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Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Are you using Facebook to promote your brand, get your message out, and sell your services or product?

If your answer is yes, you are among 50 million small businesses across the United States. But here’s the next question: Are you getting the results you want? Are you getting back from Facebook the investment that you are putting into it? 

I’ll be honest. Chesapeake Family uses Facebook and other social media to push more traffic to our website and build our brand. Last month 15.5% of our web traffic came via Facebook. We have also paid to have a few posts boosted, and we’ve purchased a few ads for very specific purposes. But it is by no means our sole marketing outlet and is constantly a source of frustration.

Chesapeake Family is a content producing machine. That’s what we do — reach Maryland parents, mostly moms, of kids up through high school age. Parents want info. They want to know where to go have fun on the weekends, the latest in educational news, health trends, parenting issues and more. We have the attention of Maryland parents and provide the information they want.

We have three people constantly generating content for our readers and sending it out through various channels. We update our website multiple times a day. But it doesn’t do any good to produce content if people aren’t reading it. That’s primarily why we use Facebook, to send readers to our website. Most of our traffic comes from Google search, but having 15.5% of our website visitors coming from Facebook is nothing to sneeze at.

But — and it’s a big but — Facebook doesn’t make it easy for business owners. They’re in it to make money too, so they are very stingy when it comes to letting your content go out for free over their network. Social media analytics company Locowise tracked Facebook post reach and page growth for December 2015. Locowise found that on average the unpaid, organic growth of a page was .14%. So if you have a page with 1,000 fans, your growth in December would have been one person.

Content matters to your fans. Why else would they be looking at your page? You should do your best to share things that you think will either entertain or inform your audience. I’ve heard that you should post four pieces of great content, your own and sharing from other good sources, for every one post that is about you pushing your own product. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is.

Locowise also found that post reach for December averaged 7.39%. Using your same 1,000 fans as an example, Facebook allowed only 74 of your fans to see each page post you created and shared. There are many theories about the best time to post, the best kind of post (links, photos, status updates, sharing content from other pages) and how to format your post for the best engagement in an attempt to garner more reach for each of your posts. Ultimately there is only so much you can do to increase the number of people seeing your posts. Facebook holds the controls.

As Locowise states, “Don’t get your hopes up that creating amazing content will get you there on its own.” Facebook wants you to pay to share your content with your audience.

What does it cost to reach people via Facebook? Is it a good investment? Since Chesapeake Family is in the business of producing content, creating that content isn’t an added expense for us, but for most businesses it would be. Let’s estimate that you would spend two hours per day creating content, putting it on your website and then sharing it through social media. At $20 per hour, that’s $800 per month for creating your content. You’ll probably get one new page fan each month and, if you do a good job with your content marketing, 300 people will see your posts. Are you satisfied with that return?

Encourage interaction on your Facebook page so that you will get a better idea of how well your posts are working. Quizzes, videos, asking for comments to controversial or relevant topics will all help get your audience to interact with you. Before you post anything ask yourself if it is worth sharing.

Measure the results you get so that when you are ready to promote your products you will know how to grab the attention of your audience. A paid Facebook ad, or boosting a post, works much better when you already have a good post that people want to share. A great, sharable post reaches more people with less cost than a paid ad/post that has little connection with your audience. Facebook, in fact all social media, works best when the content is good. Think to yourself: Does this entertain or inform? What’s in it for my customer?

And then as soon as you think you have Facebook figured out, it change its algorithm again. Can Facebook be used to reach your audience? Absolutely. But expect to pay for that reach and don’t assume that Facebook will solve all of your marketing woes. It’s a great complement to your overall marketing plan but shouldn’t exclusively take the place of everything else that you do.

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