Figuring out Facebook Marketing

If you are using Facebook as part of your marketing strategy you’ve probably cursed it, at some point, maybe even daily! You just about figure out the platform and then they go ahead and make changes. Or they ban your advert, or put you in Facebook jail – there is plenty to curse about!

Frustrating as it is, there is a reason Facebook does what it does. Understanding that a little better can really help you work with it rather than against it.

What is it for?

It seems obvious, but Facebook is a social platform. It wasn’t created for businesses to sell their stuff, it was created so that students could keep in touch with each other. Of course, it has grown enormously since then, but the principle remains the same – it is social first.

Businesses found it to be a great way to stay in touch with their customers and started so Facebook created Pages. Profiles are for people to connect with their friends and family. So Facebook gave businesses the option to have a page where they could showcase their stuff. People could easily choose to follow their favourite businesses without sending a friend request. Plus, they didn’t get spammed by their entrepreneurial friends. This makes sense when you remember that Facebook is a social platform first, not a selling platform. Ebay, Etsy and Amazon are all selling platforms.

Facebook Business pages offer ways to stay in touch with your fans.

Over time, the numbers grew. Our newsfeed became crowded to the point that it just wasn’t possible for Facebook to show you all the content that was available to you. Something had to give. So they created an algorithm that would decide what kind of content to show you. As a social media platform, it prioritises the kind of content people interact with most.

Too much competition

The situation hasn’t improved, in fact it worsens every day. Our newsfeeds are completely jammed full with content. As a business owner, we needed to come up with more ways to get our business seen. So we started coming up with creative ways to do that.

The “like and share” competition was born (this is now against Facebook Ts and Cs, and for good reason). It works like this; offer the potential of winning some free stuff to people that like your post, like your page, tag someone, invite your friends, and/or share the page. It worked great and page followers grew pretty fast. Our page became super relevant and Facebook started showing it to all our shiny new fans, and a few of our original fans too. This was awesome, but a week later, the “like and share” was long forgotten.

They only came for the freebies!

Our new page likers were only in it for the prize. They didn’t actually care about our business, or our product. They weren’t our ideal customer! So they just scrolled past our stuff. Facebook notices this and assumes your content is no longer relevant, after all, no one is interacting with it. So, it moves it down the list of priorities. And not just for those new people, it does it for all the other page followers too. After all, there is still tons of other content available to fill our customers newsfeeds with.

I said earlier that “like and shares” were against the rules for good reason. We can see that actually, these types of Facebook marketing techniques aren’t good for anyone. The page see’s a temporary spike in interaction, but long term it will lose priority and will become dormant.

It is for these reasons that the “Invite” button may possibly be the worst feature ever invented! It’s just another way of boosting numbers with people that don’t care about your business!

Less is more

Despite what you may have been told, Facebook is not a numbers game at all. In fact, as we can see in the example above, the opposite is actually true. Creating a small audience of people that love and engage with your product is far better than building up a large audience of people that don’t.

As a personal user on Facebook, this is even more important. You also feel frustration with what you are being shown when it is not something you care about. You’d love to get more of the right stuff showing up too.

So my advice to you as a user is to be extra cautious about which groups and pages you choose to follow, and the people you add as friends too. Remember, that the more people, pages and groups you add, the more competition there is for space in your newsfeed, and the more Facebook will filter what you get.

Now consider the kind of content that gets the most interaction on any social media. It’s nearly always the biggest drama, the juiciest gossip, the public rant, and only occasionally the good news. Now you can at least understand why you see what you see.

How to fix it

If you find your newsfeed is cluttered with irrelevant or frustrating content then try unfollowing some, or a lot, of people, groups and pages, and see what happens. If you are seeing irrelevant ads, did you know you can adjust your advert preferences by clicking on the little dots in the corner next time you see one?

Facebook is only showing you that ad because you already showed interest in a product that is like it. Maybe your friend tagged you in one of their posts. Or maybe you engaged with the page somehow, even negatively. Or maybe, you participated in their “like and share” and now Facebook thinks you are interested in that type of stuff. Facebook does this to your business too. When you create an ad it’ll show it to all your uninterested followers too.

As a page owner, the answer is to stop trying to attract “just anyone”. Figure out your ideal customer and try to engage with them as much as possible. Are you sharing your why enough? This is easier said than done. But for now, super engaging content that people can relate to is the way forward. If you already have a dormant audience then a well targeted ad might help you to wake them up.

Include your business values as part if your Facebook marketing plan.

What about groups?

Groups were created on Facebook as a way for like minded people to share an interest. Think of them like a club that people join to talk about their hobby. They are the most sociable element on Facebook and the algorithm loves groups, or at least it used to. For this reason, many people are advising businesses to use groups as a better way to engage with their customers, and ultimately sell to them. This works well for some types of businesses, such as hobby supply shops, but it doesn’t suit them all. And even the ones it does work for, are not all seeing an improvement in sales.

So, this is working well, for some, but my own opinion is that this won’t last. Pages were created for businesses to sell from, and Facebook will start looking for ways to stop people using groups to sell.

I was right!

As I update this blog in 2022, it is now the case that groups are no longer being prioritised in news feeds. Businesses that use groups as part of their marketing strategy are really struggling. Engagement is really low, people are suspicious of business groups, and they are fed up with being sold to that way.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook has recently announced that they will start allowing adverts to be shown within group feeds. This makes sense if you think about it from an advertisers perspective.

Groups are filled with people that are really passionate about something, they all share a common interest. Who better to advertise your new wool shop to than to a group full of knitters! This, of course, means that groups created to sell a product, should expect to start having adverts shown in their groups for other similar, and probably competing, products.

Great news for you though if you are advertising your wool shop!

Facebook Ads

Facebook doesn’t like selling, we already know that, that’s just not what the platform was created for. And actually, most people don’t like it much either. Engagement data clearly shows that sales type posts and comments are no where near as engaging as other kinds of content. But paid advertising is becoming a way of life for us, it’s everywhere we look. It’s on billboards, in magazines, on TV, so why not on social media?

If you want to sell something on Facebook they ask you to pay for your advertising space, just like all other advertising space has to be paid for. That’s pretty fair when you think about it. You wouldn’t let another business advertise to your customers for free, so why should they?

Embrace the cookies!

Facebook doesn’t want to spam people with random ads though. They use all the data they have about its users to target your ads. They know the stuff people like to engage with, so they use this to show them the most relevant ads. This is why cookies are a good thing! Facebook uses cookie data to show you ads that are most relevant to you at that exact time. It’s going to show you an advert anyway, wouldn’t you rather it used real data to show you stuff you are actually interested in? I know I would.

Understanding your audience is essential for ads. Properly targeting your ad to the right people, at the right time, means that you will get more engagement from the people that see it. When this happens your ad cost goes down – another good reason to think quality over quantity when you are building your audience. Understand the three types of advert and how they’ll make sure you get the message to the right people at the right time.

How to beat the algorithm

Don’t.

You might be able to get round it for a while, but then things will change and you’ll be on the back foot again. If you want to get seen, the best and most sustainable way is to just create interesting and engaging content that your people can relate to. Many businesses waste a lot of time trying to “beat” the algorithm. Its actually the number one reason that Facebook is constantly changing. Also, if you are seen to be trying to get round the rules you could end up in jail – yes really!

Facebook jail

Facebook has made it clear that it wants to be a sociable, engaging, and inclusive place for everyone. Its policies are constantly being updated to reflect this. However, it is getting harder and harder to police as the number of users has increased. Consequently, they employed automations and gave people a way to report antisocial or spammy behaviour.

Facebook jail was born.

There are many things that can get you into jail. For example, if you are rude to someone, running like and share competitions, or if your behaviour is even slightly spammy, you’ll get reported. If you regularly send friend requests to people you don’t know, you are caught selling from a profile, or if it considers you are in any way potentially spoiling the experience for others, you’ll get reported.

This could mean a ban from commenting on posts for a few hours, or it could mean a complete ban from the platform for hours, or even days. Persistent infringements lead to longer and longer bans, and could even result in a permanent ban from the platform.

The consequences reach further than this too. You may also be banned from having an advertising account with Facebook. Or pages you manage may be penalised and their content restricted. You may also struggle to get ads approved, and if you do, they may cost you more to run. The long term effects could be very costly if you are a business owner.

Facebook Marketing must be sociable to be successful!

If this feels unfair…

Imagine you sell cakes and you created a baking group to engage with your home baking fans. You are all having a great time talking about baking and cakes. But now you have a member that constantly comes into the group to advertise their own cupcakes that are for sale, or is plain rude to everyone, or only talks about motorbikes all the time. That isn’t what your group was set up for. How many times would you ask them to stop before you removed them from your group?

What about other platforms?

Most are going the same way as Facebook. Algorithms are a really effective way of keeping things relevant and they work pretty well, most of the time (nobody’s perfect).

Twitter doesn’t use an algorithm though. So how does it work for them? Things just move really quickly. That means that your news will get pushed down the feed at an incredible rate. They estimate that if a tweet hasn’t been seen within an hour, it won’t get seen at all. It is for this reason that people recommend tweeting constantly throughout the day.

When people comment or retweet, your content it get reinserted into the feed. Apart from that, constant tweeting is pretty much the only way to get your stuff seen on there. Twitter is a much smaller platform though, so it works for them. In 2019, they only had around 271 million users. That sounds like a lot until you consider that at the same time Facebook had over 2 billion users! If you’re interested, Instagram had around 1 billion, and LinkedIn around 550 million users at that time.

What’s the answer?

1 – Just be sociable. Whatever the platform you are on, if your content is appealing to your golden customer, engaging, and in step with your cause then you will be doing all you can to be seen!

2 – Spread your message over several types of platforms. I suggest one or two social media platforms, write a blog (great for SEO), and build a mailing list. If you can, encourage your followers to follow you on all your platforms. This way you can also contact people directly, and if you don’t get seen one way, you still have a couple of other options in back up.

3 – Pay for advertising. Organic growth is fine, but its slow. Invest your money in advertising and you can find your perfect customer much, much faster. Well targeted ads are a fantastic investment in your business and they don’t have to cost the earth, despite what people might tell you.

And whatever you do, remember that Facebook is just a business with it’s own rules and goals. They won’t change their rules, so in order to get the most out of the platform, we must stop trying to beat them and learn to work within them.

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