Will Facebook’s Pay to Play Approach Squeeze Out Small Business?

April 2, 2014 | Social Media

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How much will you spend on Facebook?Facebook, like so many social media channels is thought of as free. Anyone can set up a Facebook profile for free, and then start connecting with friends and start posting and reading content.

Facebook for business, a quick history

When Facebook first started, all profiles were personal profiles. Then some businesses, schools, events, etc. wanted to get into the action so Facebook started pages (at one time called fan pages). Profiles are for people, pages are for brands or organizations.

Brands big and small jumped into Facebook. A lot of small businesses saw Facebook as an ideal way to promote their business. There were few or no hard costs, just the expense of time. It was an exciting time when the playing field appeared truly level for all participants. If you could create great content and engage your fans, your customers would help spread your message for you.

Facebook has always had an algorithm behind how they display news on your timeline. It depends on when you last logged on, who you are connected to, what content is getting likes and shares, etc. Company pages were right there in the mix.

Pay to promote

Then, things started to change. Content from company pages seemed to fall off people’s timelines. Page admins were seeing reach and engagement numbers plummet. We had a number of clients who started asking about this:

“Why are we seeing such a decline in how many people see our posts?”

Around that same time, Facebook started to introduce ads and also the ability to pay to promote your page posts to a wider audience. It seemed that the era of free marketing through Facebook was coming to a close.

The question that has been lingering out there for a while is how much money were brands willing to invest in Facebook as a marketing tool? A recent report on the Valleywag blog is now citing an inside source who is claiming that Facebook “is ‘in the process of’ slashing ‘organic page reach’ down to 1 or 2 percent.” That means if you’ve built up 1000 likes on your page, you’d be lucky if ten or twenty start reliably seeing your posts.

Unless you pay.

As someone who works with small businesses and entrepreneurs I am guessing that Facebook is going to fall out of favor unless you have a strong consumer message. Facebook has always worked better with consumer brands compared to B2B. People like to talk about barbeque sauce and decorating; not so much about enterprise software or HR consulting services.

This move puts social media back into the pay to play column. Traditional advertising was frequently too expensive for small businesses and social media has been seen by many as the great equalizer, but that is all going to change as social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter need to post profits and revenues to their shareholders. I’ve already heard the disgruntled grumblings from my clients and now some companies are more publicly pulling the plug on Facebook.

Let me know: Will you pay up or pull out?

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