April 4, 2014

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It's been going on for a while and they continue to taunt me. Just when things seem to be stabilizing (gasp - maybe even getting better), they start to suck again. The yo-yo that Facebook plays with my emotions is taking its toll.

As you may know, I have ranted about Facebook before. I honestly don't see myself stopping anytime soon. But every now and then they tempt me with good (even amazing) reach. There seems to be hope. Only to have my dreams murdered slowly and painfully with each new post's crappy reach and engagement.

I feel like I'm in a weird twisted, cinderella relationship with Facebook.

You see, my Facebook fans and I already had our blind date. We got along, and had a few more conversations. Then we agreed to see each other - not necessarily exclusively, but still, we were seeing each other. And then, just when things were getting comfortable, the horrible parental figure came swooping in and banned us from seeing each other.

We may find the occasional stolen opportunity in passing to see each other (it seems oddly forbidden and with that comes the excitement of seeing each other again). But, our relationship has been put on the rocks. That is, unless, we are willing to pay that stubborn parent. If we're willing to give up our hard earned allowance, give very specific details about where we'll be, what we're looking to talk about, and how many times we want to talk, they'll give us the opportunity to *maybe* make contact with each other. Did you have a good date? How exciting! Invigorating! You missed each other. And you made new friends while you were out. It was thrilling. But then the date was over - the money ran out and here comes that evil parent to lock you away in isolation again. Until the next allowance can be paid...

Ok. That might be a little extreme, but you know how I feel! You've been there too.

Here's the thing. I get it, Facebook. I really do. You have investors and employees and share holders to pay. They want their money and you have to find ways to make it. You're in business and in business you need to make money. This isn't a news flash and I'm not naive to this reality.

But the way they're doing it is what is driving me crazy.

Facebook page post organic reach used to be 30-40%. Then it dipped to 10-15% last year (when I wrote my last rant). Now, it's expected to drop to about 3-5%.

That means that on my Facebook page with 1300 fans, my posts should reach an average of 60 or so people. That pretty much sucks.

If only 30% of the people who liked my page saw my average post, that would be a reach of over 400 people. That means that of all the 1300 people I have talked to, engaged with, and shared "valuable" content with, still only a third of them would see my posts. And that would make me very happy!

To be fair, I don't expect to see anything higher than 30% reach. That would be nearly impossible. But I have attracted 1300 people to like my page for a variety of reasons. I think that a third of them should be able to see my page posts since they have already gone through the hard part. We've already "dated".

And for all the time I spend on Facebook, reading other updates, commenting on other posts, clicking through on ads (it does happen, I'll admit), and otherwise wasting my day, I think I should be rewarded with fan reach. Because every time I log in to go post another article, or respond to a comment, I spend much more time actually trolling Facebook. And isn't that what they need? They need eyes on the site to justify the ads and how they make money.

So, I'm doing my part, but they keep screwing me over, why should I keep coming back?

I also understand a saturated market. It's like Google. You can't expect to rank on the first page of Google these days - there's too much content and too many people "paying" to get ahead of you. But even if you don't reach the first page of Google, aren't you happy when you hit the second or third page? At least that gives you a chance of being seen. And, yes, that can be done organically.

Facebook is so saturated that you can't expect to get good reach - there's too much content and too many people sharing posts. This is a fair argument. But again, I'm not asking for a lot of reach, I'm asking for fair organic reach. I'm asking for a chance to be seen.

I don't think the 5% proposed reach is realistic nor remotely fair. I think that's Facebook's way of punishing those who don't pay.

They want more money so they convince people to pay for sponsored posts. OK. Let's just assume for a minute that I wanted to play along. I decide I have a few dollars to spare this month and agree to use a sponsored post to increase my reach and engagement. So what am I going to promote? Am I going to spend my hard earned dollars promoting someone else's content? Am I going to promote a post talking about what I did this weekend? Hell no! I'm going to spend my money getting people to my website where I can convert them to a lead or a sale in hopes of justifying my upfront marketing cost for the sponsored post.

You know what that means?

I'm obviously not the only one smart enough to figure out this strategy.

So, now, instead of seeing fun, engaging, conversational, informational, valuable posts in my news feed - oh, wait, isn't that what we're supposed to be curating on social media? Sorry... I got distracted by logic there. Instead of seeing these quality posts in my feed, I see ADS! Yes, boring, annoying, in-my-face, buy-my-s#!t ad style posts.

The bad propagates the bad. The gamers game the system. Those companies with money throw it at ads and posts designed to make them more money. That's NOT SOCIAL MEDIA! That's advertising!

Don't even get me started on the unfair advantage big businesses have over small businesses in this structure. Yup, just like advertising, the big companies with deep pockets are able to push the little companies down to where they can barely be seen and heard.

Social media had leveled the playing field. Allowing small businesses to reach new audiences and compete with big companies. But Facebook has ruined that. They reward deep pockets and punish struggling entrepreneurs and small businesses. The playing field is nowhere near level anymore. And it's only going to get worse.

I realize that there is a weird, still not-well-understood relationship between marketers and customers on social media. But blatantly bombarding ads at customers is everything we shouldn't be doing on social media!

But the world's biggest social media site is telling us this is what we need to do. So, if you want to succeed on Facebook, you're going to need cold hard cash.

You can work hard, find great content, engage your devoted audience, and do everything right. But you're going to lose to those who are willing to pay.

I've come to this realization.

Yes, Facebook, I still love you in some weird, perverted way. I won't leave you just yet. But I can see clearly that you don't love me anymore.

If you've made it this far in the post, you're probably thinking that you either agree with me or that I'm crazy. Either way, thanks for sticking around and hearing me out.

This topic isn't likely soon to be resolved. And if you agree to pay to play, and it works for you, then by all means, keep doing it. But I just can't bring myself, at this point, to do it. But I'd love to hear from you. Will you pay to play?

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  1. That is exactly my problem with pushing us to paid posts too Jenn. The fact that those ad will be (and rightfully so since you are paying for them) solely self-promotion. I get it. But that will surely drive many from Facebook and the paid advertisers will definitely see less reach because of it. So, keep ranting. Who knows? Maybe someone will listen!

    1. Thanks Kim! I doubt I’ll stop ranting and even if only a few readers start thinking about Facebook from a different perspective, then it’s all worth it to me. I just don’t want to see people get false hope or unrealistic expectations of Facebook “marketing”.

  2. I had 1280 likes on the Facebook fan page I stop posting to a few months ago. I think it’s likely that you will stop too someday–it’s just a question of how long you wait. I believe you are going to be nostalgic about the good old days when you got 3-5%. : ) We shall see.

    I’ve taken all the time I spent on my Facebook fan page and put it into learning about Pinterest and Google+. (I’m still on Twitter). And I’ve done great with my Facebook stock! : ) I’m not going to sell that and I’m not going to stop using Facebook for my personal use.

    By the way, did you see this? http://bit.ly/1lFQa2Q

    1. Hi Reid and thank you for your input. I have seen that breakup letter from Eat24 and I think both the letter and the resulting marketing were brilliant.
      I think it’s very smart that you’re spending more time on Google+. I have made the same commitment this year and I’m finding the results very rewarding. And you’re right, I think Facebook is leading to the point where pages won’t receive ANY organic reach and will only be able to reach fans through paid marketing. But that should be good for your Facebook stock! 😉

  3. Hi Jenn, I only have over 300 likes and have paid for a few posts every few months – just $5.00 and it did help a little but I won’t do it often. I would rather use Twitter and Google+, we have so many other options out there. Facebook is not the only game in town. I no longer stress over it. I just go with the flow and post daily if I have time. I’m sure it will change again one way or another….

    1. You’re right, Lisa. There are so many other options out there that we can use to reach our audiences. I’m happy to hear you don’t worry about all the Facebook changes.

  4. My Magical Childhood FB page has almost 8,000 fans and FB shows posts to an average of 80 of them (1%). It’s a non-profit, ad-free site so there’s no way I’m going to pay to get the posts to the people who like the page, especially if I’m just sharing a fun craft from someone else’s page or something. I’m just moving towards posting it all on the blog and reminding people that they can subscribe by email and get all the posts that way.

    1. I think that moving people to your blog and email list is the best thing you can do no matter what! It’s unfortunate that your reach is so low on Facebook but I think you have a good attitude about it.

  5. I’m with you on this 100%. Facebook has been utterly disingenuous with us from the beginning. I’m sure that someone didn’t sit down last month and say “I know, let’s drop reach and see if we can get people to pay more!” No, that’s what you build into the plan from the ground up. So they lied to us in the beginning about “telling our stories” and “engaging”. Yeah, engage so we can build their empire for them. And we did. And then they change their tune in a complete 180 one day and said oh, you know all that engaging storytelling content we told you to create? It’s just too darn much and people don’t REALLY want to see all that shit so we’re going to throttle it down and hide it. Unless you want to pay for ads. Because people don’t want to see all your shit but they TOOOOOOTALLY want to see your ads! Especially your autoplay video ads. Those rock.

    I no longer have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I have a hate-hate relationship with it and have taken my personal life and business elsewhere. If I want to target some ads, I may decide to use it as an ad platform the same way I’d decide to use Adwords or whatever, because it’s an option. But it’s not on my radar anymore.

    1. Thank you Carol!! I LOVE your comment and you totally made me smile 🙂
      You’re right, though. This isn’t something they decided to do all of a sudden. This has been a planned, phased process. And every time they release a new “strategy” recommendation to reach more people, I feel like it’s the puppet master just trying to see how stupid we all are. Everyone starts posting two photos, or tagging other business pages, or using links with previews, or whatever it is. And Facebook sits back and laughs and then “changes” the algorithm the next week. And they laugh some more.

  6. No way I will pay to play on Facebook. I stopped attempting to build my following on Facebook long ago. The reach just made the effort worthless to me. Now, I’m even turning away from the personal side of Facebook, mostly because my little group of family and friends aren’t quite as interesting as my groups on Twitter and G+ (face it, Mom, you’re not that interesting). But also because I’m not a fan of being advertising fodder for Facebook. No thanks.

    I’m basically planning to drive my Facebook fans to my G+ page, if that message even gets through. On the flip side, Facebook has driven me right to G+, where I’m having a lot of fun. I don’t get much traffic from G+ yet, but I’m not pushing for that yet. I’m being social, meeting new folks, sharing laughs and good content…the blind date part. I’ll get to traffic with time. So, thanks for that Facebook.

    1. Stephen, it sounds like it’s time to move your mom over to G+ 😉
      I think it’s great that you’re making that move. It’s a great platform and offers a lot of benefits that FB can’t compete with. I’m also moving over there more and I have gained more followers there in less time and with much less effort. It’s definitely a win-win for me too. And the traffic will come – keep doing what you’re doing and work those relationships.

  7. Hi Jenn,

    I experienced the same thing. I have more than 5000 fan but sometime only 6 people see the post. It is ridiculous.

    I love G+ and Twitter. They don’t have such restriction! Now I focus only on these two platforms.

    1. Hi Santel. I’m sorry to hear your FB reach is so low. But I’m also happy to hear that G+ and Twitter are working well for you. Keep doing what works!

  8. Jenn,
    This post is genius!
    I agree with everything you have said and keep hoping to see reach increase for the two pages I manage. My personal site has gone through a re-branding of sorts…your post really has me thinking that I should invest time elsewhere for that.
    Bleh…I love and hate FB too! 🙂

    1. Thank you Catina! I’m not sure about genius, but I appreciate the compliment 🙂
      Without knowing your specific situation, I can’t say specifically, but, yes, I recommend you look elsewhere. My assumption (and that of others) is that eventually organic Facebook reach won’t be an option – it’ll be sponsored posts only to reach people. With that in mind, I do recommend you start to cultivate an audience elsewhere. Personally, I love G+ for the similarities to FB but also for the huge added benefits it has over FB. Of course, Twitter and LinkedIn can also provide big boosts depending on your audience.

  9. JOOC, how long do you think it will take FB users to either 1) quit liking pages and just keep the friend feed (if this is even really an option) or 2) abandon FB to the point where the big business pulls out and it returns to its original purpose?
    I think big business has advantages everywhere and it was just a matter of time before the money part of their advantage came to the original, organic social media places. Previously, their advantage could be measured by the quality and frequency of the their content update, now it’s just more obvious.
    Just my $0.02

    1. Hi Beth. I honestly don’t know when that will happen but if Facebook doesn’t change their ways, they will lose users – both marketers and users.
      Facebook has found a way to reward big business (in the same way they have the advantage everywhere else) which is why I am happier using other social media sites which continue to focus on true organic reach. Thank you for chiming in with your two cents. I completely agree with you.

  10. Hello Jenn,

    Hello Jenn,

    Great blog post! I never got a facebook fanpage. I saw many but few were active. It’s like people started them but they never flourished for them. I usually use fb to keep in contact with family and friends but lately I haven’t had much time to be on there as I am trying to do more with my blogging/internet marketing. I did find out that my fb friends and family weren’t interested in my internet marketing blog. I find that I have more people interested on G+ and it’s easier to find them. I also have a Google+ community that I have started. So, these days I am spending more time on G+. Thanks for sharing your insights with us!

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And you are right, there are thousands of business pages out there on Facebook that people have let go and now they sit dormant. There are only a small percentage of all businesses that really use Facebook well.
      Unfortunately, most of the time, our friends and family have little interest in our business pages. And so it does take a long time to grow and cultivate a good audience on Facebook. But, as you said, people on G+ are much more interested in the professional and networking aspects and it’s such a better place to connect with people. I’m glad you’re finding success over there.

  11. I just discovered this really great article that expresses some things I’ve sensed about Facebook but didn’t know how to say. http://linkd.in/1g6tstG

    “Whether you’re an individual or a brand, if your actions are found to be contrary to your words, you quickly erode trust and create cause for reevaluation of the relationships others have with you.”

    1. Hi Reid. Thank you for sharing that link. I hadn’t read that one (although I have seen the epic breakup letter from Eat24). It is really well said and directly mirrors my sentiments. And that is a great quote that applies to all businesses and Facebook is failing it! I still hold the belief that Facebook can make money (maybe even more) and not harm small businesses. I think they should charge pages with a certain threshold of followers prices to maintain their pages. You don’t have to pay for ads, organic reach remains intact. But pages with over 10,000 fans, say, would pay a small fee. Pages over 100K fans would pay a slightly higher fee and so on. A simple monthly fee would eliminate the BS we currently have going on with buying sponsored posts. And it would hold businesses accountable to gaining fans. But what do I know…

  12. Thank you for your excellent post. The reality is that there are MANY of us out there who absolutely detest Facebook- mainly because it’s an exercise in frustration and futility. I go to do something and a feature no longer works! I start a business page and they make it darn near impossible to interact with other businesses! Facebook is supposed to be a social network, right? But they make it hard to interact. Then they create this stupid “like” feature that makes everyone desperately beg others to be liked because no one wants to be unpopular. They prey upon that by putting your 50 likes in full view for everyone to see so that you will be shamed into buying their ads to promote more likes for your business, while at the same time cutting reach to near nothing- and round and round it goes. Facebook was started by a deceiver if you believe the story of it’s beginnings, and it continues to manipulate it’s users in every way possible. It has done everything it can to erode our privacy in it’s power grab to sell our personal information to the highest bidder. Mark Zuckerburg even called users who trust him “dumb [expletives]”, but yet we continue to use Facebook because we think we can’t do without it. Yes Jenn, that is “weird and perverted” as you say. We’re like some kidnapped person that ends up loving and serving their abductor!

    On top of all that I’m already getting traffic to my own website WITHOUT FACEBOOK- Facebook is not trying to build my business, what they really want is for me to drive traffic to their site- and have me pay to do that!

    I predict Facebook’s days are numbered. Like all prideful self absorbed empires it will be increasingly hated and eventually fall.

    1. PREACH! I love your comment, Mike! Thank you so much for you candor and passion and adding to the conversation. And you’re absolutely right, I can get traffic without Facebook. Especially when my own blog posts often have the lowest reach of any posts I share on FB – which is REALLY annoying!
      In all honesty, I hope Facebook changes for the better and attempts to reverse the damage they’ve done. But, in all reality, I know that’s not likely to happen. And, like you said, their days will be numbered (it may be a big number, but a number nonetheless).

  13. Totally agree with everything you wrote. I don’t know how Facebook expects start-ups to compete with established brands and their big advertising budgets.

    1. They can’t compete – and I don’t think Facebook cares, Juan. It’s very unfortunate.

  14. Well, at least I’m not the only one fed up with Facebook! 🙂 I just found your site thru Social Media Examiner. I asked FB to change my page name so I could actually get in compliance with their new page name standards…and then they change my name, but misspell it! And now they are ignoring me. Such a pain. But as a marketing friend reminded me, you get what you pay for right? And well, since it’s basic service is free, I guess I shouldn’t complain. But now I have to start from scratch and build a new presence. So frustrating. Anyway, sorry for the rant! Love all the great tips you are sharing!

    1. Hi Nicki! And welcome to the blog. So happy to have you here! 🙂
      That is so frustrating that FB messed up your name. As you said, you get what you pay for, and you’re far from the only person to have issues with FB – not that that makes it any easier for you to deal with. I wish you the best of luck in growing your new presence on FB and look forward to seeing you around the social sphere and here on the blog.

  15. Hey Jenn.

    Arrrrrrrgh! (there, that’s better)

    Here’s the deal. Facebook sucks and we all hate it… but it’s still the largest social network with the most engaged users (according to loads of recent infographics and stats on Google+)

    So we have to use it, and Facebook played a very clever marketing game! Unless you’re as brave as Eat24 and you decide to write a letter to Facebook telling them you’re leaving 75,000 fans behind, then you’re staying, and you’re looking for ways to make it easier to reach people.

    That’s OK, right?! Facebook ARE a business and as you say they have shareholders. Fine. I’ll advertise then. The problem is that sucks too! I’ve tried all sorts of different ways (don’t boost it’s crap) and the only really good results I had were for a local ad I did for a local Page which did actually gain local fans.

    Facebook have so much info that it should be a great platform to market on… except its SOCIAL media! Did Facebook not realise this? Did Facebook think that whilst watching cool cat videos and viewing 86 images from Auntie’s 65th Birthday Bash that we’d want to be advertised to?

    No no NO! No Facebook, you can’t just re-write the rules now. You can’t make social media an advertising break in the great movie of our lives. The ads may well have access to all the people you’ll ever need to market to but they aren’t in the mood!

    I’m no longer recommending Facebook to my clients and anyone that ask. Can you imagine starting now? With no fans and trying to get quality content to them to help get your name out there? No deal. Twitter and Google+ is where they go.

    Great post and keep ranting – I love ranting too! x

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Todd! Facebook is the eternal conundrum that we all deal with.
      While I don’t discourage people from starting Facebook pages, I do give them a healthy dose of reality when they look to start a new page. As you said, to start a page now (compared with even two years ago) is very difficult and they need to know the realities associated with this. It is considerably easier to grow an audience and engagement on other sites.

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