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.