Years ago, when social marketing was young and promising, Facebook was a great democratizer. If your stuff was interesting, and people liked it, lots of other people would find out about it, and the world was bright and sunny.
I remember managing several pages around 2009 and, back then, keeping your audience engaged was as simple as writing a clever post, dropping in an interesting picture or link, and your adoring fans would take care of the rest. Back then it was pretty easy to get fifteen or twenty “likes” on a post and several comments with less than a thousand fans — without spending a dime.
Unfortunately, time marches on, and these days Facebook has made it much more difficult for us fan page managers to connect to our audiences if we aren’t willing to fork over some dough.
Facebook views, like all internet impressions, can be broken down into two broad categories: paid and organic. Obviously, paid views are the ones you pay Facebook to push in front of folks who meet your criteria. Organic views are people who discover your content through casual browsing, naturally, in the wild.
Obviously, we all want more organic views, and nobody likes to pay for views. We also all want to live in a world where all the cool independent stuff that people work hard on rises to the top and the commercial tripe gets left at the gunky bottom, but we also know that’s just not the way the internet works any more.
I have one page with just under 2,000 fans. I have never paid for advertising for this page, and all of the fans are completely organic. Of course, I netted most of those fans over three or four years ago, back when Facebook played things much more fast and loose with organic views. When I look back at the number of views per post over time, you can really see the organic views and the number of new fans per month drop more and more as time goes by.
These days, I’m averaging between 5% and 20% organic reach to my fans for a Facebook page, which is more or less in line with the 16% average figure that Facebook gives out. Even on a page with thousands of fans, this is a pretty dismal reach from a marketing perspective, where you want your message spread to thousands of people for real impact.
Now, there are some things that can boost your view ranking organically. Having lots of organic interaction will lift your posts (much more slightly than before), which is why a lot of poor saps ignorantly turn to huckster “social marketing experts” who unleash hordes of fake Facebook robot fans onto their pages to try to boost their ranking. Unfortunately, this is pretty much entirely useless, because if a robot clicks your post it won’t increase the ranking for anyone except for that robot and its robot friends. There may be a few real people who get caught in the crossfire, but not nearly enough to make up for the negative consequences of paying for fake fans.
Other people suggest combatting Facebook’s rigged house rules by “training” their fans to get all notifications for your page. Others have gone into great detail about why this is a poor strategy, but in short, it’s annoying, and most of your fans will just ignore your requests, anyway.
Finally, a lot of folks out there suggest that the best way of getting around Facebook’s paywall is to simply “go viral” with your posts, and make them so awesome that people spread the word around on their own, share by share, click by click. Frankly, this is just malarky. If anyone could predict how to make things go viral, that person would be a billionaire. For every clever online campaign that “goes viral,” there are dozens of other campaigns that are FAR MORE clever that get hardly any attention at all.
You can follow all the rules for engaging posts: good pictures, interesting links, using the proper wording, etc., and, indeed, these are things you should be doing anyway. However, the sad fact remains: you can be doing everything right and you will still get far fewer organic views than a terrible post with even the tiniest paid budget will receive.
It’s really all just a crapshoot as to how many organic views a fan page will get with a given post. As much as I love shooting dice, it’s not something I like to do with my clients’ or my own social media, and that’s why any business on Facebook should be making at least a modest investment in paid Facebook advertising.
Through careful targeting and constant adjustment and refinement, Facebook ads can become very inexpensive and powerful. I’ve gotten Facebook ads down to as little as 3 cents per click in some market segments, and you can get the same results if you study Facebook posting techniques and put the time and effort into your campaigns.
That’s only half the battle, of course. Several clients have told me “Facebook ads don’t work.” When I ask why, they explain that they’ve “sunk a lot of money in Facebook ads and they haven’t made any sales.” When I take a look at their posts, I see why. They might have put a post in front of several hundred people, but the post itself was terrible: badly written, boring images and links, no urgency nor offer nor call to action.
Please understand, I am not on Facebook’s side in this situation. I honestly believe that the way Facebook is handling paid vs. organic will hurt the company in the long run, because people do not go to social websites to be advertised to. People use Facebook to connect to friends, family, and strangers and to learn about the wonderful things other human beings are doing to make the world a better place. Paid advertising has a place in the world, but it shouldn’t be a necessary evil for artists, rock bands, and social causes that deserve more attention than they could ever afford on a pay-per-click basis. But, for now, it is what it is, and we all have to pay to play or get lost in the dust.
If your fan page is struggling to get fans and attention, drop me a line. I offer free consultation to anyone who asks and I would leve to help you figure out the right formula to build your audience. By spending just a few dollars a week on Facebook ads and carefully composing every post, you will be amazed at how quickly you can spread the word.