebook, where after a Facebook Group is created, the moderator now has to determine whether or not they wish to pay. The price is determined by the number of Facebook friends who might see it, in order to reach 100% of their audience. Consider that this is true not only to announce the Group, but the organization must also pay for EVERY update (promoted post) they make during the lifecycle of the Group’s initiative.
For any Business or Organization with their eyes on the bottom line, the choice is clear. You can spend your budget on managing and performing your daily activities from a Google+ Community, with its various ways to allow users to either see you or find you, or you can devote a chunk of your resources to paying Facebook for the right to let all of your friends know what you are doing, with no guarantee of a decent CTR result.
If I were a decision maker for an organization migrating from Facebook to Google+, I may pay to send a single promoted post to my Facebook friends and followers, to let them know that my charity drive now and for the future can be found now be found on Google+. But, if my Facebook friends have any problem finding my Community Based Charitable initiative, not to worry, because they can (duh) GOOGLE IT.
It is not as though someone cannot be a member of both Google+ and Facebook at the same time, so why would an Organization of any kind, pay more for much less on Facebook? In addition, the SEO (search engine optimization) advantages of Google+ Communities cannot be overstated, along with the Google Authorship potential for preventing fraudulent association or duplication with your Google+ Community.
Stop to consider just some of what Businesses can do with the various types of Google+ Communities:
Private Services, Public Services, open to the public, or by invitation only:
Do not forget, Google+ Hangouts can be scheduled by event and run from within a Google+ Community, with Hangout invitations sent to all members automatically. Members of communities do not have to be within their community to share comments and information; they can post directly to their Communities from their public streams.
“But J.C., I can share files via Dropbox from inside my Facebook Group! I can’t live without that feature!”
On Google+, users can share files from Google drive both inside and outside their Google+ Communities.
Google+ has a huge and thriving Photography community. Imagine how from within a Google+ Photography community, users can not only share files, but actually show and display an entire gallery of images from a single post linked back to Google Docs on that users Google Drive.
Suppose two (or up to ten) persons within a Google+ Community share an interest and want to speak RIGHT NOW to each other? They have the option of starting a video Hangout together, or should one of the two not have a web cam, use Google’s Voice services to place a free international call to the other person from within the hangout itself! Did I mention FREE, and no limit to amount of usage?
Google, with the introduction of Google+ communities, has essentially matched or surpassed every level of functionality available on Facebook for a Business to develop its brand, and attract a growing number of followers to its audience.
The additional features of SEO, Authority, and Trust associated with a Google+ presence is a difficult thing to pass up, and I predict that the steady stream of Businesses building a Brand Presence on Google+ will soon, with the addition of Google+ Communities will soon become a flood.
“But, but, J.C., what if I want to place an Ad? I can do that on Facebook, but Google+ can’t do that for me.”
Well, in that case, I would direct you to my previous article; “Facebook: A waste of time for most advertisers”. My findings in that piece help to point out that Social Media is for Branding, not for Selling, which just happens to be the title of my next article. :-)
I believe Google+ Communities will grow like weeds throughout Google’s Social Media and Identity Network. Every one of Google’s tools either have been, or in the process of being integrated with Google+ for an unmatchable combination of service. After only two days of having Communities available, thousands of them have already been created.
Because Facebook has no public search engine, all content is confined within its forums. Facebook will not be able anytime soon to emulate what Google has done with SEO, Authorship or even Hangouts. You see, the video performance of Hangouts cannot be duplicated without an associated fiber-network between datacenters like those Google has built.
Google+ users connect through this network, away from all of the latency adding routers, switches, repeaters that connect together the rest of the internet. Creating desktop video conferencing for up to 10, or (15 users with a paid Google Apps account) is basically impossible given today’s video compression standards. Google has promised HD Hangouts in the not too distant future. I would expect to see those first along Google’s Fiber rollout for users in Kansas City, MO.
If your business is struggling to pay for promoted posts on Facebook to grow or maintain an audience, you might want to give Google+ Communities a try. If you need help with that, I have it on good authority, that Communities have already been developed to help Facebook Businesses Migrate to Google+.
“Hmmm….I wonder who might have already created one of those….”