Leaving Facebook?

Facebook has some issues for business:

  • It is definitely “pay to play” at Facebook these days. Facebook is working on its algorithm, and it has seen that what people really want to see is stuff from their friends and families. So business pages typically only reach fans by boosting (paying for) posts.
  • They also appear to be manipulating their algorithm to favor videos as part of their battle with YouTube. Photos, according to a new study from Socialbakers, are the least effective form of content in terms of reach. That’s a complete turnaround from last year, and for business, it’s a costly change.
  • The conversion rate tends to be about 1%. If you have deep pockets, 1% of the reach you can buy on Facebook can be a tidy number of people. However, Facebook visitors tend to have a low conversion rate at websites. Putting the same investment into Adwords, organic search, or email marketing will probably get you a lot more action.

And yet there are also strong reasons not to abandon your Facebook page:

  • It’s great for some industries. We have clients who see excellent traffic from Facebook — good enough to make it worthwhile in spite of the low conversion rate. Opt out and you won’t know what you could have accomplished.
  • People look for you at Facebook. They look for your company there. If you have no page or your page is not up to date, you look lame. And it’s not going to keep itself up to date. Abandon your business page and you abandon a potential audience of… umm… almost everybody in the U.S. and lots more in other countries.
  • It’s relatively measurable. If you feel like you’re not getting much from Facebook and you’re also advertising in a physical newspaper, it makes more sense to drop the newspaper. Not only do you probably have very little ROI from that, but you can’t even tell. Facebook may not show a direct sales lift, but you can see much more of the path to purchase than you can with legacy media.

And that measurability is certainly one of the issues for Facebook. A recent study found that only 33% of companies surveyed felt they were getting value from Facebook, and only 35% had any idea what Facebook was doing for them. That’s right: 65% of those surveyed did not know whether they were getting any value, even though Facebook provides a lot of data. It is not clear that the 33% of people who felt they were getting value were part of the 35% that knew whether they were or not, since the two questions were separate. So we’re probably looking at some people who guess they’re getting value, some who know they are, and some who assume they’re not.

We may also be seeing people who know they’re not getting value, but they feel like they’re stuck. [tweet bird=”yes”]Most of the people who Like your page never go back to it. [/tweet] Let that sink in for a minute. Also, your posts are shown on the timelines of just a tiny fraction of people. We totally understand the frustration of that. Our company has customers from Twitter and LinkedIn and even Amazon, but not from Facebook.

But we have seen companies end their Facebook involvement and still, years later, receive questions and customer service requests at their Facebook pages. It’s as though they still had a forgotten storefront in a suburb somewhere, with broken windows and litter all around, and people left notes taped to the door saying, “Where can I buy your pineapple flavor?” or “I want to buy your tires for my truck. Do you have ecommerce?”.

We began taking care of one of those pages and soon had this email from the owner: “Facebook has transformed from a
warranty post page to a happy place.”

Leaving Facebook means leaving customers at some level. Maybe not so many customers that you’ll mind. But it’s hard to be sure.

So these seem like the possibilities:

  • Continue to update your Facebook page and use minimal resources to do so.
  • Accept that Facebook is no longer a place where businesses can promote themselves for free, any more than the newspaper is. Invest what it costs to get good results.
  • Abandon Facebook entirely, and accept the consequences to your business. Keep up with the data so you’ll know what the consequences are and whether they’re acceptable.

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