Are businesses reaching the end of the ‘free online advertising’ road?
Facebook business page owners are finding it harder to reach their audiences organically. Once Facebook floated its business, this free platform was always going to have to find a way to make some money for its investors – and businesses are the obvious target. This is particularly galling for small businesses who rely on their social network for word of mouth recommendations and publicity, and don’t have the big budgets that go with the big brands.
Of course, Facebook has always been very clear that it is a person-to-person social network, which is why their terms and conditions for business page users are already stringent – something which has in the past benefited small businesses, going some way to levelling the playing field. The fixed structure of page information, and in particular how the cover and profile images are used*, made the point very clearly: businesses were here by invitation only, as a service to Facebook’s personal users.
With revenue streams required by investors, negative publicity over the summer about Facebook’s pay per click service didn’t help the cause. Although a careful study by Search Engine Land showed that Facebook’s reporting was accurate and that clicks were often cleaner than other providers, some damage had been done.
The latest Facebook initiative to hit our screens is Promoted Posts: paying to ensure that your status update reaches a good audience. The principle seems sound – Twitter users will already be familiar with promoted tweets appearing – and Facebook claims it helps them to tailor your news feed to what interests you. After all, if you don’t find your news feed interesting, you aren’t going to be using Facebook! Today’s blog by @caseyjohnston for ArsTechnica looks in detail at the mechanism behind Promoted Posts and the wider experience of big brands whose fan base is rising while their organic reach falls – reportedly as low as 15% visibility for posts. It’s a worry for small businesses who have been relying on this free medium to communicate with prospective customers.
What does it mean in practice for small businesses?
It looks as if Promoted Posts are here to stay, and gradually Facebook is rolling the concept out to personal users, too. Maybe this is the beginning of the end of free advertising?
The UK has always welcomed entrepreneurs and made it easy to start a business, but the early culture of funding every business through grants and free advice, allied with the rise and rise of social media as a ‘free’ advertising tool, has come at a price. Businesses are finally starting to realise that to build and achieve, you need to invest. However, after 25 years in business one thing has always been clear: when the numbers are squeezed, the first thing to go is normally the marketing budget! Promoted Posts could be the wake-up call that small businesses need to invest properly in their marketing strategy, and make their messages lean, targeted and effective.
Get the basic marketing strategy right!
We always recommend that a business invests time, effort, and dare we say a little budget, into getting the online marketing strategy right. After all, you wouldn’t spend money on printing flyers, taking out small ads and commissioning a billboard without putting some thought into where your customers are and what you want to tell them.
Just because the online space has been seen as the ‘free’ medium for so long doesn’t mean that it deserves any less thought. If the future is paid advertising, Galia Digital can help you make sure your investment counts.
* Not sure about Facebook’s cover page requirements? Check the detail here.