Is Facebook Marketing Dead?

I’ve heard from people over and over that they are starting to have doubts about Facebook marketing. It was hard enough to get people to like their pages in the first place, and after they had worked so hard to earn fans, Facebook changed the algorithm so fan page updates were no longer showing up in their followers’ newsfeed, unless they paid to play. In fact, in a 2014 Ogilvy@Social study, the organic reach of brand pages has decreased to 6% in February 2014 from 49% at the peak. If you are “unlucky” enough to have garnered over 500,000 likes, your organic reach would have been non-existent, at a mere 2%.

Facebook had advised brands to pay for the reach and engagement. However, when the brands pulled the plug to promote pages or boost posts, there seemed to be many “fake likes” from people who from like farms in developing countries. You can’t even bypass the fake likes even if you ONLY target the U.S. or Canada.

This video illustrates the problem very well.

Have you been bothered by the same discovery?

Here are my top five observations:

1. If you’re starting afresh, it almost makes no sense to start a new Facebook fan page for marketing purposes.

Why? For reasons stated above. Sure, you can still try to optimize your Facebook posts based on your audience preference, time of day, and day of the week, but you’ll have to dedicate a lot of time for uncertain results.

Look at it this way: you have limited time and budget, wouldn’t you want to double down on what you are certain would work?

Also, we know cat memes get shared like crazy. It may help with your engagement if you share it with your followers. But unless you’re selling cat-related products or services, would posting cat pictures contribute to your bottom line?

2. However, your page could be a great place for customer service.

One advantage (or challenge) of having a Facebook is the openness. Essentially anyone can comment, compliment or complain about your offers. When you actually take care of your customer’s inquiries out in the open, it definitely sends positive signals indicating the outstanding customer service you’re providing. When people do comment on your products or services on social media, respond immediately.

On the flip side, there will always be internet trolls, and deleting customer complaints could backfire.

3. Facebook could still be a great place for personal branding. (Robert Scoble)

Some people, like Robert Scoble, are the model examples of how to use Facebook to engage with true fans. Robert Scoble is the top evangelist of Rackspace, a trusted tech news source, and a social media darling. As he is dearly referred as “Scobleizer”, he uses his actual personal page and made everything public. He has always been transparent, and, and real, sharing all the productivity tips, managing social media, and latest news in the Valley.

Or like my very good friend Nora Poggie who’s the producer of She Started It, a documentary about the rise of women tech entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Europe. She uses Facebook as Linkedin, connecting with everyone, either for professional or personal reasons, and keeping us updated about her film production progress, or crowd funding campaigns. By the way, her Indiegogo campaign is going strong: she’s almost reached 1/3 of her goals in 4 days, thanks to her supportive network. This is definitely a success story of utilizing her social capital, especially on Facebook.

4. Join existing communities (but you don’t own the data!) rather than creating new communities

One of things that make Facebook an attractive platform is the communities one could create. Anyone can create groups or pages in seconds. However, starting a community from the ground up to get to enough members is already difficult, let along managing a community. The last time I checked, lots of companies are still looking for social media managers. It IS a full-time job to be close and personal with a community of members.

You can always join existing communities. You may think that following community rules set up by others is a drawback, but we are not supposed to be salesy or spammy on Facebook in the first place. Case in point: Farmville invites. There are (still) many people in the game, but we all hate receiving requests or notifications even if those requests are from friends.

One community I recently joined is called “Savvy Business Owners”. It is friendly and warm community full of vibrant discussions among women entrepreneurs, sharing their stories and support for each other.  People are always asking for advise and help in the community, and it’s a perfect opportunity to promote yourself without being spammy.

One note of caution: before jumping into the hoop, know that nothing you do on Facebook belongs to you. All the data and activities about your community? It belongs to Facebook. When they decide to change the platform in any case, there is no way to “download” the data for further analysis.

5. It depends. Are you planning on setting up an F-commerce store?

One scenario I could see Facebook working for a business is when you setup a Facebook shop. F-commerce is relatively new, but if Facebook is getting a kickback, they would have more incentive to drive real customers to your store. Buy Button is already appearing on some pages. 

To conclude: only you know if spending time and money on Facebook makes sense. Always ask yourself first why you want more likes and engagement. Do likes and comments in any way help contributing to the bottome line? If not, they are just pretty numbers, and you may be better off focusing on what really works for you, i.e. optimizing conversion rate on your website.