Facebook Is Making You Pay

Back in 2010, I wrote an article about how we are at the mercy of free social network like Facebook and Twitter. I recommended that we all have a contingency plan in case they went down, to not give up on more stable marketing tools that are still working well for us, and that we support niche networks that help us reach our audiences and are hungry for our business.

Well, here we are two years later, still at the mercy of free social networks. Only they are all finding ways to add fees to what they offer which perfect sense – this is how they will stay in business and be able to keep offering us the free stuff. But what rubs me the wrong way is how some of them (Facebook) are manipulating the way their service works in order to convince (coerce) you into paying to promote your content just so it will be seen.

We’ve all been hearing about the changes in the EdgeRank algorithm – how Facebook gives specific types of posts with specific types of interactions an edge over other posts in people’s news feeds. Well, lo and behold, many of us are seeing precipitous drops in visibility for our posts, especially those of us not using the ever-changing best practices of engaging content publishing and interactions on one’s Facebook Wall.

To see how much of an impact Facebook’s Promoted Posts would have on my own Facebook Page, I ran a quick experiment. I put up this graphic:

Without promotion, it received a handful of shares and under 100 people saw it.

Day 1: So I paid $5 to promote it. In the first day, it received 93 shares and 109 people saw it.

Day 2: Up to 112 shares and 851 people saw it.

Later Day 2:  Up to 129 shares and 1,986 people saw it.

Day 3: We end the 3-day promotion cycle with 137 shares and 3,157 people seeing this post.

So What Does This Mean?

Not much without a strategy behind a promoted post. Since I did it on a whim, I didn’t have a plan, no real call to action, no link to drive traffic anywhere. The lack of strategy meant the potential wasted investment (okay, it was only $5, but the below is true at any amount).

  • It does look like I have a popular post – but this attention didn’t not translate into an increase in activity on any other post.
  • I barely saw a blip in new likes so it wasn’t a fan-base builder.
  • There weren’t any more comments on this post than other posts. In fact, many other posts on my page received more comments than this promoted post.

So people are seeing it and they are sharing it and people are liking it, but when all is said and done, it so far seems like a superficial win for a single post and not helpful in any deep way to my overall Facebook Page interactions or following.

Was it worth the $5 for the appearance of popularity? Not really. I’ll try another experiment soon where I use a call to action and will let you know what happens.

What has been your experience with Facebook Promoted Posts – and the lack thereof?


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    1. Aliza

      If you mean paid Facebook social ads, they keep changing what they offer, but we do see an increase of Likes for the “Get more Likes” version. We get strong click-thrus so the success usually boils down to the destination page and the action that needs to be taken. Too much effort reduces success. Easier to stick with Likes since that is a simple click. Good for traffic driving to non-Facebook sites, too.

  1. Robert

    I’ve been pretty vocal with regards to this topic. As a small business owner with very little marketing budget, I became reliant on my facebook page to drive a certain amount of traffic to my website, organically, by posting things that I believed were of interest to my fans… a mix of company related information and also general travel info.

    Over the past 5 months I’ve gradually seen the number of impressions on posts dwindle. On the positive side, it’s forced me to be more creative with my posts, resulting in what seems to be a higher percentage of clicks, likes and comments in relation to impressions. This being said, I am very frustrated that people who like my brand don’t see the posts if they haven’t engaged recently. I understand the theory and economics behind this, but in my (not-so humble) opinion, when I like something, I would like to see posts that relate that like, whether or not I engage. When I follow people on twitter, instagram or pinterest, I see all of their posts, whether I engage with them or not. And quite frankly, if I engaged with every person and brand I follow, I wouldn’t have much time to do anything else. What gives Facebook? I believe nice way to meet in the middle would be to allow sponsored posts/brands to display at the top of someone’s newsfeed. For those not willing to pay, let it mix in with the rest as it used to.

    My question to Facebook is… by paying for a post and re-engaging fans who have been inactive for a while, does that then improve our EdgeRank for that particular user, thus organically displaying our future posts to that person? If this was possible, I might just spend that extra money on facebook ads, rather than directing it elsewhere.

    1. Aliza

      Robert – good question about paying for a post and re-engaging inactive fans. From what I can tell, you have the opportunity through Promoted Posts to be placed more prominently in the streams of not just inactive fans but also their friends. This is a positive opportunity so you have to leverage it properly, plan for it well so that you not just enter their feeds but compel them to interact in some way, even just “Like.”

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