December 6, 2013

I'm having a personal dilemma. Sadly, I'm not the only enduring this. An article released from Ad Age indicates that Facebook is slowly reducing organic reach for business pages.

If you haven't read the article, please take a look at it. However, the basic context is that Facebook is slowly reducing the organic reach of page posts in order to force pages to buy ads to promote their posts for increased reach.

In my heart of hearts I will always love Facebook. It was the first social media site I ever used. I started using it before I even started using MySpace. And I've watched it grow, evolve, change, and morph into the world's largest social media site. I'm on Facebook all day, everyday.

So, of course, it made sense that I'd have a business page for Jenn's Trends on Facebook. It's where I spend my time. But it's also where my target audience spends their time. This blog is dedicated to helping small and mid-sized businesses use social media marketing. Most of the small and mid-sized business owners use Facebook primarily, and possibly only use this site.

I've held strong in my commitment to the site. I continue to post 3-5 times a day, everyday. I love the scheduling tool that allows me to curate great content and share it when it's most likely that you'll be able to see it. I get decent reach and good levels of engagement on my posts and page. I love all of the connections I've made through my Facebook page! And I love talking to my audience there daily.

Lately, Facebook has testing my patience though.

As normal, Facebook announced a change to their algorithm and things went wonky. We pretty much expect that now. So I've chalked up the last week to these glitches.

And then this article from Ad Age came out.

Now I'm not so sure...

You see, this week, my average post reach is one half to one third (and sometimes one quarter) of what it usually is. With nearly 1000 fans, my reach should be significantly higher than 34 people. That's about 4% reach! Are you kidding me?!

I spend a lot of time writing blog posts and reading a lot of other content to bring you the best content every week. But if you never see it, what is my ROI on my time and effort?

All of this got me thinking. What will the effects of this reduced reach do to Facebook? Here are the 5 reasons I believe they are killing themselves.

Passion vs. Profit

When Facebook started, it wasn't for profit. It was to connect people together in one common place. It was a passion project. Users respected the casually dressed CEO for his perspective on social networking and his ability to connect with users. Sure, he got a ton of flack from Wall Street tycoons about the way he ran the business. But that didn't matter.

But now it does. Facebook only cares about its investors and profit margins. And the only way to keep them happy is to make more money. And promoted posts and ads are the best thing going for them.

The passion is gone from Facebook. The users aren't passionate, the company isn't passionate, and the "kids" have no connection to the company. Without that passion, Facebook is a business doomed to fail.

(Please note, I'm not saying profit is bad. I get that they have to make money. We all do. But they're going about it the wrong way, IMHO.)

It's All About Numbers

In one of the statements from Facebook, they insinuated that having more fans is better for your social acceptance. And that the more you advertise, the more fans you'll reach and the more new fans you'll get.

Pardon me while I run to the bathroom to throw up my meal.

Yes, we would all love to have tens of thousands of fans. Especially if they were all engaged and buying our products or services. But social media is not about buying fans! It's about connecting with a real audience of existing and potential customers. And when this audience actually finds and likes my page, I would like to continue to interact with them - without having to pay for it!

If I only have 1000 fans and 700 of them actually see and engage with my content, I would be ecstatic! I would rather have this any day over having 10,000 fans of whom only 500 see my (paid) posts and don't interact because they don't really care about what I have to offer.

Big Business Only

How many small businesses really have a viable budget allocation to spend on repetitive Facebook ads? Not many, I promise you that! And now that Facebook is promoting pay-to-play mentalities on their platform, only the big businesses will remain in the feeds.

The greatest thing about social media marketing for small businesses is the ability to compete on the same playing field as the big brands. In fact, a lot of small businesses crush big businesses on social media because they are personable and engaging. But if the small business page posts won't be seen because they can't pay for ads, that playing field is not even anymore.

If the marketers and page owners start leaving because it's not worth their time, they won't be using the site personally as much either. And as the ads increase and other users get frustrated, they'll be looking for better options too... Next thing you know, people aren't on Facebook anymore!

Spam

How many ads do you see in your news feed everyday? One, two, a lot more? Well, get ready to see even more! If brands are forced to pay for ads to get their posts seen, that means more and more sponsored posts in your feed everyday.

And as less of the small business pages show up in your feed because they refuse to pay, the high quality, relevant content you expect will disappear behind post after post of sales and spam! Your friends' posts and the quality local business page posts you enjoy and find relevant will be extinct.

If users only see spam posts everyday, rather than relevant content, how long do you think they'll continue to hang out on the site?

Through this increase in ads, Facebook will push away even more users each and every day.

Better Options Elsewhere

What's one lesson we all learn in business? Keep your customers happy! If you have the market cornered, you can give crappy service and retain your customers (not that I would ever recommend this strategy!). But Facebook doesn't have the market cornered anymore.

Facebook can hide behind their BS statements that these changes are to provide a better experience for their users but anyone familiar with the site and page marketing can see right through this crap.

There are so many other alternatives that reward users and businesses! Sites that allow actual interaction between pages and their audience. Sites that don't hide posts from friends and fans. Sites that don't charge for success.

That's the good news! Facebook may be headed towards a smoldering heap of ashes. Or they may figure out they are their own worst obstacle. Either way, there are so many other social media sites out there that we can use to engage our audiences!

Please don't take this bad news about Facebook to think that social media marketing is dismal and difficult. It may take a little time and a little more work, but we can all find better sites to connect with our audiences!

 

And so, with this post, I will be reducing my commitment to Facebook. I will maintain a presence there because it's important to my audience. But it will no longer receive a large commitment of my time and energy.

If you would like to connect with me on other sites where I will be increasing my activity, please join me!

Instagram

Google+

Twitter

LinkedIn

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. For overwhelming time-consuming personal reasons unconnected to my business, apart from LinkedIn, where I have well over 400 Connections, which seem to have arrived mostly of their own volition, I have done no Social Media marketing at all. Even on LI, my presence has not been at all vigorous or regular. So, it is very useful to have your warning about Facebook before I have even considered using it! Thank you.

    1. Thanks Jill. It’s good to hear you’re growing an audience organically. Once you start actively trying to grow an audience, it will be much easier with a solid base!
      Please heed this warning about Facebook but make sure to investigate for yourself and determine what platform(s) work best for you and your goals. Facebook may still be viable for you, just beware of the commitment you make when you go down this road 😉

  2. Hi Jenn,

    As you stated, everyone with a business page is going through the same thing. Lack of visibility which leads to lack of engagement. I gave up about 3 or 4 weeks ago when only 16 people were seeing the stuff I post. My page has over 4,500 likes and in the past my organic reach would be at least 400 – 500 per post along with lots of likes and shares. I’m spending more time on Instagram now as a result of this reduced visibility on Facebook and I figure it makes sense to build a following there before they ruin that one too!

    See you on Instagram Jenn!!

    Have a nice weekend.

    1. Yikes, Ileane! That’s a VERY significant drop in reach! I don’t blame you at all for abandoning Facebook.
      I agree with you, let’s grow our presence on Instagram and connect with audiences there! See you over there 🙂

      1. Yes, Jim. I am well aware that Facebook owns Instagram. Fortunately, Instagram continues to grow and develop based on practices established prior to their purchase by Facebook. They continue to be both user and marketer friendly and I hope that they will continue to maintain this integrity on their site. However, like any site owned by people looking to eventually make money, there is always a risk of things changing. They may even go the way of Facebook. But I’m hoping others will learn from this. Only time will tell.

  3. I have a total rant brewing on this subject! Most of it is exactly what you said 🙂

    I am certainly not averse to making a profit. But I do believe Facebook is being disingenuous and stupid about how they are going about it. It may not matter to them in the end, assuming big brands continue to cough up the cash to advertise to us. But small businesses can’t drop five, ten, twenty bucks for what? Making sure their fans see a blog post? Or a funny photo? So what’s going to end up promoted? ADS. A big, fat stream of never ending ads.

    So what’s the incentive for a small business to be on Facebook? The thin veneer of “telling your story” and “engaging your audience” is gone. And what is the incentive for anyone to “like” a page that they never see content from, and only get promoted ads from?

    I hate to be the negative Nancy in the bunch but I doubt this will hurt Facebook, but I do think small business marketing is done. Long live advertising. (sigh)

    1. Sorry if I stole your rant, Carol! 😉
      You’re definitely not being a negative Nancy. The reality is that Facebook very well may continue to succeed. But if they do, it will be based on a different business model (maybe more like a news site ala Yahoo or MSN). Either way, they’ve made it clear they care only about marketing/ads and generating revenue for their stock holders.

  4. I am saddened by this change for Facebook. I agree with you completely that it is no longer focused on its ability to, as you put it, “connect people together”, to money. I will not stop using FB, but it makes more sense to put more time into the other sites I use, mainly LinkedIn, Google+, and even Twitter.

    I will be sharing this article for sure!

    1. Thanks Kim! I always appreciate your support 🙂
      I highly recommend you look more into Google+. I think it’s a great platform for your industry and you can likely create a big audience and lots of engagement there.

  5. Hi Jenn,

    Great post and there’s 2 particular points that stuck out for me. 1. Small businesses being able to compete with larger businesses – one of the things I love about Social Media in general. 2. Facebook shareholders being more important than any other stakeholder in the business.

    Now that FB are a PLC with annual dividends to pay out they must increase their revenues every single year – and as you highlighted this is at the expense of regular customers and small businesses. I now fear that Twitter will follow suit after their IPO. Becoming a publicly traded company might raise funds but organic growth at a slower pace ensures a company can stay true to their customers and original concepts. My point here is that becoming a public company is the real poison.

    I too have been reducing my presence on FB after realising the paltry reach of my posts – I can hear LinkedIn and Google+ calling.

    With FB reducing the reach of posts they are shooting themselves in the foot as less engagement and less content is shared. In an era of big data FB will be collecting a lower volume of data leading to weaker data being amassed.

    I would be rubbing my hands with glee if I was a Google+ or Instagram – the market is there for the taking 🙂

    1. Thanks Jason! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
      I do have concerns about Twitter as well but am hoping that they will find a different means to pursue revenue. They’ve never used an Edgerank-type system so we might be ok… But you’re right, as more sites become publicly traded companies, the original mindset, value, and purpose will likely be abandoned.
      I agree, the other big sites should be capitalizing on this latest news! I’ve been spending more time on G+ and will continue to increase my presence there, as well as LinkedIn and, of course, Instagram!

  6. Absolutely agree. I’m leaning heavily on Pinterest, Twitter, and possibly Google Plus going into 2014. I’m disgusted with Facebook.

    1. I hear ya, Kevin! I am spending more time on G+ and really enjoying it. I think it’s really worth considering for 2014. If you like Pinterest and use visual marketing, you might also want to consider Instagram 🙂

  7. Great post, Jenn. I had the same reaction to the drop in reach…what’s the point in making any effort?

    Here’s another interesting spot where Facebook finds itself…they may be losing the youngest generation. I have two cousins, one is 21 and the other 18. Neither one wants to be on Facebook. Primary reason?…their family is on there and not their friends. Their FB feeds are full of posts from aunts, uncles, and other family who are well into their 40s, 50s, and beyond. They want to talk to their other 20 something friends, but don’t find them on FB. They find them on Twitter, Instagram, and other places.

    Add the age gap to the fact that most people will find their feeds full of ads from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Walmart, and other giant brands, and you won’t have a reason to go to Facebook any longer. I’m already shying away from my own personal feed more lately. More to come, I’m sure.

    1. Thanks Brian! I’m glad you liked it 🙂
      I think that is a very valid concern for Facebook. Their largest growing demographic is the 55+ group. They’re not gaining the youth (for the reasons you mentioned) and they’re losing the 30-45 group who were the ones that really made Facebook big. They have a big conundrum on their hands – how do they grow revenue for their shareholders as they lose active users? I completely understand the challenges they face. But I don’t think that pissing off their remaining audience is the best way to solve to the problem, IMHO.
      They either need to start making the users happy or they need to completely revise their business strategy. Maybe they should attempt to be more of a search/news hub like Yahoo or what AOL used to be. We expect to pay for ads on those sites… But they can’t keep running Facebook as a “traditional” social media site (is it even possible to have a traditional SM site?) and do the things they’re doing now.
      Like you said, more to come I’m sure.

  8. I have realised the drop in organic Facebook and have turned to boosting my posts.. Not the ads but boosting. It is no doubt working for me and they do accommodate for low budgets.

    If you are trying to compete with bug business then simply make sure your business has the personal touch and awesome customer service… Big business can’t compete with that!

    1. I’m glad to hear that the boosting posts is working for you! That’s great. As long as it works for you, you should keep at it. I realize that for some, Facebook is still very viable.
      It is true that customer service and responsiveness can beat big brands, hands-down, but if no one sees your posts to get the personal touch, how can you compete?

  9. Add my name to the growing list of ranters, Jenn! Everything you said is exactly how I feel. I’m very disappointed and I can’t seem to shake it. I wrote a post about it yesterday and I hope Facebook sees this growing tide of resentment. Wall Street is a hungry beast. People change, companies change. There will always be a place to go but we have to wait until our customers get there. It’s about to get weird.

    1. Welcome the growing group, Kathi! 😉
      I also hope they see all these complaints and realize that they’re pushing away a major component of their fan base. If I’m not there for my pages as much, I’m not there personally as much either…

  10. I felt like I was ranting about this too much. Then somebody directed me to this article and now I’m getting a sense of a general consensus on the whole thing. Facebook time isn’t translating into any value for me and I personally feel that my time should be spent elsewhere. Here’s the catch. I keep going back. All that I’ve been able to accomplish is to limit the amount of time that I spend there.

    1. We’re probably all ranting too much, Nick! 😉
      But it is not just you. It is a lot of people. You shouldn’t necessarily consider leaving Facebook completely. You still have fans there and you still want to check in on your friends and family. I get that – we all get that. Just think long term where you want your social media strategy to go.
      If you didn’t catch today’s blog post, check it out. It has some helpful tips to transition fans away from Facebook if you choose to do so.
      http://jennstrends.com/transition-fans-away-from-facebook/

  11. I’m so annoyed with Facebook right now. I’ve been noticing the drop recently and just heard of the algorithm change today. Thank you for this great article. I generally spend ore time on Twitter, and have found myself on Google+ more and more… see you there!

    1. I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time, Jen. It sucks. If you are thinking about moving away from Facebook, I recommend you check out today’s post with tips on how to handle this process.
      http://jennstrends.com/transition-fans-away-from-facebook/
      If you’re already heavily active on other sites, it should be easy to do. Don’t necessarily give up on Facebook – just determine how much of your time and energy it deserves.

  12. I disagree with the Jenn on this one.. saying that this is advertising for “bis business only”.. She obviously hasn’t tried it!!

    In my experience this is one of the most inexpensive ways to advertise your business both to the masses and or to a very select targeted audience. and if done right can be very effective!!.. a small businesses advertising dollars can go very far if done right!
    I work with small businesses in the Comox Valley, the local audience is fairly small. $100-$150 per month, your ad/post can be seen over a million times by 25,000 locals, with your offer, website, or email sign-up form just one click a away! no newspaper ad can do that!

    so yes free is always good.. but dont be too quick to rule out the advertising options..

    1. Thank you Darcy! I honestly appreciate your enthusiasm for Facebook and using the paid advertising. For many people, this strategy is both useful and cost-effective. And for those people, they should, by all means, do what works for them.
      My “rant” was probably more of an attack on “big business” than it was factually based. I, too, am passionate and I know a lot of small businesses who literally have NO budget for social media marketing or ads. So, when a company like Facebook penalizes these companies I tend to get defensive.
      That being said, you are correct. Small businesses can participate in the pay-to-play scheme for a very small budget and reach a good number of additional people. I have yet to personally see anyone reach over 25,000 people a million times on a hundred bucks a month, but if it’s working for you, then I give you a big kudos!

  13. Nice article, I shall be moving away from Facebook myself over the next month or so. I’ll leave my page up but reduce my posting and certainly not pay for any more pointless promotion. I do disagree with your last part. I have no intention of moving people to G+, Twitter or any other social medium. I shall learn the lesson from Facebook and only put the effort into services I control…e.g. my own website. The only thing I will encourage people to join is my mailing list. What’s to say Google, Twitter or any of the other wont tern around and do the same in a year or so. More time wasted. If I’m going to put the effort and work into getting new people then I shan’t have anyone cutting me off from them again

    1. Thanks Bob! I do agree that our largest focus should always be to grow our own lists and our own sites/blogs. However, I do believe that by growing our fan bases on social media sites, it leads to larger followings and subscriptions to our sites. Of course, we always run the risk of any of these social media sites closing shop or limiting our reach to our fans. But I honestly believe that social media provides a big advantage for businesses.
      I do appreciate your perspective though and wish you all the success in growing your list this year 🙂

  14. Facebook is a publicly traded company. It has shareholders to satisfy and employees to pay. Just like legacy media, it has to make money to satisfy its stockholders etc. No one would except a biz’ ads or other content to appear in the NYT or WSJ for free — I still don’t understand why everyone is so confused about this concept. You might also check word usage: everyday vs every day.

    1. Hi Dana. I completely agree and understand that Facebook needs to make money. You also have to admit though, that the NYT and Facebook are two totally different mediums and have different purposes in terms of general membership and usage. No one has ever expected free marketing in the NYT or WSJ. But we’re all used to free communication on Facebook.
      I don’t deny that Facebook needs to make money and keep all their shareholders and board members happy. I think that there is a better way for them to go after collecting that money. This includes charging companies of a certain size, or pages with certain numbers of fans (ie. breaks at a million a hundred thousand) a certain rate while allowing small businesses the ability to promote pages for free or at a lower cost. They could also consider flat monthly rates for memberships or promotional services for larger companies or pages over a certain size.
      The great benefit of (free) social media is that it allows small companies to compete on the same playing field as the big companies (obviously excluding costs of staffing and management, etc.). But it’s a more level playing field. And this is what all users have come to expect. So when Facebook comes in and changes all of that and big businesses get the upper hand because they have the finances to promote their posts and reach more people, users are going to complain.
      And, I will check the use of everyday in my post. Thank you for the heads up.
      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

Comments are closed.

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