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No Budget? Forget About Easy Facebook Success

A dramatic headline? Perhaps. However, as Facebook strives to make even more money, it's making it harder for brands (businesses/orgs etc) to make any impact. In this post, I look at lack of reach without payment, exceptions to the rule and give advice on assessing if Facebook is actually a worthwhile endeavour for your business.

It used to be fairly simple

You would set up a Facebook Page, have a plan around what you wanted to communicate and who with, assemble the required content and start beavering away. Likes, comments and shares were forthcoming. The volume of those depended on the quality of your updates and the relevancy of your business and your offering to the Facebook crowd. What decided if your updates appeared in a users newsfeed? Edgerank. I don't want to waste pixels explaining Edgerank in this post, but you can find out more here. Infact, Edgerank may well now be dead, but more about that later.

As time inevitably passed, it has become tougher to ensure Facebook activity is worthwhile. The reach of the posts you publish has shrunk. The average Page post reaches 23.5% of a Page's 'likers' (source). 23.5% of the people that you have shed sweat, blood and most likely tears to attract are seeing your posts. Is that effective? I doubt it. This figure varies, and actually, Pages with more 'likers' (I'm going to call them fans from now on) can often see lower levels of around 9% reach. What can you do to ensure more fans see your posts? Well, Facebook will tell you that you need to publish posts that are interesting and relevant, which of course is important as without that, nobody will ever act on your posts, but that isn't enough (August saw changes to the newsfeed algorithm that are likely to confuse and indeed bewilder, and really saw the demise of Edgerank).

The only way to guarantee a strong reach (and at least some chance of people taking an action on your posts), it to part with some cash. One option is to 'boost' a post, which means your posts will be at least served to the newsfeeds of all of your fans. A boost has extended options that allow further serving, which are explained here. There are a wide-ranging plethora of other Facebook advertising options, but in all honesty I don't have the will to try and explain them here.

Creative commons image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/epsos/Creative commons image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/epsos/

Are you telling us to forget about Facebook?

No, but I am telling you to be realistic about how hard it can be to make an impact with effort alone. You need the following:

  • Updates that will attract interaction - those interactions in theory will increase reach and newsfeed visibility. Creating a valuable proposition will lead to growth of your Page
  • Time to analyse your activity and see what it is hitting the spot - Facebook Insights has recently been revamped and is actually pretty good
  • Cash - the above, coupled with some reddies, will help you to have a more successful Facebook presence

Are there exceptions to the 'you need cash' rule?

Yes, I believe there are. The first is big brands that are 'front of mind' - those that people want to actively seek out and get involved with. The second are businesses that solve a problem, or appeal to a niche. For example, a baby product - its key market is Mums and expecting Mums. If either (or both) of those categories apply, life should be easier, as it is more natural for people to get involved.

Should you be on Facebook in the first place?

Facebook does not suit all businesses. It is predominantly a business to consumer setting. Yes, some B2B (business to business) success examples exist, however the nature of Facebook (people keeping up to date with friends, family, sharing pics etc) lends itself to more consumer based business - things that aren't too serious. Is the Head of Accounting using Facebook to find a new accountancy firm to offer support to his employers business? Highly unlikely. The other thing to consider is what Facebook will actually do for your business? Wasting time on any marketing or communication activity that fails to deliver a key action (those actions could be leads, sales, customer retention, customer service, introductions to the funnel) is a disaster. If you are clear about what you want to achieve and have the means to assess if those achievements are being met, life will be a whole lot easier. Oh, and if somebody comes along and says 'I'll create you a Facebook strategy', run for the hills.

Join The Conversation

  • Liqui_Site's picture
    Aug 30 Posted 3 years ago Liqui_Site

    Part of our social media strategy for clients now includes an explanation of Facebook Edgerank so that their expectations are better managed. One of the hardest things to get through to them is that they must invest in Facebook advertising first and foremost to increase brand awareness, before they can even think about using it for sales and promotions.

    We wrote this article to help guide clients: http://blog.liqui-site.com/2013/06/Why-Marketing-on-Facebook-Requires-Ad-Spend.html

  • Wendy Lestina's picture
    Aug 26 Posted 3 years ago Wendy Lestina

    Re: case study. No, I haven't, but I'd be delighted to give access and info to anyone who was interested in doing so.

  • Mike_Velocity's picture
    Aug 26 Posted 3 years ago Mike_Velocity

    Hello Wendy. This sounds like a great success story, well done! Like I said in the article, I'm not dropping the axe on Facebook, and it does still offer great opportunities for any organisation etc that people have an affinity for or that produce something that solves a problem. Have you ever written this case up as a case-study? 

  • Mike_Velocity's picture
    Aug 26 Posted 3 years ago Mike_Velocity

    Hi Anna, thanks for that. I'm always honest about the opportunities and limitations of the social platforms, there is no 'silver bullet' for any of them. 

  • Mike_Velocity's picture
    Aug 26 Posted 3 years ago Mike_Velocity

    Thanks Ulli. Great poing re format, anything visual tend to have a much stronger reach and interaction rate. It sounds like you've had success growing a fanbase! Have you noticed this tailing off at all?

  • Mike_Velocity's picture
    Aug 26 Posted 3 years ago Mike_Velocity

    Hi Randy. Yes that is a pretty major issue - my post talks about Facebook from a brand's perspective, but as a standard user, the experience is moving further away from the fundamementals of the platform - allowing us to communicate with our friends, families etc.

  • Randy Milanovic's picture
    Aug 25 Posted 3 years ago Randy Milanovic

    When Facebook doesn't allow my own friends to see my posts, it becomes just another irrelevant failed tool.

  • Wendy Lestina's picture
    Aug 25 Posted 3 years ago Wendy Lestina

     My experience parallels Ulli's comments. I was asked to create a Facebook page for a very small local museum that needed to build membership. The museum's extensive collection of photographs was used to attract attention -- and comments and additional photos. Our collection has tripled in the nearly four years since we began our Facebook marketing (our fans began bringing in their family albums to inlude), but more importantly, so has the (paid) membership. The popularity of the site has resulted in members voluntarily upgrading their memberships to patron status, sold-out museum events, county- and, in some cases, state-wide recognition (including a grant and a national award)... and it just keeps going. For nonprofits that have a personal base, such as a local museum, FB is a natural. Perhaps the most vital result -- which I almost forgot to share -- is that being on Facebook lowered the average age of the museum membership from nearly 70 to 51, thus ensuring we'll be around for another generation.

    The downside: we've been asked by lots of other, similar organizations for tips on how to be successful at this, and my answer always is: be prepared to work at it every day, with one of your best people. 

    Running a successful Facebook page is like hosting a 24/7 cocktail party/potluck .... turn the lights out, even for a day or so, and the party flags ... let it go fallow for longer than that, and the party's over.

    Also, in seeking a wide audience, a good, versatile conversationalist is needed to manage it. Warm, gentle, and a ruthless deleter -- even well-meaning folks can write something hurtful (to you and to others).




  • Ulli Appelbaum's picture
    Aug 24 Posted 3 years ago Ulli Appelbaum

    Great article Mike. I am managing  a Facebook community and would fully agree with your points. No money, no reach. I would also add that the format you post will significantly influence your reach. A link in the post is a sure fire way to achieve minimal reach (that's why so many fan pages post the link in the comment section). A picture on the other hand works way better.

    There is however still one exception that still out-smarts edgeranker. I call them digital posters. Usually jpeg files of a picture with some kind of comment, quote, factoid, etc., joke, etc. This format tends to create more engagement (way easier to absorb and react to for the users, even on a smart phone) that any other (unsponzored) format. At least for me (it enable me to grow our page to 7000+ fans without spending a dollar and frankly without having anything to offer or to sell. I've written more about this format here

  • anna bennett's picture
    Aug 24 Posted 3 years ago anna bennett

    I love your honesty - some marketers won't admit this! The competition is fierce on Facebook and it's getting more expensive to get noticed which is why I look for other alternatives for my clients that will clearly produce a better ROI. 

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