Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Social Media » New Facebook Rules Will Sting Entrepreneurs

New Facebook Rules Will Sting Entrepreneurs

30 November 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Chrisy Bossie built a $100,000-a-year gemstone e-commerce business by sharing information about her products on her company’s Facebook page several times a week.

“Steals in the Shop! I have a TON of new 36-inch-long necklaces, most priced at $15, available in amethyst, lapis, watermelon tourmaline, turquoise…. Shop them all here,” she wrote in a recent marketing post on a Facebook page for Earthegy, the business she runs from her home in rural Kent Store, Va. She also included photos and links to the products, hoping the business’s 70,000 Facebook fans would share the posts with their own Facebook friends.

But small-business owners like Ms. Bossie will soon get less benefit from the unpaid marketing pitches they post on Facebook. That’s because, as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs like Ms. Bossie, the founder of four-year-old Earthegy, to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change.

The upshot for Ms. Bossie is that “if I do not pay to promote the post or boost it, it’s hardly reaching anyone,” she says. Now, more than half her sales come via her Facebook posts, she estimates.

. . . .

Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business, says that Facebook’s paid-advertising options have become more effective recently and that companies should view Facebook as a tool to “help them grow their businesses, not a niche social solution to getting more reach or to make a post go viral.”

He says he has “a lot of empathy” for business owners who “are feeling this evolution” in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. “Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,” he says. “We don’t want them to spend any dollar with us unless it’s doing something spectacular to help them grow their business.”

Facebook’s push toward paid advertising is likely to aggravate an “already tense relationship between small businesses and social platforms over audience ownership,” says Steven Jacobs of Street Fight, a Colorado-based media-and-events firm covering local digital marketing. Businesses used to own their consumer relationships through email or other in-house marketing channels, or to buy them from newspapers, television and other traditional media outlets through ads. “But Yelp and now Facebook are trying to peddle a third model, he says: “renting—in which a business can build a community but never own an audience on a platform.”

. . . .

Ms. Bossie says that she has used both “unpaid” and “paid” Facebook posts to spread the word about her business and that the unpaid promotional posts are becoming less and less effective at driving sales as other content crowds them out. She expects to pay $1,500 a month next year on Facebook advertising, up from $1,200 this year, and she plans to allocate about three-quarters of her spending to promoted posts.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Social Media

31 Comments to “New Facebook Rules Will Sting Entrepreneurs”

  1. I guess we always knew this was where Facebook was headed. This is why I never liked Facebook. It’s still a business, but one that likes to treat the people using the site socially like it’s not a business. I’m personally fine with them charging businesses as they do provide a service, or people wouldn’t be using them. However, I really wish more people understood how Facebook is trying to monetize their information. I guess most people using it just don’t care…yet.

  2. As a developer of social games I’ve watched FB intermediate every interaction that’s potentially profitable, promise everything, and then deliver nothing but obfuscation. And they clearly lie when they know they can get away with it promising features they can never deliver, and results that never materialize.

    I understand why it makes sense. Television’s greatest advantage was that you could only loosely calculate ROI. The difference is FB knows exactly the value they’re giving, and the customer knows almost nothing.

  3. I maintain a business page for my Perkunas Press, but it’s little besides a presence with periodic posts. It drives no business (unpaid posts go nowhere), but people can find it there if they happen to search Facebook first. There’s no other benefit.

    Facebook is not a business platform.

  4. “Facebook is not a business platform.”
    I wish publishers realised that. Then they wouldn’t ask authors to use it to publicise their books.

    • Publishers did that? Then you can now tell them to pony up and pay for it! (I’d thought that was just the vanity press that ‘suggested’ such things — just shows what little I know … 😉 )

    • It’s good for interacting with fans. Same with twitter. The selling power of both has diminished and I’ve yet to hear a story in which an author used the paid services of FB and it had anything resembling an ROI, but it’s still good to have that presence to interact with readers and publicize books/events/etc.

      Folks just need to keep your expectations realistic with the changes.

      • Exactly. I would go further and say Facebook never does sell books. Marketing theory holds that it takes seven times before your brand really imprints on the consumer. Facebook helps with that, and as you say with fan interaction. But that’s all. It’s a tool, along with Twitter and your website and your newsletter and your blog and whatever else you’ve got going on on social media.

        And remember, you don’t HAVE to do any of this. I wonder sometimes if any of this social media scramble ever makes any real difference in sales at all. Maybe if you just write your damn books and put them up for sale and go write some more, maybe the consumer will find their way to you. Pretty to think so, anyway.

  5. Facebook wants it both ways. Your author platform/page is expected to grow organically, and all your interacts are expected to help feed the idea that your reader base comes to you organically.

    But if you want to grow your base organically, too bad, so sad — they now suppress you. And you can only grow by driving outside traffic to FB (which is their goal) or by paid promo (another goal).

    Amazon’s doing the same thing: drive new traffic/customers to us if you want visibility. While one can’t directly buy ads with Amazon (or, if you can, I’m not aware of it beyond publisher-paid coop), you can pay for external ads that drive traffic to your Amazon books, which hopefully leads to a visibility boost.

    It’s all about turning small businesses into feeders for the big businesses that host their products.

    • Interesting point. I do wonder when these websites will be required to do more for the traffic. Of course, with Amazon though, we’re strongly relying on traffic Amazon already gets and we’re the ones taking advantage of that just as much as they’re taking advantage of us.

      Also, I think you can buy ads with Amazon. You just have to pony up thousands of dollars to do so or be in one of their special programs. That’s why, as much as I like Amazon, I don’t think it’s a good idea to be all-in with them or any other retailer for that matter. It’s nothing against Amazon, but Amazon is going to do what’s best for Amazon. It’s going to remain that way as long as self-publishers don’t have as much leverage as these retailers.

    • One problem I have with facebook is that they demand your ‘true name’. As what few people know of me know a finagler of words going by Redbear1158 (and facebonk craps itself on any numbers), so they have no idea who that ‘Allen’ guy is that wants to be their ‘friend’ …

      I have an account for now, but it’s little more than a place holder (and there’s no way it’ll be used to offer my tall tales, so it’s just another failed experiment …)

      • You don’t need to use your real name for the fanpages, just personal accounts (which, for the record, I’m also not a fan of). So you could go with Redbear1158 as a fanpage account should you want to.

  6. The annoying thing is that when you post to your author page on Facebook, you’re lucky if it makes it to 10% of the people who liked your page (unless of course you want to pay). Even when you pay, it’s a terrible marketing tool. Pretty much useless.

  7. I don’t “Like” many businesses on Facebook, and rarely use it myself, because I don’t like how my newsfeed gets clogged with precisely the “HEY SALE BUY THIS!” posts mentioned. I’ve muted a bunch of authors on Twitter for precisely the same reason.

    So maybe it’s bad for Bossie, but maybe it’s good for users.

    • This is indeed the case. Facebook has two faces which are in conflict.

      On one hand (face), is the user feed, which people expect will not have too many “commercials” on it. Remember Zynga? They exploded on the basis of viral facebook traffic attempting to drive friends to play farmville, etc., until the feed masters decided that enough was enough and gave you the ability to just stop seeing those sorts of posts.

      On the other hand (face) are the monitizers who want business users to be able to deliver “commercials” to users feeds, and to charge for that. They would never institute such limiting features such as the one that kicked Zynga in the nuts, or the one mentioned in the article.

      I can only wonder at what the meetings at Facebook are like. The politics of the relations between these two factions must be incredible.

    • Well, it is and it isn’t. Facebook users like pages to show support/fandom and *to* receive the page’s messages. If you don’t want to hear an author’s messages, you could always unlike or unfollow them before.

      Not everything I post on my author page (or used to, back when it was worth using it) is “buy now.” I used to post useful articles on writing, deals on other authors’ books, bonus feature material, etc. (Sales and new book posts were always more popular, though.)

      I still get plenty of paid ads in my Facebook feed, not from authors’ pages, but the ads are rarely of any interest to me–rather than updates from authors I’d actually like to see there, and have told Facebook I would by liking the authors’ pages. Which is why they’re trying to capitalize on this. So now authors, brands, etc., have to pay to send me the messages that I’ve said I want to see. That’s a lot less of a win for everybody but Facebook.

    • If authors are just using their FB fanpages to say “buy this” then they’re doing it wrong. Same with twitter. Obviously you want to promote your work, but it should be used to build your brand & your personality, and interact with readers and potential readers online. But yea, if all authors are posting is “Buy my new book” on there, then it’s annoying and they’re not using the platform correctly.

  8. For all of Facebook’s faults (and I only interact on my author page, never for my personal life, so I’m hardly a Facebook lover) it is still the best marketing tool for me, a romance writer, outside of BookBub. My readers are there. They talk to me there. Perhaps I’m not gaining new readers on my page, but it’s the best place for me to mingle. I tried a blog, I happen to prefer Twitter, but FB is where my readers hang out. If paid ads work, I’ll pay. If they don’t, I won’t — but I’ll still post on my page and “be available.” I can post a request for beta readers and get a dozen before dinner. That’s huge value.

    Which reminds me… I haven’t posted since before Thanksgiving. Better drop on by.

    • I have a lot of fans who’ve found me on Facebook, so I post things there for them (though not as often as I’d like). I find a $5 or $10 boost works great if I have a new book or special announcement and the post isn’t getting traction, but I’m definitely going to find some ways to redirect my readers to my author site and newsletter when I can so I can control my interactions with them instead of Facebook having the control.

    • Gretchen,

      Thanks for the tip: “I can post a request for beta readers and get a dozen before dinner.”

      It sounds like a great reason to be on FB.

      It’s a business. I’ve gotten so much connection for free that I will always be grateful (Girl Guides in Mexico 50 years ago are sharing camp songs). It offers me opt-outs for lots of things – I use all of them. They have to monetize – I fight ads for things I have no intention of even considering, much less buying – they don’t charge me for my account. We’re good for now.

    • Same here. I have a love/hate thing with Facebook but that is where my “fans” reach out to me. I have this beautiful website. No one connects with me there.

      I have an ROI going with Facebook ads that is positive. The targeting you can do is AMAZING, but you have to watch your ads like a hawk to ensure it stays in the black. Just sayin’.

  9. They don’t make it easy, but as I see it, you should be using Facebook to drive traffic TO your web site. Or personal social interaction. But driving traffic to your site should be your primary goal if you’re using FB for business.

    If Facebook doesn’t like that, they can get more user-friendly. Which they’re not.


  10. I always encourage others to build a brand name on a site that they control. Get your own website with its own domain name, like authorname.com, then you can take it wherever you want, should your hosting service ever act badly toward you.

    Avoid the “free” sites that are under someone else’s control, like authorname/wordpress.com or authorname/blogger.com or so on. I really like wordpress and host most of my sites there, but I still spend the $30 a year to have my own domain that I can move whenever I want.

    Also, be wary of website builders who insist on controlling the site for you and demand a monthly fee to host and maintain your site. Recently, I had to help a fellow author get back her domain name after the company who ran her website went belly-up and let the domain name expire without notifying her. She had to buy it back from a company that specialized in grabbing just-expired domains and then selling them back to the person who had it in the first place.

    As an Indie, you can control your writing and where it is published. You should also control your online presence.

  11. Don’t center your fanbase on facebook. Use it as one channel, if it works for you. Otherwise consider it like being in the phone book: people will find you if they’re already looking.

  12. The thing FB wants us to do is pay to reach the people we’ve *already* reached organically. Things I post on my author page (almost never book-sale related) reach about 10-12% of the people who have “liked” my page. FB wants me to pay them to reach the other 88-90% of people who have already indicated they would like to keep abreast of my page. Pfft. As an author, it’s very frustrating.

  13. I have both a personal page and an author page on FB. I use the personal page much more, and interact with fans there.

    The author page shows my blog updates (which I then share with my personal account to give them some traction). That page links to my website, as well.

    I was recently looking for some services and checked out a lot of FB pages and went from there to professional websites. And that is the main point for any business FB page, I believe: The ability to send people to your website. No more, no less.

    But yes, business visibility is shrinking on FB. Which only means that I as author (and as coach) have to interact with people in order to be noticed. Which in turn may be a good thing for social media.

    • I use my personal page much more to interact with readers and other authors too. I think it works out really well—I can be more interactive with my personal account than I can as a page. I like to interact with people. (I prefer to interact on Twitter, but Facebook is okay too.)

  14. My impression of Facebook: “Hey, let’s ignore what customers Like and instead push what big spenders want to push, because a top-down, command economic model never went stagnant and collapsed under the weight of smothered demand and enthusiasm, right?”

    Nobody goes to the mailbox hoping for junk mail, and nobody is going to go to Facebook to have nothing but paid posts shoved into their feeds. Have fun destroying your website.

    • Facebook was always going to Heck once they started trying to make money. Which they had to do eventually.

      This is why the whole idea of bloated, centralized social media sites is silly. They can only serve the people who use them so long as they’re willing to lose lots of money.

  15. Lots of people use Facebook, but just about all of them have grievances against the site. I don’t think this bodes well for the long term.

  16. I find it interesting and somewhat contrary to our capitalistic way of life that so many are up in arms over FB’s attempt to make money by charging for promo posts? Before I was a successful author of commercial fiction I ran a mid-sized mfg. business. I had no misconceptions that the NYTs, Boston Globe or local radio and TV would run my ads for free. Why would they unless I was a legitimate not for profit. Those who run FB, Twitter, etc. are in business. And frankly I pay to boost many of my posts about events, new releases and book sales. I find it hard to get excited about this… it’s business!

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