A few weeks ago, Facebook announced that as of January, organic reach for businesses trying to promote themselves on the platform will approach zero. In other words, Facebook has made it clear that in order to reach your customers, fans, and anyone else who has "liked" your business on its platform, you'll have to pay for Facebook ads. "Organic reach" of content from brands and small businesses will fall to less than 1 percent of all fans. Facebook Reachageddon, or the end of organic reach on Facebook, is looming, and soon.
Even though many experts predicted this, and the announcement follows a trend that's been happening for over two years, for many small businesses that have invested time and money in building a Facebook following, this is very difficult news. The Wall Street Journal reported that the "new Facebook rules will sting entrepreneurs."
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, although 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. So now that Facebook Reachageddon is just a few weeks away, what can small businesses do?
Here are three simple, actionable takeaways for small businesses wondering what to do next with their Facebook pages:
1. Tap Into Ambassadors to Share Your Amazing Content.
Whether you advertise your content or not, it's as important as ever to create and share great content that will resonate with your Facebook audience.
Ask insightful questions, share authentic pictures and videos, provide valuable insights and education, and tell compelling stories. Remember, on Facebook, you're not just competing with other small businesses, or even big businesses, for people's attention; you're competing with pictures of my best friend's baby. Inspire, educate, and entertain.
Then, tap into ambassadors for help sharing your content throughout the Facebook ecosystem. Ask your staff, your friends, your customers, and any influencers you know to like, comment on, and share your content. If it's valuable content, (i.e. content that inspires, educates, or entertains, rather than just promotional content), you're not so much asking for favors as you are helping your ambassadors look smarter or more helpful by directing them to your content to share.
2. Start Using Other Social Media Platforms. 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 Google? 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. If you don't what platforms your customers are on, simply ask them. (Quick tip: If you sell to other business owners, LinkedIn, Twitter, and SlideShare are excellent platforms).
On other social networks, take the same content and ideas you've been sharing on Facebook and change up the messaging a bit before sharing. 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. 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 in the world. 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 hypertargeting options. Social context is important because 92 percent of people trust their friends--so when they see their friends' names in your ads, that's incredibly compelling.
As for hypertargeting, Facebook has data on 1.3 billion people, and you can target them by interest, job title, age, zip code, and marital status, to name just a few criteria. When I took out a Facebook ad targeting married, female employees of Likeable who went to Emerson College and live in Port Washington, New York, only one person (my wife) saw the ad. I'd like to think my wife is one-in-a-million--but this literally was one in a billion!
The movie The Social Network features the famous line, "You know what's cooler than a million dollars? A billion dollars." My line when it comes to Facebook advertising is the opposite:
You know what's cooler than reaching a billion people on Facebook? Reaching the right 1,000--or 100 or 10--to best grow your business.
Knowing that in January, thanks to Facebook Reachageddon, you'll 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 social media results than ever before for your small business.
Now it's your turn. What have your experiences been with Facebook and Facebook ads? Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.