Over the past few weeks we've been doing a bit of spring cleaning here at KEXINO Towers.
The dust bunnies from the servers and desktop computers have been cleared. The last few hard drives that aren't SSDs have been either defragmented or replaced. Files and bookmarks kept in folders with names like "Desktop Stuff" or "To Keep" have been either indexed or binned.
I've also taken a long, hard look at our lead generation and social media outreach efforts and re-evaluating what's working and what's not. Unsurprisingly, there's a bit of a shake-up there too.
For our company, the single most effective digital vehicle in terms of lead generation is this blog. No real surprises there. But what's interesting is how the ROI on our social media efforts has evolved over the past 12 months.
Spring Cleaning Our Online Properties
We find Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ continue to pay their way in terms of efforts expelled vs. results achieved. However as far as Facebook is concerned, I think it's time to cut the cord. As I'm sure you're aware, Facebook have changed their terms regarding how a company's Facebook page is seen in the timelines of its followers.
In the old days pretty much everyone who "liked" your company Facebook page would see every one of your updates in their timeline, allowing businesses to easily (and affordably) keep in touch with their followers. There was also the ability to reach an even larger number of people if your content got Liked/Shared, as your audience's own network would also get to see your content.
Today, however, all that's changed.
Facebook no longer automatically pushes your content to the people that have "liked" your page. In fact today only around 6% of your audience (and often more like 2%) receives your content updates. Today, if you want to reach your audience (people who – as you remember – had made a conscious decision to choose to receiving your information) you have to pay Facebook each and every time you update your status. (Remember we're only talking about Facebook business pages – the reach from your personal Facebook account hasn't changed).
Cutting The Cord On Facebook
As you can imagine, since Facebook made this change there's been a bit of an outcry. Yes, I think Facebook's behavior is kind of scummy. But then again Facebook is a commercial organization who, as a public company, has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders to increase profitability. In addition Facebook want us to stay on Facebook for as long as possible. Low-quality updates from businesses who don't know better makes people want to leave the site.
As Facebook users we all hate the 99% of interruptive, corporate chest-beating promotional rubbish that companies produce to contaminate our news feeds. We want to see, useful "likeable" and "shareable" content – whether that's from friends and family, or even from a brand.
Facebook know this too, and have decided to show fewer business page updates because they know that's what we want. You could say that this whole situation has only come about because there are too many companies out there with sucky Facebook tactics…
So Facebook's new plan is that customer-focussed companies produce their amazing content and pay Facebook to get it to the people that have "liked" their page. The belief is that if the content is seen as being sufficiently "wow" then the people who receive it will not only "like" it, but they will comment on it or share it. This is then interpreted by Facebook that Company X is producing good stuff, so the next time the business shares something on their timeline it gets pushed out even further.
What's a Startup Or Small Business To Do?
That's all fine and dandy. But what about the millions of start-ups and small businesses that have listened to people like yours-truly and built-up a following on Facebook, but can no longer reach their audience without putting their hands in their pockets? Companies that don't have the budget to continually reach an audience that they were previously reaching for free, and whose content – while perhaps not earth-shattering – was certainly seen to have value in the minds of their followers.
"Paid Social Media Reach" Is Called "Advertising", Isn't It?
The thing about Facebook is that it's a bit like the telephone. While they're both a really good way to chat to someone, they're not that great when used for selling.
Facebook's old model had two tiers – "free" and "paid". Free was setting-up your Facebook brand page and promoting it to get your target audience to "like" it. Once you had done that you could create your content, ply your wares, interact with your followers, and so on.
Facebook's "paid" model was for a company to buy advertising space. You'd take out an ad and Facebook would put that ad on people's Facebook pages. Facebook would even use tech that pushed these ads to you even when you weren't on Facebook.
Based upon their actions it would seem that Facebook are now saying that the "free" model doesn't work, and that companies now need to pay if they are to get their content out there.
But if a particular piece of content was deemed to be rubbish when it was free, how can it now have value simply just because you've had to pay to distribute it?
Facebook Has It's Place -- But Not For "Free" Sales Generation
If your business has a Facebook page, what are your plans for moving forward?
From our side we've been reducing our Facebook updates gradually since the beginning of the year – and letting our audience know, along the way. Over the next few weeks we're going to be phasing things out even more. We're lucky in that our main lead-generation activities (email, social media, and SEO) continue to be successful for us. However I really feel for all of those businesses who are now stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Facebook can still play an important part in an organization's social initiatives – conversations, education, information, and so on. Moreover advertising on Facebook, if it's well thought-out, can definitely generate sales leads. But for most businesses, posting (unpaid) updates with the expectation of generating leads is going to lead to disappointment.
Again, that's the total opposite for Facebook ads. If you have any kind of budget, Facebook's comprehensive advertising tools are truly awesome. You can create various kinds of ads – including video – and slice'n'dice your target audience in every which way. Properly executed, Facebook advertising can deliver stunning results – we've seen it time and time again with client campaigns, as well as ads we've run ourselves.
When Time Magazine recently contacted Facebook about the change in policy, a spokeswoman replied, "Like many mediums (sic), if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising."
The world's biggest social network by number of users, advocating that businesses use paid advertising rather than social media to reach their audience?