Facebook Has Grown Up, Now You Must Too

The day we all knew was coming, has finally arrived. The wild, wild west is no longer. The gold rush is done.

After whittling and whittling away at our organic advantage over the last few years, Facebook has finally flipped the switch and transitioned from unpaid social media (where anything goes) to a paid for media platform where the message is clear: their way, or the high way.

It’s a grown up business now.

Small businesses that have built a presence on the platform, hungrily promoting its very existence, driving traffic towards it, as well as satisfying users on it with content and engagement, are now shut out in the cold. Trapped in a holding area between the promise that was the (free) window to the world, and the big bad world where marketing media actually costs money. Their relationship with the global social network reduced to a marginal reach and the cold hard feel of cash.

See, Facebook always said it was “free and always will be” but it’s really not being true to its word, now, is it? Because if you’re a business owner with a Facebook page, it’s no longer a free ride. No point moaning about it, let’s be grown ups.

Organic reach is reduced to such a marginal level that it’s commercial value is minimal. It’s tempting to click the “Boost Post” button just to see what happens, isn’t it? Want to pay to get more page likes? Is there even any value in that if you can’t speak to them afterwards?

A friend was celebrating (ironically on Facebook, you know who you are) that this move should free up a good few hours at work because their company weren’t likely to be spending money on Facebook advertising, and doing it the old fashioned way hardly made sense. They’ve been in a marketing role for quite a number of years and they know what they are talking about. They’ve just repositioned Facebook from being “social network” (one worth spending a few hours on) into “paid media” (something to evaluate for effectiveness) in marketing terms. And, guess what, from this point forward, they’ll be setting it up against traditional paid for media to see if it stacks up.

And here’s where it actually gets interesting. In all other forms of paid for media, marketers look at three main variables:

– Duration (how long it can be seen for)

– Reach (how many people will see it)

– Price

In simple terms, we are looking for a mix of media that gives us maximum reach, for minimum budgetary spend.

Facebook can’t give us that.

Yup, you heard me. It just can’t.

We’ve been testing Facebook ads, of varying formats, for the last 9 months and it’s performance on all three is about as predictable as the date for Armageddon.

Costs for Page likes can, depending on the business, vary from 33 cents per like to well over $4. Post engagement will cost you anywhere between 4 cents and 30 cents. The best reach we’ve had from a Facebook campaign was back in 2012, where $56 bought us just shy of 100,000 people. Just two years later, we had to spend twice that to reach half the number suggesting their cost per reach has gone up by 400% in just 24 months.

As a media buying agency, I know of now other media that is as unregulated and unpredictable as Facebook.

So what does this mean for the humble Facebook page owner for now?

Well, expect your reach and impact to go down, regardless of how good your content is, regardless of how good your follower numbers are.

If you don’t have a strategy for using Facebook, then get one. There’s little point in posting your every waking thought on this platform now,  it’s not just about producing valuable content anymore. It’s about choosing your message and promoting it accordingly, with budget. The rest will just make you busy, it won’t make you rich.

If you are looking at paid for advertising, track it. You are going to have to get familiar with the numbers. If you don’t have Google Analytics on your site, and you are not tracking volume traffic from Facebook, how will you know if it’s really working? Sure, Facebook will tell you how much your money bought, but it won’t tell you if anyone converted into a customer as a result. You need to do the hard work in figuring that out.

And here’s the hardest one, if it’s not working: stop. I really mean that. We’ve advised several clients in the last few months to pull back on their efforts and spend as a result of our experience of tracking the impact of facebook advertising on their business. The return on effort and investment is simply too low. Don’t get me wrong, there are clients for whom we have advised the exact opposite. But we’ve got the figures. We can make those advisories wisely, comfortable in the knowledge we know how the media is behaving for their business.

So it’s time to wake up, mourn the free ride we’ve all had and get serious about our business relationship with Facebook. It has.

And if you need help, Volpa are but a phone call away. It may save you money. But it may also save you time. And once you’ve spent both on Facebook, you won’t necessarily get them back.