In my day job, I work as a marketing consultant and sales executive for a group of popular radio stations in Ontario, Canada. Understandably, I am asked about other various forms of media a lot, and I’m happy to offer my perspective, as I have experience in buying and implementing most of them. I also believe that each communication tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that a healthy mix as part of a strategic plan is probably best.
But when I am asked about Facebook for marketing small businesses, two words immediately come to mine: Be careful.
I recently asked, in an online poll on my website (www.kevinbulmer.com) and through comments received from Twitter (and, yes, Facebook) how people currently felt about Facebook. I asked because I wanted to get a feel for why, if at all, people still used that particular social media tool, because I feel its important to know, as marketers, why people are (or are not) engaged with any particular media. Marketers want to go where the people are. Or at least, where they think they are (but I’ll get to that).
The average response I got back more-or-less matched own personal feelings about Facebook: that I keep it more as an extended “address book” for far-flung family and friends than anything else.
However, there were a few people who responded to my question by cutting right to the heart of the matter, including this response on Twitter (read the bottom post first, then the top):
Now, this may be of no consequence to you if you’re on Facebook simply to know that you can reach out distant family members without having to keep track of phone numbers and email address (although, you may not be seeing all the content you wish to see, but we’ll get to that later). But if you’re running a small business and are being tempted by the seemingly inexpensive allure of growing your following on Facebook, sit up and pay attention.
And be careful.
If you’re thinking of paying for a Facebook ad to grow your business page’s following, please watch this video from Veritasium first:[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag]
Here’s a bit about my own marketing experience on Facebook:
From 2007 through 2011, I was part of an event management company called CPT Entertainment Inc. We ran a variety of consumer-based trade show-type events, and used Facebook as part of many of our marketing campaigns, along with radio, outdoor signage, TV and some print. Back then we felt we got decent value for our Facebook advertising. One example would be the time we arranged to have one of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR race cars on display at one of our events. We used Facebook to put an ad out that targeted people who “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr (or NASCAR in general) and lived within a certain geographical radius of our event. We felt we got good response to the ads. We could tell from the analytics and the comments we received, as well as through the attendance at the event itself.
But, as indicated in the Veritasium video (above), things have changed since then.
Forward to present day: I have a Facebook page for my own business, Kevin Bulmer Enterprises. Whenever I post something there, Facebook only serves it to between 5 and 10% of the people who actually “like” the page. I know this because it gives me those analytics with each post. And it always –ALWAYS – asks me if I want to “boost” the post to have seen more often.
In other words, it wants me to pay to have my post seen by people who’ve already “Liked” the page.
I tried it. Once. It was money wasted.
In fairness, I do believe it’s up to me to re-engage people. But still, I can’t help thinking that if someone had “liked” my page (and thereby given consent to see my updates), they should at least occasionally see that I’ve offered some new content, without me having to pay for it, shouldn’t they?
When I think about it in reverse, I looked to the pages that I’ve personally “Liked,” and realized that there are a number of them that almost never show up in my Facebook News Feed, even though I want to see their updates (to try to combat this, I leave my News Feed set to “Most Recent” and scroll all the way through, as opposed to “Top Stories”).
Still, even though I consider myself informed and I knew I was not having a good experience with my “Kevin Bulmer Enterprise” page, I decided to take it one step further and try a little experiment, figuring that maybe if I started something from scratch, my experience would be different.
Here’s what I did:
I created a Facebook page for a musical rock and roll project I’d been working on for a while, called “Mutineer” (I’ll write more about it another time). I posted it as a rock band page, put up some content and then set about creating an ad campaign. I designed an ad for the page, set a budget of $10 to be spread over a week and set the ad to target only people who ‘Liked’ the bands Extreme or Volbeat, were 18 years of age and up and lived in either Canada, Great Britain, Australia or Denmark.
I thought that a pretty specific set of criteria.
And so I found it very interesting that the first page ‘Like’ I got was from a “person” named Denis Johnson. Denis has no posts on his timeline, yet he has 39,955 Facebook page likes (including 2,766 Music “likes”).
I’ll say that again: this “person” has over 39,000 Facebook page Likes.
Do you know any actual human being that actually “likes” over 39,000 pages on Facebook?! Neither do I.
Here’s a sample of some of the other “people” who liked this page shortly afterward:
– Choudry Khalid Mahmood Anjum (Page likes: 10,139)
– Sandra Berdan (Page likes: 8,712)
– Jango Gurug Gurug (Page likes: 5,961)
– Saif AL Hakeem (Page likes: 5,290)
– Saddi Mir (Page likes: 5,615)
– Tahir Rasool (Page likes: 6,748)
By contrast, I looked at my own personal Facebook profile and saw that I had 96 different page “Likes” (and, as noted earlier, I don’t even see all the updates from those pages). I can’t even imagine how much work it would be to get my volume of “Likes” up to, say, 5,000!
It wasn’t long before I realized I was only experiencing exactly what the Veritasium video (above) warns about, and so I cancelled the rest of my ad campaign. I’d wasted enough money.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Facebook does not have value to businesses. What I am saying is that, if you’re going to us Facebook as a marketing tool, be careful. Accept that there are no real short cuts with Facebook any more than there are with radio, television or any other medium.
Quality wins. The cream rises. Quick fixes are a fallacy.
I’ll be the first to admit I use Facebook poorly. I’ve thought many times about deleting my page, but have decided to keep it going simply because, every now and then, someone new finds me there. But as for growing my business, I still find that the best technique is to get out in the community and get to know people.
Are you determined to grow your following on Facebook? Then roll up your sleeves. Engage people and other organizations. Add value for them. Create and share good content. Interact. You can build a monster following on Facebook, but you better do it organically.
In other words, I’m sorry, but you have to actually work at it.
Or, try and grow the quick way at your own peril.