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Is Facebook even relevant anymore?

In light of the many people who have asked me lately what's the point of even using Facebook anymore, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.  Hope this  helps shed some light on where social media stands now for business and how you can rethink your strategies for the future! 

In 2007, Facebook introduced the Facebook Pages feature.  At the time, most early adopter businesses were using the “person profile” to reach their customers but Facebook forced us to use business pages or potentially lose access to all the connections we worked so hard to build. 

Early on, the Pages feature worked much like a personal profile and most posts were seen by most followers (or at least the ones that logged in that day.)  As business owners, we became spoiled and somewhat entitled.  Accustomed to reaching as many as 50% of fans with each post, we set that as our expectation, and we assumed that anyone who followed us should see whatever it is we wanted them to see.

Unfortunately, we abused the privilege.  Feeding off the instant gratification of being able to sell with very little effort, we bombarded fans with overly “salesy” content without giving much of value in return.  This, coupled with the publicly traded company’s need to make money, led Facebook to cut back on how many people saw each post to ensure that its users were being served enough of the content they were actually on the site to see, usually the day to day lives of their friends and family.  After all,  Facebook (as is Google) is in the business of being relevant to its users- not the business of being convenient for the small percentage of us with something to sell.

So where does that leave businesses on Facebook today?

Now that organic reach for pages is pretty well documented to be only 1-2% per post, businesses should rethink their strategies.  After all,  Facebook is still ingrained as a daily habit for over a billion people around the world.  Though it might not be free or quite as easy to reach them,  it’s still a very inexpensive way to do so.  Frankly, small businesses can’t afford not to take advantage of the opportunity to reach people where they are still actively congregating every day.

Strategies for adapting to our new social media reality:

Invest in owned media. When they drastically changed our ability to reach people, Facebook reminded us that we aren’t in control of any platforms that we don’t own.  The rules can change and do change every day. The only constants are our own websites and databases (e.g. email lists, POS, & CRM.)  Back in the days of instant contact, these often got neglected as viable, long term solutions for disseminating information about products, sales and specials. Investing your time and effort in building (and using) your email database will always pay off in the long run.  You can even use Facebook and other platforms to promote and build your email lists.

Use Facebook ads to acquire new customersWhile there may be easier ways (like Instagram, SMS, or email blasts) to reach the customers you already have, Facebook ads with thoughtful targeting are the least expensive way to reach exactly the right potential customers.  A small investment in ads (less than a typical print ad) can produce up to 10x the number of people seeing your message at exactly the time you want your message to be seen.

Use other platformsLots of businesses have begun investing time in Instagram as a platform for reaching customers. (See my interview with the Advocate for proof.)  Assuming they want to be reached,  Instagram and other platforms are a great way to reach your existing clientele.  Just keep in mind that Instagram accounts aren’t owned media.  Even the Wall Street Journal predicts that someday soon, we’ll begin to see the rules change and businesses will likely be filtered out here as well as on Facebook. (Don’t forget that Zuckerberg now owns Insta, too!)

Refocus on quality content. Content still matters.  Whether your post is promoted or not, how much interaction it gets will dictate how many people will see it. Instead of focusing on producing lots of content,  produce better content.  Give people what they want to see which is almost always information.  Demonstrate your expertise by giving away bits of useful information to earn the trust of customers and potential customers. This will allow you to gain their attention as an expert and thought leader without always having to shout “look at me and what I am selling!”


Want to learn more about strategies for promotion?  I’d encourage anyone in South Louisiana to sign up for my upcoming social media seminar with Erin McCarthy and the Opportunity Machine at LEDA. (Sign up here.)  Though it's geared for non-profits,  I believe the content will be useful to anyone with something to promote!  Click here to register. 

Facebook changes the newsfeed rules. Again.

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I recently shocked the attendees at my social media seminar when I told them that posts on which users comment different variations of “congratulations”  tend to rank higher in our news feeds and stay there longer.  Why?  Because Facebook’s algorithm recognizes that this usually signifies important events in our lives-  new babies, weddings, job promotions and big news. 

The algorithm is complicated and it changes often. Facebook recently announced another change to its method for selecting and serving us content.  With the new update, Trending topics and time sensitive content will receive preference (albeit not necessarily a huge advantage.)  In Facebook’s official words it means that “when a friend or Page you are connected to posts about something that is currently a hot topic of conversation on Facebook, that post is more likely to appear higher up in News Feed, so you can see it sooner”

Though this change will be rolled out slowly and might be barely noticeable to a consumer,  it provides an opportunity for lifestyle businesses to increase their exposure by posting about current events (when relevant to your audience) as they happen.

That said, it’s hard to trick Facebook (or Google) for very long.  They hire the best tech minds in the world and they’ll always be a few steps ahead of us. Their main goal (other than pro ducting revenue) is to get us to come to the site often and to stay there longer.  To do this, they have to keep us interested with content we care about.  This has often meant showing us more content from our friends and less from pages we follow. The only way to do well on Facebook business pages is to “keep producing great content that is relevant and resonates with (your) audience.”

Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About FB Star Ratings (That you didn't even know you had.)

Star ratings on Facebook aren’t exactly new.  They’ve been around for about 11 months (which in Zuckerberg years is more like 11 years.)  Somehow, there’s very little written about them online. Here’s my roundup of observations and their implications for small business. 

  • The numbers are seriously inflated. Unlike yelp, who filters out reviews it thinks are fake, Facebook doesn’t filter any reviews.  This leads of lots of friends rating each other and inflated scores.  What does that mean?  You might as well drop the 4. in front of your score.  a 4.2 might as well be 2/10 and a 4.8 is essentially an 8/10.   So don’t get too excited about your 4.5 because it’s actually not a very impressive score. 
  • Only public ratings count toward your total.  If you are trying to increase your rating from a 4.4 (a 4) to a 4.7),  you’ll have to ask a lot of friends to rate you 5 stars to counteract a few low ratings.  But make sure your friends know that if they don’t set their review to public,  it won’t do anything to help your star rating average. 
  • You can’t get rid of a bad review. Unless Facebook considers a review to be spam or abusive,  there’s very little you can do.   You can like it, comment on it or enlist your friends to help you bury it with more reviews but that’s about it.
  • You can remove the star ratings altogether but that has implications.  If your reviews are so awful that you’d rather  remove the ratings feature entirely,  it can be done.  (At least for now,) if you remove the map functionality of your page (by removing the address),  you’ll also disable the star rating feature. Customers will no longer be able to check in to your business and graph search won’t include you in geographically targeted results.