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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Truth About Facebook

...Take two.
Yes, take two. I originally wrote this blog yesterday and it came out far more angry and rant-y than what I would want it to be. Am I angry? Yes. But I had to step back, delete the original post, and wrap my head around the situation better in hopes that I could share this issue with you in a less angry way.
Facebook is a beast of a social media platform. And I say that as a user, but more so as a small business owner. Love it or hate it, it is hard to ignore if you have any kind of business whatsoever. Facebook is where people are, and where people turn to try to find you.
With that said, years ago, Facebook launched Facebook Pages... basically profiles for businesses, organizations, and what have you. They pushed it relentlessly under the noses of any business owner they could find on Facebook with the promise of helping you create, reach and expand your audience (ie customers). I jumped on with my farm page early in 2011 before my soap business existed. It was a page that was associated with my original blog website for our farm that detailed the day to day struggles and events on our homestead, and included my soap making hobby in the mix. When that hobby became a business, Facebook was there to encourage me to build my audience and create content for them to see.
For the first few years it was great: Free advertising on a free platform that was growing leaps and bounds every single day. Facebook worked for your small business if you put the time in to post content and engage your audience. You knew your audience was seeing your content. I did, because you told me. 
This is how I met and got the opportunity to interact with so many of you. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.
But then something happened. At the height of it all, Facebook changed some things behind the scenes that most people were unaware of. Now these pages, like our farm page, that you specifically "liked" so that you could follow, slowly started disappearing in frequency on your news feed. Slow enough that you probably didn't even notice. Tidbits of instructions started filtering through that if you wanted to see content from pages that you followed, you needed to go to the page and click on this and that and another thing so that it would show up in your news feed. And so people did this and that and the other thing. And my page posts started showing back in your news feeds again. 
But, of course, Facebook wasn't about to leave it alone. They changed things again, and users had to change their settings again, so that the pages they wanted to see content from would come back to their news feed.
This has happened over and over during the last couple of years. So much so that I, and many other pages, stopped trying to tell you how to reset your notifications so that my page my content would reappear in your news feed. It was a losing battle.
Sounds tricky, but it gets worse. Now, and increasingly so as each day goes by, Facebook wants, approaches, and repeatedly asks pages like mine to pay money to get their posts seen. Seen by who? You. The same person who intentionally went to the page to begin with, "liked" it, and essentially told Facebook that you want to see their content.
If it had started this way, that would be fine. But how it started was by Facebook luring in businesses, thousands and thousands of small businesses, encouraging them to create content that draws people to Facebook, forming communities that interact on your page, and build your customer base through their platform... Essentially working and creating content FOR Facebook and creating interactive pages FOR Facebook, only to have them shut the door in the face of me, the small business owner, and tell me I now have to pay them to be able to reach the community I had built.
What does this boil down to? And why am I telling you this? Because as it stands, anytime I do a giveaway or a contest, a flash sale or have coupon codes to share with you, if I post that information on Facebook, only a small portion of you actually see it now. And I don't think that is fair. It's not fair if you are wanting to get in on the pre-orders for the BFF boxes each season and Facebook decides to hide that link from you, so you miss it. It's not fair if only some people see when I do big flash sales and not others. 
Over and over again, I have had customers tell me that they miss seeing photos of our baby goats, or updates about Snow our miniature horse, or the latest farm restoration project or what the new seasonal scents are. It frustrates me, and makes me sad when I have to tell them that I've been posting these things all along. Facebook is just not showing it to you.
One day, a couple months ago, I finally said OK. You win, Facebook. I chose something I had actually posted a couple months before that reached a lot of people (Pages get basic statistical information for each post, giving you a general idea of how many people the post reached). I copied the post, paid for it to be sponsored, and it ran for a week. I watched the statistical information and guess what? It reached and was reacted to by pretty much the same amount of people as it did when it was not sponsored a couple months before. Money... wasted.
I found it interesting, but marked it up to bad timing or too much other new stuff floating around on Facebook or whatever. It must have gotten buried by something.
Until I tried it again during the holidays a few weeks ago. I paid to sponsor another post so, as Facebook said, it would reach more of my audience in their news feed. I paid for it to run heavily for three days instead of one week, and in the meantime I also posted similar posts (unsponsored) of similar content.
The stats on the posts were all I needed to see: The sponsored posts that I PAID Facebook to show you weren't being seen any more than the ones I didn't pay for. In fact, the sponsored holiday post performed worse than almost all of the content that I put out during the month of December. Money, again, wasted. 
While I can't do much about you not seeing the photos and videos (other than to tell you that you can find us on Instagram and YouTube), the only way I see that I can make things fair is to release all of the important information like sales, coupons, product launches, giveaways and big announcements by way of my email newsletter. That has been the most reliable way for me to get this information out by far, and as long as you're not letting it get trapped in your spam filter, there isn't a social media platform out there hiding that content from you.  
This doesn't just go for my business, but all small businesses you follow on Facebook in general. They are up against the same beast, being backed into the same corner as I am. If you want to help them out, reach out and find them outside of Facebook.
As a side note, there is one major timeless trick that will help my content show up more in your news feed if you're dedicated to using Facebook: Interaction. Plain and simple. The more you like, comment and share my content, the more Facebook will show you stuff like my baby goat pictures and farm updates. And yes, they will still ask me to pay to have it shown more, but by you interacting with my posts, it opens the backdoor for it to be seen more for free. (Again, this goes for any small business page.)
If you've read this far, thank you. You're the reason I'm putting this out there and I hope it helps to shed light on what small businesses are up against. I have a virtual open door policy for thoughts and suggestions, and I'd love to hear what you have to say on the subject. Let's keep our community going, and growing, for free.

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I have a virtual open door policy for thoughts and suggestions, and I'd love to hear what you have to say!