In the past few weeks, Facebook has made it clear that in order to reach your customers, fans, and anyone else who has "liked" you on its platform, you'll have to pay for Facebook ads. "Organic reach" of content from brands and small businesses has fallen to less than 2 percent of all fans.
Even though experts predicted this, for many small businesses that have invested time and money in building a Facebook following, this is difficult news.
On the one hand, businesses have never before had a free media channel through which to advertise, so this was bound to happen. But on the other hand, though big businesses may be able to swallow the new pay-to-play rules, it's challenging for small businesses that don't think they can afford to advertise.
Here are three simple, actionable takeaways for small businesses wondering what to do next with their Facebook pages:
1. Experiment with Facebook ads. It may not seem fair, but you can still generate better results with Facebook ads than with most other advertising and marketing platforms. Play around with advanced targeting criteria, and advertise to not only your customers but to their friends.
There are two major advantages to Facebook ads: built-in social context ("Your friend Dave likes this dentist") and incredible targeting options. Facebook has data on 1.2 billion people, and you can target them by interest, job title, age, Zip code, and marital status, to name just a few criteria. You know what's cooler than reaching a billion people on Facebook? Reaching the right 1,000--or 100 or 10--to best expand your business.
2. Experiment with other social-media platforms. That said, it's probably time to expand your social-media marketing program to more channels than just Facebook. Are you on Twitter yet? LinkedIn? Instagram? How about YouTube, SlideShare, Vine, Pinterest, or Foursquare? It can be overwhelming just thinking about all the platforms available to you--but start with a couple that you know (or think) your customers are on and experiment to see if you can get any traction.
Take the same content and ideas you've been sharing on Facebook and change up the messaging a bit before sharing on other social networks. Eventually, all of these platforms will become pay-to-play for businesses, but until they do, you might find better results for your time on a network besides Facebook.
3. Create amazing, authentic content. Whether you advertise your content or not, it's as important as ever to create and share content that will resonate with your Facebook audience.
Ask insightful questions, share authentic pictures and videos, provide valuable insights and educations, and tell compelling stories. (Here is a free tool we created to give you ideas for social-media content for your business.) Remember, on Facebook, you're not competing with other small businesses, or even big businesses, for people's attention; you're competing with pictures of my best friend's baby.
Knowing you'll now need to pay Facebook to reach your own customers and fans may be frustrating, but if you try these three things, you may just find you can drive stronger results than ever before for your small business on the world's largest social network.
Still looking for help managing Facebook's ad platform? Check out my free webinar this week.