Over the last couple of years, it’s become hard to utter the word “Facebook” without drawing some ire. The embattled social media platform has faced its fair share of justified criticism—political misinformation, personal data mishandling and algorithm changes have weakened the platform from its glory days.
When clients come to me and ask what their Facebook marketing strategy should be, I find it harder and harder to prove the social network’s value. The marketers behind Facebook Business pages have been going through the motions for a while now, even before the dramatic algorithm changes that took place earlier this year went into effect. What used to be a thriving, active platform for brands to interact directly with their target audience is now simply a supporting player in a larger distribution strategy for most companies. With the addition of fake news, engagement bait and a declining user base, businesses are starting to question the value of the social network.
So, is your Facebook Business page worth the effort anymore? In my opinion—no. Here’s why:
The New Algorithm is Not Business Friendly
After it was revealed that inauthentic Russian accounts spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising on Facebook during the 2016 election season, the company vowed to change. In early 2018, Facebook announced its news feed algorithm would begin demoting posts by businesses, brands, and publishers to re-prioritize the content created by individual users.
As promised, businesses saw a massive decline in engagement. “One policy decreased my income from Facebook by 60 percent overnight,” claims one small business owner in an interview with NBC News. Instead of posts appearing organically in a user’s newsfeed, followers must now go directly to a brand’s Facebook Business page to see the majority of newly posted content. Unless your followers truly can’t live without your brand’s content, many users won’t cross that stream.
It’s Anything but “Free Real Estate”
When businesses first started to realize the benefits of Facebook, there was the popular idea that social media equated to “free advertising.” You tell your customers to follow you on Facebook, they see your posts natively in their feed, they visit your website, and they buy your products and services. This instant sales funnel that connected your business directly with your customers seemed too good to be true. “Like Us on Facebook” became the new “1-800.”
It didn’t take long for Mark Zuckerberg and crew to realize some serious money could be made from selling advertisements to brands using the social network. When Facebook began to invest heavily in its native advertising platform between 2009 and 2012, the value of organic posts subsequently declined. As years went by, paid updates and advertisements began to appear within the newsfeed of users and were given priority over organic reach.
Today, one of the only clear-cut ways to be seen by your Facebook audience—which has opt-ed in to hear from you on the social network by “liking” your business page—is through advertising. And in the first quarter of 2018, Facebook’s ad rates rose by 35 percent. Brands that can’t afford to consistently pay top dollar for advertising through the platform are left with a desolate business page—no matter how high quality their organic posts may be.
Facebook Simply Isn’t “Cool” Anymore
Facebook might still work for your target audience—if they are Baby Boomers or Gen X. Before the Cambridge Analytica scandal shocked the world into taking data privacy more seriously, Facebook was beginning to show the same signs of decay that claimed MySpace and Friendster.
In 2017, Facebook lost an estimated 2.8 million users under the age of 25. And now, according to Pew Research, more than a quarter of Americans say they’ve deleted the Facebook app from their smartphones (I’m part of this group). While the platform still boasts the highest amount of social media users at 2 billion, only a portion are considered true “active monthly users.”
The younger generations blame the older generations for the social network’s downfall. The Republicans blame the Democrats. My brother blames Candy Crush. The list goes on and on. In the end, users are seeing a serious problem with Facebook, despite the network’s best efforts to save face. Luckily, there are better places online to connect with your audience.
What You Can Do Instead
Don’t outright delete your Facebook Business page just yet. First, undergo a social media audit to understand what value and opportunities the platform may have for your brand. Retailers that advertise on Facebook have seen high margins as consumers shop through social media. Other organizations use Facebook Messenger to communicate directly with customers—utilizing the platform to enhance the customer experience. While every organization is unique, diversify your content marketing efforts to ensure you are engaging with your audience in the right place, at the right time.
- Web Content Optimization
Did you know that there are over 3.5 billion searches on Google every day? Optimizing your blog and website content for relevant keywords and phrases your target audience searches for ensures your content gets seen. Unlike Facebook’s algorithm, Google does not punish brands for being what they are—businesses.
- Chatbots & Artificial Intelligence
Yes, implementing artificial intelligence (AI) has become a very buzzy marketing tactic, but hear me out. Chatbots are easy to install and support business operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Chatbots offer a direct line to customers, provide proactive interaction, and help solve real problems. With personalized messaging options and customer data monitoring, chatbots can replace the customer service functionality Facebook once boasted.
- Email Marketing
Want to show up directly in front of your target audience every time? Consider using marketing automation to launch an email marketing campaign, especially if your business is a B2B organization. Email is the preferred method of communication for business professionals and boasts a much higher engagement rate than social media.
- Other Social Networks
While Facebook may no longer be a great fit for many businesses, there are other social platforms that offer real value to brands. YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook-owned Instagram all offer unique ways to connect with your target audience and increase general awareness Consider collaborating with influencers as a complement to your social media strategy. These individuals not only help expand your brand’s reach, but also impact their audience’s purchasing decisions due to the trust and credibility these influencers wield with their followers. The result: natural, unobtrusive marketing.
While Facebook continues to influence our culture, there comes a time when you must consider the return-on-investment the platform offers your brand. In my professional opinion, there are greater digital marketing opportunities available that bring your business real, measurable value.