Why I’m Done Paying Facebook

Why I'm Done Paying Facebook

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 algorithm change 2013

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

Facebook ad settings

Facebook ad settings

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Further Reading

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?

Savvy creative businesses say they always learn something helpful and interesting when they read our newsletter! You can join them here.

About the Author

Arianne Foulks is a popular educator and small business enthusiast. As a champion for creative brands, she has a 15+ year reputation for thoughtful redesigns that help businesses level up. She loves having a problem to solve, and has focused throughout her career on building online homes for fascinating people. She is raising boys, will walk any distance, always has a pile of novels by her bed, and was once bitten by an elephant seal.

View more articles written by Arianne >

  1. I must say that your blog posts are by far the most informative and well written/thought out business-related posts that I get in my inbox and this most recent post was no exception. My small business Facebook account has always been hit or miss, which made it particularly unmotivating to post to. I was recently considering starting to post to Facebook again regularly, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Thank you so much, Sydney! I am glad to hear this stuff is helpful. If posting to Facebook is a drag and you’re getting a warmer reception on Instagram or Twitter or wherever, I think you’d be better off concentrating your efforts where you feel more welcome, rather than just disappearing into a black hole on Facebook.

  2. Your experience mirrors mine almost exactly…although I have fewer likes. Out of 325 Likes, maybe 20-30 see my posts and I suspect it’s the same 20-30 each time. I’ve tried boosting a couple posts to no benefit. I need to ween myself off Facebook for business. It’s pretty worthless.

    • Yep, even if the numbers appear good after boosting a post, it may be that those extra views are essentially worthless. I feel much better setting my Facebook into a kind of automated robot mode with Buffer now that I see how paltry the results of paying are. I don’t feel like I need to spend my time jumping through “like-ability” and “engagement” hoops just to talk to people who have said they want to hear from me.

  3. Patti says,

    I’d love to “like” this article! Spot on..
    I appreciate that you recognize “Facebook is a free service that doesn’t owe you anything, they can change their rules and algorithms again and again without consulting you”
    And that you clearly understand your goals and measurements to reach those.
    Facebook was a great “free” marketing tool for small business at one time, but for many it’s outgrown it’s time sucking worth.

    • Even clicking over to Facebook to add my business posts was wasting my valuable work time, because you know they’re going to get you with that little red-circled number of what you’ve been missing on there. The amount of time I’ve saved by letting Buffer post to Facebook for me has been another great bonus to not worrying about Facebook for marketing anymore.

  4. Great article. I am finding the same thing with my business FB page. Ironically I saw this in my Facebook feed. ;)

    • Ha ha, Amy, you’re one of the few people that Facebook will still let me reach, I guess!

  5. I spend waaaaay less time on Facebook than I ever have in the previous years of business owning. A lot of what I do lately is on Instagram because it’s a visual stimulant and people get to see what is posted if they follow you…no crazy scheming or algorithms yet. I’m afraid this will go away soon, because Facebook owns IG. We will see when that happens.

    Yes, Facebook is a free tool. But I still know of plenty of people that spend HOURS a day on there. It should be an awesome option for marketing and yet the struggle is so real. What does Facebook have to gain by shutting out all of the little people?

    • Yes, it’s a shame that their changes impact the little guys so negatively, but they’re a for-profit business and they have no reason to care about us. Though you’d think that once you were paying you would get some worthwhile results! I always figured I wasn’t getting much interest because I was freeloading off of them, but it was disappointing to learn that I don’t get anything better if I pay.

  6. I figured that paying Facebook is useless last year. And now I hear they will decrease the organic reach even further. The email campaigns have been doing much better. People use Facebook for fun mainly and are not in the mood for shopping there.

    You mentioned Ad Words. Some keywords are very expensive as much as $50 per click!

    The difference is that with google ads someone actually actively searches for a a service and your website is pushed to the top search. Conversion is much higher. I know some freelancers who pay $800 per month in ad words to get clients and they do get them from these ad words. I haven’t tried it personally.

    • Wow, at $50 a click, I’d want to feel VERY confident about the sales page I was leading people to!

  7. Good advice – thank you Aeolidia! I started a small, private FB Group (Creative Soul Circle) which is for my Museletter Subscribers only and it is very active. By doing this I find that the people in my Group now comment and like a lot of my posts on my other pages, so that is one way to build an audience who truly cares and connects and shares :)

    Kathy Crabbe: Creative Soul Guide & Artist

    • Oh, what a good idea, Kathy – making your own area on Facebook is a great way to grow your own little garden there. Starting with your most dedicated fans and having them help you spread the word is such an intimate way to market your business without feeling like a marketer.

  8. Loved the article. I could relate to everything you said to a T. Completely frustrated by it. At the same time I don’t know where else to promote my business in a way where people can interact back with me. Have you experienced other outlets that work better with your followers?

    • Hi Leslie,

      Definitely your own newsletter – I can’t recommend that enough. Pinterest doesn’t seem very chatty, so I think I’d try to get other people to pin my stuff to Pinterest, but I would focus more on promoting my own images through Instagram, where people will post more comments and share with their friends. Twitter can be a simple way to chat about what’s going on and talk back and forth with customers as well.

      • Thanks! It was kind of funny that I wasn’t getting my fans on facebook to see my posts. I posted on Facebook to follow me on Instagram since only 10% of my fans can see my posts, I didn’t get very many people connecting to my Instagram account from Facebook because obviously nobody saw my post. I feel like I have to start from scratch with Instagram and Pinterest with my fans.

        • You could also try posting all your Instagram photos to Facebook, and mention regularly that you’d like people to follow you over there. That’s another thing that’s so great about having your own newsletter – you can just announce that kind of stuff there!

  9. I agree with Sydney – thanks as always for the great business articles. You are such a support for small businesses!

  10. Great article! I have over 6000 FB fans and I’ve invested a lot to get them via FB ads, contests and giveaways. It’s disheartening to see that FB wants me to pay money to show my content to my fans I’ve already paid money to FB to get in the first place. I stopped last spring, not worth it.
    And it was getting so frustrating realizing that even my most active and loyal fans weren’t being shown my posts. Crazy!

  11. This was a very helpful article – thanks for writing it. It confirms what I’ve been instinctively feeling for a long time i.e. what it best for my business is best when I can control it (by sending customers to my website). It is hard tho’ not to post to Facebook regularly…a good portion of our customers routinely use FB so I feel like we have to have a presence there. One of my frustrations is that the customers that “like” my page don’t realize that they are not seeing all of the content. I’m tempted to post this article on my FB page, tho’ it won’t get to everyone! We have 974 likes but such a small minority of these are seeing any of our posts (roughly 100-200 in any given post). I don’t want to spend a second more on this with such low returns. When people actually take a moment out of their busy day to “like” a small local business it has real value. FB works so well for this sort of business, it’s crazy to me that they are pushing us away. Many craft-related businesses thrive in a community, social media type of environment. Why they couldn’t have come up with a way to maximize our presence there while letting our customers see all of our posts, I do not know. One thought I had was that craft / maker type posts are very visual (I post a lot of photos and albums) and they need to reserve space for all the giant corporations in the stream. From the beginning our social media strategy was all about driving customers to our website (we are bricks and mortar business) where we can control the interaction. After that we focus on our email newsletter (we have 3,500+ subscribers) then Facebook, then Twitter. I just don’t have much time/energy left over for the ever changing social media landscape. But I will be exploring Buffer…thanks for the tip! (Sorry for the long comment…you struck a nerve :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Genevieve – posting to Facebook starts to feel like busywork when what you get back from it is so little.

  12. I loved this post! I haven’t paid for anything on Facebook because I was pretty skeptical and this just confirms that! One thing I occasionally do to get my posts seen by more people is I will tag my personal page in the post. I only do this when it’s a behind the scenes look at some hand lettering or something non-promotional because I don’t want to annoy my FB friends. This has helped tremendously because friends and family will like my posts and then the post will show up in their friends timelines. As a business owner I totally get that Facebook is a business as well and they are trying to make money. As a user of Facebook though I get so frustrated when I have told the platform that I “like” a page and would like to see updates and then I never do. I just re-found a company I love because I had forgotten about it. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess!

    • P.S. I agree with some of the others saying they have had more success on Instagram. I feel like that’s where my loyal community is and those people really care about the people and the story behind my business.

    • Right, right! And I wonder why I’m sending traffic out to Facebook from my own website? What for – so it can go to a black hole?

  13. Amen! I’ve been confounded at how few of our referrals have come from our FB page, esp since we have a decent number of “followers.” Instagram is slow growing for us but I do find it more engaging. Also found Jeff at Boooooom’s recent post on this issue interesting…http://www.booooooom.com/2014/02/25/end-facebook/

    • Interesting article, Emily, though I’d change, “These people who opted in and want to receive your updates won’t ever see them now unless you pay money” to say, “EVEN IF you pay money!”

      P.S. love the artwork you sell!

  14. You are 100% correct Arianne! Even when you do pay to promote with Facebook the new likes that are generated actually fall off over the next few weeks. It’s all smoke and mirrors with FB and the stats they are claiming are generated by their own bots.

    Instagram is my favorite way to connect via social media as of late, however it too is owned by FB :( Guess it’s just a matter of time before all the fun bleeds out of that format as well.

    Thanks for your informative posts!

    • Yes, I’m curious to see if/how Facebook changes both Instagram and the now-infamous Whatsapp!

  15. thank you so much for taking the time on our behalf and yours to write, and look in to. I really love when I see your name in my email box.
    As a young small business I learn everyday.

  16. I have experienced the same thing on Facebook. I pay for ads but nothing really happens, no new likes, no new customers. My question is what are they for then? I think if you pay for ads on Facebook than it should as least do what its projects itself to do. It will say something like 5000 potential likes, really? I got 2 likes. I felt it was a waste of money.
    I have 900 fans, but hardly any of them ever see my posts or any of my content. Why “like” someones page if you can’t see their updates in your news feed? You shouldn’t have to pay to have your existing “likes” see your posts.

    • Very disappointing, Jennifer! I hope you find success with another method of marketing your business.

  17. Loved your article. We have approximately the same amount of likes on our shops page. In the Golden Days of FB…last fall… we enjoyed many new likes quite often. We thought ‘jeez this isn’t so hard’. And then que the crickets chirping. The endless crafty body english needed to trick your way into getting new likes or even getting your fans to like yours posts at optimal posting times or engaging fans with clever contests (finish this sentence and win a prize…) etc.
    Add into this how i would beat myself up over the fact that no one liked a post i was particularly proud of. And of course checking on it periodically throughout the rest of the day and then get impatient and ‘boost’ it only to start the process all over again. Insanity.
    I could rant. : )
    I just wanted to say thanks for reminding us that we are all working very hard and we are not alone and that all of us are the rule not the exception. Oh yeah, and that FB, to a large degree,
    is fiction. I need reminders to keep it real.

    • Ha, yes! “Facebook is fiction.” Please don’t take it seriously. P.S. I just “liked” your biz on FB. :D

  18. I always love seeing your newsletter in my in box Arianne! This post was truly excellent as I have always been wanting to “test” FB with “just” $5 and see what happens, call me cheap as I never have yet. I find all your stats + research so very to the point + helpful, more than you can imagine. I also enjoy reading what everyone else is thinking + experiencing. You really do a great job + I echo each post before mine. To be honest I just don’t have time to keep up on FB!

    • I tested for you! Skip it, ha ha!

      Thanks, as always, for your kind words, Denise.

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  20. Great info! Thanks for sharing!

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  22. J says,

    Hi Arianne, first of all great article :) All you mention is true, and I’ve experimented the same results as you mention in this post. Nevertheless I must say it’s not always like this.

    I’ve noticed it makes a big difference the countries you aim to, and the time period when you decide to boost the post. For example (I’m from Spain) I won’t boost between 07.00 and 13.00. I’ve realized the effect is less than boosting after these hours.

    An attractive visual for whatever it is you post and want to boost is always very recommended too of course, but we’re already assuming that (no?)

    We all know Facebook is not perfect and we need to stop and think for a second the great amount of data it handles every second of the day. For what they do I really think they’re not doing it that bad! You just need to test and find the right touch :)

    • Thanks for your perspective, J. I’m glad you’ve found a way to make it work. It may be that Facebook isn’t a lost cause, but personally, I can find many less painful ways to market my business, and it was a relief to be able to drop this one. :)

  23. Ruben says,

    Hello I was curious to know why you didn’t link the image to the article? or facebook doesn’t let you know that when people click on the image that will be charged too?

    • Hello Ruben,

      This wasn’t an ad, but I boosted an existing photo post. Photos in photo posts link to a larger version of the photo, not to a website. Hope this clears it up!

  24. I think it is totally not worth paying Facebook. When I first set up my FB page I thought it was a good idea to try pay for the first likes only to accelarate the process. I gained the number of likes FB promised but not the kind I hoped for. I had the patience to check every new like and none of the profile of the people that liked my page appeared to have any relation with the crafting world, which was what I aimed for.

  25. Hi Arianne!

    I disagree with you here.
    Yes, Facebook has become an ad agency and to reach people you have to pay – that is a fact. However, if done correctly, it is a very effective place to reach the people that are most interested in you.

    For starters, I believe your campaign was done TOO broadly- it doesn’t work to publish ads through “boost” campaign because it reaches people that are not your target. Instead of boosting, I would recommend that you use PowerEditor. With this, you can do multiple sorts of things like:
    -targetting the people you have on your email list (Custom Audiences)
    -Targetting the people that have visited your website in the past (Facebook Pixel)
    -Targetting people who could be your potential audience (based on likes on other Facebook pages, creative jobs, etc.).

    I would be super happy to help you on this if you can help me with the design of my blog :)

    what do you say?


    Pao Elizaga

    • Thanks for the information! I’d rather target my newsletter subscribers directly through my newsletter. I do think the retargeting is smart, and it’s nice that Facebook will target people who may actually care (why don’t they do that with Boost, if they’re able to do it?). I don’t currently pay for any kind of advertising, so I’m not interested in paying Facebook (my previous payments to them were both in the interests of research – though researching the PowerEditor could be a worthwhile post in the future!). Thanks for the offer to help! If I decide to pursue paid advertising at any point, I’ll consider it.

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  27. I totally agree with your assessment – my likes and reaches dropped by 9% since December. I had been depending on FB too much! Now it’s off to find other resources. Thx for your concise look at what’s going on.

  28. Thank you for the insight, Arianne! Saves me a heart ache and frustration over FB ad campaigns (I just started a clothing line). I’m going to try other marketing venues. I’m hoping Twitter will give me a better result!

    • Clothing could work well on Instagram as well, particularly if you have beautiful photos, clothes on models, etc. Good luck out there!

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