For the last couple of years, small business marketers have been complaining about Facebook’s declining organic reach and harking back to the days when Facebook offered outstanding “free marketing” opportunities.
A lot of businesses were built on the back of Facebook’s early growth. Businesses, that just a few years before probably wouldn’t have even gotten off the ground, grew quickly and built significant audiences by adopting Facebook early and offering content to their audience.
In those days, there was nowhere near as much competition and Facebook users generally saw all (or at least most) of the posts from their friends, family and the Pages they liked.
But as Facebook grew (it now boasts over 2 billion monthly active users, and more than 65 million business Facebook Pages), the news feed became cluttered and it became impossible to show all of the content being shared. So the Facebook algorithm was implemented and has been continually updated to make sure the user has a good experience and spends as much time as possible on the platform.
And business marketers aren’t happy!! Especially those who had it so good in those early days.
The complaining and outrage reached a peak in February 2018 when Mark Zuckerberg announced more changes to the Facebook algorithm.
In this announcement, he said “the first changes you’ll see will be in the News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
“As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
Marketers labeled the latest change “Facebook Apocalypse” and “Facebook Zero” (we marketers sure do have a flair for the dramatic), and some businesses started to question whether they should even spend any effort on the platform?
And it may be a question you’re asking yourself. Should I, as a small business owner, even bother with Facebook anymore?
And the answer is…it depends!
If you expect to access “free marketing” with little effort and for no money, then….no! Don’t bother.
But if you’re strategic, realistic and prepared to invest resources and money, Facebook still offers some unrivalled opportunities to reach your target audience and contribute to your marketing goals.
THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT FACEBOOK STILL OFFERS SMALL BUSINESS MARKETERS
Use Facebook Advertising to Build Awareness, Generate Leads and Move People Towards Purchasing
Without doubt one of the greatest opportunities offered by Facebook is its advertising platform. With the amount of data Facebook holds on its users, its audience targeting is strong and can be laser-focused. And while Facebook advertising is not as cheap as it used to be, it’s still cost-effective relative to other (less targeted) advertising options.
Facebook advertising can be used at each stage of the marketing customer journey, in different ways and with different goals.
Your Facebook Page Is A Brand Asset that Allows Potential Customers To Find Out More About You
By creating and maintaining a high quality Facebook Page, you are building a brand asset on the world’s biggest media platform.
By having a strong presence on Facebook, you are giving potential customers an opportunity to research your brand and gain an insight into not only your product or service, but the type of business you are and the personality and values you portray.
Customer Reviews on your business page also provide social proof and further insight into your business. (According to Brightlocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more).
Having A Facebook Page makes it easier for your customers to refer you to their friends
We’ve all seen those posts. “I’m looking for a great (plumber, electrician, hairdresser, book, social media marketing manager, business coach….insert product or service here). Social media has become a place for people to research and get recommendations for products or services they’re looking to buy.
Rather than Google and hope for the best, they turn to social media (especially Facebook) to ask for recommendations and referrals from their friends.
If you have a band of happy customers, having a Facebook Page makes it easy for them to refer your business to their friends when they ask for recommendations.
And keeping your Page up-to-date with high quality content means you’ll be giving those friends a good first impression if they click to find out more.
Use Facebook Groups to create community
Depending on your business and the resources available, Facebook Groups are also an opportunity for small businesses to build a community and nurture customers and potential customers.
In the February announcement, Zuckerberg stated “you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.”
So at this stage a Group’s posts still have a greater chance of being shown to its members than posts from a Business Page. (Though how long this will be the case is anyone’s guess).
If you think it’s appropriate for your business, consider starting a Group for your target audience, where you can share high quality content, be available for Q&As and build trust and a community around your brand.
Use Networking Opportunities within Facebook Groups
Groups not only give you an opportunity to create a community of your own, they also provide networking opportunities within other people’s Groups.
There are countless business groups, community groups and groups centred around specific interests which you can join. By providing real value and helping people within these groups, you can build relationships and create opportunities for your business.
But don’t go in to spam or push your business on any unsuspecting member. Go with the intention of genuinely adding value, and you’ll get better results.
Facebook Messenger Advertising and Messenger Bots
Facebook Messenger is an ecosystem within itself and with over 1.3 billion monthly active users it’s offering significant opportunities to marketers.
It’s similar to email marketing. But as a less cluttered communication channel, people are still responding to Messages and open/engagement rates are high compared to email. Plus it’s more conversational and “one to one”, so it can be a more personalised experience for the customer.
The growth of Chatbots also makes it possible to serve and respond to customers around the clock.
So while it’s true that Facebook has changed A LOT, and the opportunities aren’t as plentiful (or free) as they used to be, it remains the world’s biggest media platform. And it’s where our customers are hanging out. Billions of them.
So to just crack it and leave is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. All it takes is a new way of looking at Facebook and considering the opportunities on offer … and how they fit into your wider marketing and business strategy.