Many moons ago (ok, over the summer), I wrote a piece denouncing Facebook as a valid platform for investing your advertising dollars. Well, with the recent news of impending change, I’d say that piece is even more justified. Essentially, Facebook wants you, as an entrepreneur, to pay for 99.9% of your interactions. So, remember when you could reach a few of your followers just by posting a link to your book on Amazon? Well, not anymore. My recommendation? Keep your Facebook page. Post updates on occasion. But, put your marketing dollars and your social media energies elsewhere.
I’m pretty much done with Facebook. I gave it one last shot recently and was disappointed once again. Now, mind you, I was working with a much smaller base, but still, the results were pathetic and uninspiring. For those of you who are considering building a platform as an author, be aware that Facebook is no longer the place to start. It’s a sham of what it used to be, which was a place where you could build a following and get some decent organic interaction. Now, it’s a place where posts go to die and conversations only happen between you and five people…even if you have hundreds or thousands of “followers.” In order to have any reach beyond 1% to 2% of your followers, you need to pay to “boost” your post. That’s not a typo.
So, you might say, “Scott, you’ve only got 71 followers on your Facebook page. That’s not exactly a good example.” I say, true, but I also have a Facebook page with more than 400 followers for my Andy Rane pseudonym and I’ve seen the same results there. I posted there the other day. Out of 429 followers, I reached 29 (that’s 6.8%). I guess I should be happy, right? I broke beyond the 2% barrier. This time last year? Text posts were reaching 85 to 100 of my followers on a regular basis without paying a dime. And, assuming I didn’t have over 400 followers at that point, that means I was reaching upwards of 25% of the folks who like my page.
I cannot tell you how frustrating this is. THEY LIKE MY PAGE! Why do I have to pay for the people WHO ALREADY LIKE MY PAGE to see my content! It’s a scam, so I’m not doing it anymore. My Twitter feed now populates my Facebook page with content, but I’m no longer going to post there and I’m certainly not going to spend money there ever again. As an independent author, my resources are limited. I need to see results when I spend money.
While I understand the need to monetize your business, Facebook is becoming its own worst enemy. Twitter has begun allowing the little folk to promote tweets and accounts and such. I’ve used it, with some success. The minute I feel like I can only reach my followers by paying for it, I’ll leave them too. Pinterest is headed in that direction as well (I’m sure you’ve seen the “Related pins” appearing in your feed). I hope they hear the uproar over Facebook and do the right thing. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it.
Let’s face it, social media needs to make money somehow, right? Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest can’t just run for free, can they. Ah, the good ol’ days. But, when the board of directors (or, in Pinterest’s case, board of investors) says you’ve got to make money, it’s time to monetize your product.
Facebook took this to heart and has essentially made it impossible for businesses to interact with the people who follow them without paying for it. That’s right. We’re not even talking about getting new followers or likes. This is only about interacting with the folks who have already liked your page. Organic interaction has been reduced to 1% to 2% on Facebook. That means that even if you have several hundred followers, your post may only reach a handful of people unless you “boo$t” your post. Essentially, it’s pay to play.
Twitter’s methods don’t seem so Machiavellian… yet. As far as I can tell, Twitter’s monetization simply puts your posts or your account in front of more folks who are outside your normal feed. This makes sense to me. As a business, I want to reach more than my followers with some announcements. Ok, then I have to pay for that reach. Seems fair. Makes sense. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this. If they start limiting my reach, it’ll be time to cry foul.
Recently, Pinterest has begun exploring monetization. Businesses will have the ability to pay to recommend their pin to users who pin similar content. Though not open to all users yet, I’ve already seen these pins in my feed. And, let me tell you… I wasn’t too happy. The recommended pins are based on other things I’ve pinned, but not on boards I’ve followed. Here’s the problem with that. I don’t follow clothing boards. I don’t want to follow clothing boards. Yes, I have a board with clothing on it. Every once in a while, I like to browse men’s fashion and pin a few things to that board. I don’t want to see clothing in my feed though. So, I was pretty surprised when I saw clothing in my feed (on my phone) for the first time. Then I saw at the base of the pin, “Recommended pin.” Now, whether or not these are recommended because someone paid for them to be so, or not, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just an algorithm that looks at what you’ve liked in the past and throws a mixture of random and paid at you. I was very surprised at just how many posts were recommended though. I would almost say it was a ratio of 2:5 (recommended pins:organic pins). It seemed like a lot. And, for someone who’s suddenly seeing clothes where he primarily only wanted to see books and book-related pins, it’s distracting and disturbing. I’m not quite ready to pass negative judgement on this, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
I’ve used both Facebook and Twitter’s pay-for-performance systems. Facebook is, unfortunately, populated with people whose job it is to click on links (seach the term “click farms” and you’ll learn something new), which devalues almost every paid interaction on the site. I had so many bogus followers the last time I paid for something that I’ve decided to never use paid advertising on the site again. Twitter was a much different story. I had decent followers who actually had common interests, and my links got clicks that appeared to at least generate some feedback/sales. I’ll be curious to give Pinterest a shot once they open up to small businesses. I don’t see a lot of action on book links now, but maybe if it’s something that’s focused, the results would be different.
My last comment is that social media is making it easier and easier to pour money into their hungry mouths. Be careful the beast you feed. As a small business, your advertising dollars should be focused where you see the most return. Nothing is guaranteed. Do your research and get multiple opinions before putting your hard-earned money in the social media money-eating monster.