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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Do you really need to pay for Facebook Ads?

Last year, Facebook announced that from January 2015 it would begin restricting organic posts by brand pages from showing up in news feeds of page fans (people who have liked the page). The social media company argued that a lot of the organic posts were cheap quality promotional content with a focus on sales. As you are aware, Facebook tries to ensure the standard of ads through the 15% text rule, rejecting text based ads as poor quality content.
What does this mean practically? It means that if you have a Facebook page, your fans won’t see your posts unless you pay to reach it out to them. This will hold equally true for a big brand page with millions of fans and a small page like mine with a few hundred likes. We are now equal – unless we both spend, we are doomed to obscurity.
I have encountered a dejected response from many of my fellow entrepreneurs who have come to rely on Facebook as a free and easy means to maintain their brand presence, and reach out to a larger base through friends and family. The question they all ask is the same – should they pay for the Facebook ads, or should they simply put their efforts elsewhere – for example on Twitter, which is beefing up its features in an attempt to grow its user base from niche to mass. Or should they continue what they have been doing on Facebook?
I tell them that it’s a good time to introspect on a few questions before they take a call

1) Why am I on Facebook?
You may already know the answer, but before you pay (or don’t pay) Facebook, it would certainly pay to ask yourself this question more closely. Are you there to build awareness and presence of your business, to engage with your users, to sell your product or service? If your answer is all of these, then you need to re-focus. A specific objective will help you to decide if you need to spend, and how much you need to spend. For example, if your FB posts garner orders for you, you might be interested to spend on ads. But if you primarily deal with an engaged community, you might consider converting your page into a group – where you will, actually engage more with customers, and invest more time, than money. The more specific you are, the better you will do.

2) Do I really get business from my Facebook presence?
As much as you might be tempted to answer ‘yes’, think this through. If people are using Facebook to contact you to order your products, then it is not necessarily your posts that are generating the business. In that case, you can just keep a page for presence and re-direct people to your email ID or a website ordering form. If some other online medium like your blog is actually driving more business and interest, consider investing to put your original content on other sites.
It gets tougher for people like me – as a consultant I know that Facebook keeps me visible but it also is not necessary as a promotional tool. The answer in such cases is to reduce the effort and not spend money either.

3) Why do people follow my page on Facebook?
Liking a page can be an act of pure impulse. If you are like me, you like scores of pages that you never actually end up visiting, and you don’t even receive posts from these pages in your newsfeed. But if there are people who regularly like, comment or share the posts made by your page, do think about why they are doing it (this is different than analysing ‘what works’ for you – this is trying to understand why people want to spend time with you. I have a friend who is a celebrity blogger and also designs products – her fans actually want to interact with her. Technically, they could do that through her web page or blog as well. Maybe you serve up entertaining content and people enjoy reading it or look forward to it. Probably people read your posts to stay updated. The hard question here is – will your page be missed? By how many people? Number of fans is a meaningless metric. Figure out what works for your page, and do more of that, either paid or unpaid. If people really love what you’re doing, it’s worthwhile to put out an appeal asking them to visit your page regularly, or to enable notifications for posts from your page so that they don’t miss anything.
It was only a matter of time before Facebook became a paid media channel, where you hire an audience for a limited period, as opposed to thinking of it as your own audience base. And I think that this is a good perspective to keep, so that the marketing efforts on Facebook stay focussed. In fact, we might take the medium more seriously, and use it better, now that we are forced to prioritise!