Let me start by saying that I love Facebook. I live in Asia. Most of my family lives in Australia. I have friends and relatives scattered literally all over the globe. Since I started using Facebook I’ve reconnected with long lost cousins, friends that I thought I might never see again, schoolmates and old Army buddies. Every day I enjoy the experience of being able to see my kids, grandkids and extended network of family and friends living their everyday lives. It’s a portal to a world that was all but unimaginable just a decade ago – and I for one like the view.
It’s free and always will be
When you signed up for your Facebook account, you may have noticed the positioning statement on their homepage that says “It’s free and always will be”. Facebook has always proclaimed that it’s free to use Facebook and would remain that way. That may be the case for people who use Facebook as a way to stay in touch with family and friends. It’s certainly no longer the case for commercial users, many of whom have invested large amounts of money to develop a presence on Facebook. Right now, some commercial users like Eat24 are actively closing down their Facebook pages. Personally, I’ve all but ignored my own Facebook fan page for some time. I’ve been telling some of my social media clients to do the same thing.
Facebook – the greatest marketing tool ever invented?
By rights, Facebook should be the greatest marketing platform ever unleashed. They have the data to understand your every interest. Facebook knows who your friends are, and probably have enough information to understand what drives your friendship and makes it work (or not). Depending upon what you share, they know where you have lived, where you have visited, what restaurants you eat at, your sexual orientation, your religious and political views, and what kinds of computer, tablet and smartphone you own. They may know where you work, what your profession is and roughly how much you earn. Facebook knows a LOT about you. So why isn’t every marketer on the planet falling over themselves to advertise on Facebook?
Three things that small businesses hate about Facebook
Firstly, small business owners resent the fact that Facebook is trying to make them pay, in order to display content to their own, hard-won Likers. Many business owners have allocated considerable time and resources to building a Liker base on Facebook, only to have Facebook pull the rug out from under them. Without digging into the whats and hows and whys of it, Facebook now only feeds new posts to around six percent of Likers. This means that if a small business has developed a Liker base of say 10,000 people, anything they post on their Facebook page will only be fed to around 600 of their base. To feed posts to more Likers, Facebook now demands payment to “boost” the post.
Secondly, small business owners hate the fact that Facebook (according to their terms of service) “owns” all of the content that they post on Facebook. Let’s face it if a business goes to the trouble of creating something that it believes is worthy of sharing with its Likers, why would they want Facebook to own it? From a purely legal perspective, business owners probably shouldn’t post anything that they value on Facebook at all!
Finally, (and most importantly) small business owners are waking up to the fact that Facebook is not somewhere that people go to in order to buy things. Reality is that when people hop on a search engine like Google to buy something, they will search for something specific. They’re looking to buy, and any ads that they might see are really not an intrusion. They can even be helpful. People don’t visit Facebook to search for products and services. They visit to catch up with family and friends, post pictures of their cat and play Candy Crush Saga. Ads are an intrusion.
Is there anything left to love about Facebook?
Sure. I really don’t think that small businesses should abandon their Facebook pages. As a tool of personal recommendation for small, local businesses, Facebook can be word of mouth marketing on steroids. I’ve seen friends asking if anyone knows of a good plumber in such and such a place, or asking for information about where to purchase certain items locally. The power of Facebook is undeniable in these circumstances – but it’s not a paid ad – it’s a personal recommendation. Sales leads just don’t get any better than this and Facebook is an awesome medium for producing them.
Should I pay for ads or Likers on Facebook?
Probably not. If your business is a local service business, I’d have to question the value of paying for exposure on Facebook, at all. The truth is that people are only going to get a new accountant when their old one dies or retires. They’re only going to try and find a plumber when their toilet is broken. Chances are, they’ll go to Google to search for those services. On the other hand, if you are in business as a health and nutrition consultant, chances are that you can develop an engaged audience which is keen for day-to-day health tips – and developing a community of Likers on Facebook, and paying to boost your posts may be a viable option for you.
Just think about it…
Think of things this way; how would you react to the kind of ad you are thinking of placing on Facebook if it was to pop up on your feed? How much time would you be prepared to spend reading the sort of posts that you could create for your own Facebook fan page? How often would you be interested in seeing a post appear on your feed about the kind of business that you run if you were an average Facebook user? Ask yourself these questions. Ask your friends, family and colleagues too. Chances are they go onto Facebook to catch up with family and friends, and to be entertained. It’s just possible that they don’t want to see your products and services on there. It’s also pretty clear that Facebook just doesn’t love you (or me) like they used to.
Remarketing – Facebook is trying to win my love again!
For those business owners who are unfamiliar with Facebook remarketing, you need to find out about it. This article from Facebook News is a few years old. It’s probably more worthy of a read now than what it was when Facebook first published it. Marketers can now use Facebook as a way to re-engage with people who have already visited their website, by installing a “pixel”. Think of the pixel like a tracking device. It will follow your website visitors to their Facebook page and serve your ads to them – remarketing to people who have already demonstrated some level of interest in what you have to sell.
Why Remarketing Works on Facebook
Remarketing works on Facebook because it is not intrusive. This is not about businesses posting something share-worthy, and hoping that it goes viral. This is not about trying to get the attention of somebody with no interest in you, or your products. It’s about placing your message in front of somebody who has already put their hand up as a potential buyer, by visiting your website. You are reengaging with somebody who has already demonstrated an interest – you are not intruding – they have already thought about you before. The potential power of this kind of advertising cannot be overlooked.
A final word
Many internet platforms start out free. Google is a great example. When they began, everything was free. Google introduced AdWords in 2003, and it has since gone on to become the most successful and profitable advertising platform in history. Facebook has long struggled to monetize its own operations in a way that meets with shareholder expectations. My guess is that remarketing may just be the thing that finally takes the platform to the moon. My advice as a marketer – Facebook remarketing just cannot be ignored. Jump on it!