The topic of discussion at a recent small business gathering was “What’s new in your marketing plan for 2016?”
My answer was “Nothing so far.”
Perhaps if an entrepreneur develops a new platform that combines some of what I’m already doing, I’ll consider making some changes. In the meantime it’s status quo for me.
Facebook marketing is a tactic, not a strategy
I bit my tongue for as long as I could, then I said:
“Facebook is not a marketing strategy. If that’s all you’ve got, save yourself some time and aggravation and focus elsewhere.”
It was not a popular thing to say, but I’m sticking to my guns. Here’s why:
According to their own statistics from April 2012, the organic reach of business page posts on Facebook is only about 16 percent of followers, on average (2019 update: it’s now at about 6%, since the 2018 algorithm change). Apparently that number has changed quite a bit in the past three years. A study reported in AdWeek in April of this year (2015) states that in March 2015 the average post reach on Facebook was just 2.6 percent. Of the 2.6 percent, about 12 percent of those reached were engaged (commented or liked the post).
So, if you have 10,000 fans who have “liked” your page, you might have reached, on average, 260 of them with any given post and engaged 31 people (that’s “people engaged,” not necessarily “people who bought”). That’s 31 out of 10,000, or .003 percent.
How much time and effort would you have invested to build your Facebook page up to 10,000 fans? How could anyone possibly be satisfied with such terrible performance? Even e-mail performs, on average, 80 times better than that. Still think that Facebook is an effective marketing strategy?
Of course, you can always pay to “boost” your post. That’s how Facebook makes money; they’re not in business to provide you with free advertising. You have to pay to play. Facebook provides page administrators with statistics on post reach at the bottom of each post. In the right sidebar of your page they provide a tabulation of weekly post reach, engagement, website clicks and call-to-action responses. Above the column listing these statistics is a “Promote” button that leads you to the Facebook Ads Manager if you want to extend your reach.
If you spend any money, though, be sure to track the before-and-after results of your post and include some sort of tracking device in your ad (like a discount code) so that you’ll know which sales came from Facebook. Don’t be led astray by reach and engagement numbers alone; see if any of these folks actually bought something.
There are two primary reasons for the low reach and engagement numbers:
1. You never know exactly how many people are actually being reached organically. Facebook allows users to curate the content that shows up in their news feeds. I can “Like” your page but decide to unfollow your posts; when I do that your page will not appear in my news feed. Your “Page Likes” number is deceptive.
2. Users sign up for Facebook to engage in social media. Most users follow your page because they want to know who you are and what you do. They are looking for information, not a continuous promotional feed. Would you sign up for a feed of nothing but sale ads? Neither would I. Most marketing gurus suggest a 4-to-1 mix of informational posts vs. promotional ads. The higher your percentage of promotional posts, the fewer people there are who will actually follow your posts.
Don’t get sidetracked with Facebook marketing
Am I advocating dropping Facebook as a marketing tactic? No. What I’m saying is that Facebook is a tactic, not a strategy. Tactics are the methods used to gain an objective, while strategy is an overall campaign plan that may involve many different tactics. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, blogging, community directories, coupons, display ads, direct mail, email, antiquing maps and websites are all tactics. Any one-off platform is a tactic, not a strategy.
As in war and football, tactics are employed to gain an overall strategic objective. A business employs strategies and tactics on many levels: management, recruiting, marketing, sales, margins and so on. For any small business, the ultimate objective is profit. Not sales, profit. A good marketing strategy starts with a clear and measureable sales objective that’s related to your overall strategy. For example, “increase sales by 15 percent over last year while maintaining margins and keeping selling expenses at or below current levels.” Then, tactics are employed to reach the objective.
If one of your objectives is to build brand awareness, then Facebook is a good tactic. But if you want immediate sales more than brand recognition, then display ads, email campaigns or direct mail are all better choices than Facebook.
If you’ve been paying for – and hitting – good post engagement numbers but still aren’t making sales, change your tactics. When few of your Facebook followers are buying from you, perhaps your time and money should be focused elsewhere.
Whenever you’re throwing anything – a ball or marketing dollars – you have to know what you’re trying to hit. Who are your customers, and where do they live? Are they residents of your town, or must they drive to get to your shop? How many of your Facebook followers are your customers? Where do your followers live? Are they in your immediate market area?
If not, don’t expect much in the way of sales from Facebook. Instead, use tactics that stand a good chance of delivering what you need. If your customers live nearby, then perhaps display or Pennysaver advertising would work better for you. Or street fairs. Are you located in a rural area? Sunday-driver antique shop guides are a good bet, or a built-for-mobile website. But don’t keep hoping that Facebook alone will help you hit your objective.
Before you spend any time or money, you have to know who your customers are, where they live and what tactic to use to reach them.
Previously published in Antique Trader Magazine