An Open Letter to Facebook

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg;

First off, I just wanna say, thanks for inventing what is currently the greatest social network in the world.

I had lunch with an old friend last week, and although we hadn’t seen each other in about 6 months, we were already pretty up-to-date with what was going on with our kids, thanks to you. You have reunited me with relatives, people I met while travelling, and classmates from elementary through grad school.

As a consumer, I love (okay, I have to say I’m not crazy about some of my friends’ vaugebooking, but an “unsubscribe” will fix that), Facebook. It allows me to celebrate birthdays with my friends, to celebrate my successes, and to get some love and support on rough days. It allows me to crowdsource the best restaurants and vacations. It’s a great sounding board.

FB marketing

But as a marketer, I feel like Facebook is slowly becoming more and more for the 1%.

When I first started teaching social media workshops 5 years ago, one of the things I would emphasize is that social media has given back power to small businesses. A mom-and-pop coffee shop had exactly the same tools at their disposal as a gigantic corporation like Starbucks. But this is increasingly no longer the case.

I totally get that you need to make money. And I don’t begrudge you that. But it’s getting more and more frustrating for me, as a marketer of small businesses, to try to make Facebook work for me.

‘Edgerank’ (I know, you don’t actually call it that any more, but for lack of a better term, and because it’s shorter than saying “the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine what you do or do not see in your feed”) was created to help with spam. The idea was, the better content you put up, the more people would see it. Spammers and businesses who were just broadcasting would suffer. This is a great idea in theory.

However, I don’t feel like the quality of the content I am putting up is spammy at all. I make sure that every post I put up on my page is valuable–whether it’s a post that leads back to my own blog or not. And I don’t post too often–maybe just once or twice a day.

Today, the amount of people that see my posts (according to analytics) is basically exactly the same as the amount of people that saw my posts 6 months ago–despite the fact that I have grown the page by 500 likes in the mean time.

It feels to me like, in order to get ahead on Facebook, you have to pay. And I have certainly purchased PPC ads to drive likes to my page, and I’ve also boosted posts. I had great success with these. But Facebook is no longer a level playing field. Businesses with large marketing budgets can afford to buy more ads than the little guys like me. The can afford a $20 boost to their posts, whereas I’ll choose the $6 option.

I’m not sure what to do here. I get that you need to make money, and that you will continue to refine your idea. But I’m wondering if there is some way to give the little guys a break–a leg up–to help keep the playing field as even as possible. Google, for example, offers small businesses ad credits. Or maybe refine your algorithms further to really boost the folks who are, in fact, trying to post valuable content and not just yelling “buy this!!” every day.

I know, I know, if I don’t like it, I can take my toys and go home, right? I don’t have to use Facebook, right? But I kind of do… with more than 1 Billion accounts worldwide, a business really needs to have an account on Facebook. So, I guess the question is, how much effort do I put into it?

I’ve heard stories recently of companies posting to Facebook every half hour in an attempt to work around Edgerank. Every half hour??! For most people, that’s too much for Twitter, let alone Facebook. Or do I just have a presence on Facebook, but not really try to do much with it, treat it like a placeholder?

I don’t know. But I do know, I am feeling increasingly discouraged–like I’m between a rock and hard place. And that’s never a good place to be.

Yours truly,

Rebecca

Check out this article on Mashable: The Future of Facebook and Small Business.

 

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 7

  1. Hi Rebecca, I read almost all your posts and while this may not teach me a new method or facet of advertising, I feel it resonates with me the most. As an advertiser, I’ve found engagement ratios dropping over the years despite the quality of adverts increasing. I’ve also found (as a consumer of content) that the quality and relevancy of ads is decreasing.

    While I don’t generally like ads, I’d be more interested is some community, local or niche ad more than I would the ‘regular large corporate’ or mobile game.

    It’s something I want to consider as we put the finishing touches on our own site (shameless plug sorry) and I hope we’ll have an easy solution. I truly believe it’s the smaller businesses that not only shape communities/people but also resonate more with the individual – I think a more healthy balance on FB would benefit both the consumer and advertiser … And thus, ultimately fb’s stock price.

  2. I hear you! A few of my longer term clients, for whom we’ve been working on the same social media strategies for a year or so, are not seeing the growth they’d hoped for, and they are tapped out for spending on ads. The content is good, not posted too often but still posted consistently, the fans that are engaged are well engaged, and here I am having to explain changes to Facebook as an admin or other ideas to consider every month. I wonder a bit about too many eggs in the Facebook basket – maybe we need to go back to building out the email list more, or a better Instagram feed, or be more active on Twitter, etc.

    1. I have to say, I have found myself putting more effort into Twitter lately, and the difference is, I feel like it’s paying off. I’ve grown my twitter by over 1000 over the last 6 months.

      It’s just frustrating. And it feels like there’s no good answer…

  3. It *is* frustrating. For one of my clients, the target is quite young women and teen girls, and they just aren’t on Twitter. For another, the nature of their industry means perhaps I need to consider more effort into LinkedIn? I guess really it comes down to having to reassess the balance (but then, as a paid contractor, how does that impact the value they get from my time?) Bah. 🙂

  4. Thank you for your open letter. I sincerely hope it is a catalyst to effect change. I feel your pain, as I have marketed small businesses for years. Now, I am managing a non-profit and the Facebook squeeze is even more painful. No longer can we tag others theatres for cross-promotion.

    I hope your open letter resonates, not only with the 99% of struggling small businesses and non-profits, but also with the heads of Facebook. Hey – we are simply trying to “lean-into” this social media platform!

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