Update, November 2016. I’ve completely changed my tune about this! The reason my Facebook experiment didn’t work was because I didn’t know what I was doing. If you’d like to learn more about how to know about what you’re doing when advertising on social media, and how we can help, read our post: 5 Signs You Need a Social Media Team.
I decided in December that I was done with the Aeolidia Facebook page. It still exists, and I post to it regularly (via Buffer and WordPress, almost couldn’t be easier), but I’m not going to spend any time or energy on trying to engage more people, publish special content there, or care about my stats or likes. Facebook used to be a great way to interact with other small businesses, but their changes have made it nearly useless to me.
There are a lot of articles on the internet about this change and how it’s affected big companies, but I thought you would be interested to see how it affected a small creative business like yours, with a modest amount of likes, and fans that are typically more devoted than fans of the big brands.
Here is a little Facebook lingo to get you through the rest of this article:
- Likes – people who have clicked the like button to follow your Facebook business page
- Reach – Facebook’s word for when people see a post in their news feed
- Engage – when someone clicks, likes, shares, or comments on your Facebook post
- Organic – the results you get when you don’t pay Facebook
- Paid – the results you get when you do pay Facebook
As of writing this post, Aeolidia has 1,630 likes on Facebook. These are all people who have just found us organically, as I don’t promote our Facebook page (aside from the ‘F’ icon on our website), and I’ve never paid to increase my Facebook likes or advertise my Facebook page.
Back in the fall, when I would post on Facebook, I would often reach 50%-80% of my fans. When I had something particularly interesting, their friends would see it, and I would reach more people than the amount that liked my page (up to 1200 people, out of my then 1000 likes).
Facebook changed how that all works in early December of 2013, and now my reach is commonly about 10%. So even though 1600 people have suggested that they like my page and would like to see my updates, only 100 or 200 of these people see any given thing I post.
Facebook, of course, wants us to pay them to have our posts shown to our fans. I have done this from time to time, and never been particularly impressed with the results. I decided to try it again, to see how it worked after the slump they caused (and so I could report back to you guys about it).
My Facebook Ad Experiment
Last week, Facebook notified me that my Little Hip Squeaks interview about how and why they moved off of Etsy was quite popular. It was the most interest I had seen in one of my posts since November, so I decided to pay to “boost” it, so more people would see it.
I wanted to be sure I was getting real people who would be interested, so I targeted these people with my post:
- US and Canada
- Ages 24-46
- Interested in Etsy or the Renegade Craft Fair
I offered six bucks for this, which they estimated would have me reach 5,200 – 14,000 people.
I stopped the campaign the next morning (at $4.52), because it was so ridiculous.
How Did My Campaign Go?
- My organic reach: 809
- My paid reach: 1,290
Note that this falls well short of the 5,200+ people they estimated. I don’t necessarily think the estimate was a lie, but I imagine their estimate is based on what larger businesses with more of a fan base could expect. So don’t get excited by the estimate if you’re a “little guy” – Facebook may not be able to provide that amount of traffic to you.
- From my 809 people, 14 liked the post, and 3 commented
- From Facebook’s 1,290 people, I got no likes, comments or shares
Facebook tells me that 173 people clicked the photo (which doesn’t help me, since that doesn’t lead you to the article) and 55 people clicked the link to the article.
117 (67%) of those useless clicks were paid, and only 0.3% (that’s right, 5 people, less than half of a percent) of the paid people clicked the link to the article.
My Evaluation of the Numbers
To decide whether an ad campaign is worth it, you need to know your goal. My goal was to have people click over to the article, and that’s what I hoped I was paying for.
- Out of my 809 organic people, 6.2% clicked (50 clicks)
- Out of Facebook’s 1,209 paid people, 0.3% clicked (5 clicks)
Based on this result, I will not be paying Facebook for any kind of advertising in the future. I spent $4.52 to have 5 people click through to my article. That is 75 cents per person.
I have never paid for CPC (cost per click) advertising for Aeolidia, so I’m not sure how this compares to the going rate (say, using Google AdWords). If you care to share what you know about common (non-Facebook) advertising prices, I’d be interested to learn more in the comments.
I do know that it’s not worth it for me to pay 75 cents per person who makes it to my site to glance at an article. Perhaps this would be worth it if I was selling a product on that page, but since professional web design is not an impulse buy, I don’t expect any of my articles to convert to sales.
Is Paying Facebook the Solution?
The big takeaway here is that you want to be careful about focusing all of your efforts on one area. If, for instance, Facebook had been driving most of our sales in October, we would have been ruined come December.
Particularly since Facebook is a free service that doesn’t owe you anything, they can change their rules and algorithms again and again without consulting you. If you’re able to work within their system without wasting too much time and money, that’s awesome! If not, and it’s not fun for you, my feeling is don’t bother.
My best advice for small businesses trying to stake their claim on the internet is:
- Purchase your own website domain name, even if it’s just pointed to Etsy for now or a single-page info site. You will be able to advertise your own domain and move it in the future without losing your fans.
- Concentrate your efforts on bringing people to your zone (your own website, your email or direct mail list, your blog), so you can better weather the changing seasons of social media.
- Marketers Learn to Play by Facebook’s Changing Rules – overview of the December 2013 change
- Facebook Fraud
: Evidence Facebook’s revenue is based on fake likes – this one is fascinating!
- Paying to Promote Facebook Posts – Worth It? – a similar article from me from 2012
What Has Your Experience Been?
It certainly appears to be possible to keep things vibrant and engaging on Facebook if you want to put the time into creating truly share-able content, and you have a network of people who often share and support your posts on Facebook.
Have you experimented with getting a group of people to try to boost each others’ “news-feed-worthiness” by sharing, liking, and commenting on each other’s posts? I’d love to hear about if it’s been effective!
Have you advertised on Facebook recently? Are people still interested in what you’re doing there? What social media platforms do you prefer?
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