The better way to sell online

Why advertising on Facebook could lose you money

If you want to gain fans on Facebook, then advertising seems like the logical thing to do. But with the recent changes in the Facebook algorithm, you might not get your money's worth. Here’s why, and what to do instead.

Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform, with 1.32 billion daily users. On average, each of those people will be online for around 50 minutes per day.

That makes it seem like a great place to invest money for advertising.

But users are reporting that that’s not quite the case.

While Facebook has a growing user base, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plans to cut down on advertising.

For a few years organic reach -organic meaning unpaid- was at around 10%. That meant that if 1,000 people liked your Facebook page, Facebook would promote your posts to only 100 of them.

Those 100 people would act as a sort of test. If enough of them liked and commented on your post (being a text post, photo, advertisement, article, link, etc), Facebook would show it to more people. This test was designed to ensure that only quality, or interesting, content would be promoted by the site.

If not enough people interacted with the post, then Facebook wouldn't show it to any more of your fans via their timelines, or home screens. They would only be able to see your posts by clicking directly onto your page, which most people never do.

So why does it matter?

Firstly, your posts might not be seen by people who are actually interested. Secondly, it’s almost impossible to get posts in front of people who aren’t already interested.

Now, organic reach has dropped down much further. Facebook has, however, created a new double-opt in feature to compensate. It’s tricky and a little awkward: people will have to like your page, and then select your page as ‘see first’ in their news-feed settings. Even then, your posts might not arrive on their timelines.

It might sound startling, but Facebook isn’t the only one demoting advertisers. In fact, it’s likely most social media sites will soon take similar steps.

Many of Facebook’s changes are designed to make you spend your money on advertisements.

Facebook is, after all, a business. Advertisements promise to boost your engagement, from the small ‘organic’ group of fans who might see your posts to a much higher number.

But many users report that advertisements just aren't working for them.

Here’s why Facebook advertisements are ‘broken’

For years, Facebook has been fighting against ‘click farms’. In a number of developing countries people get paid 1 dollar per 1,000 pages that they like. A basic google search will show you dozens of services which you can pay in exchange for those likes.

The problem with likes from click farms is that they are empty. They never convert into sales, and they result in no engagement on your posts.

Keep in mind that Facebook 'tests' your posts by how many people engage with them, not by how many people like your page. A page with 100 followers but 1,000 likes on each post will be much more successful than a page with 1,000 followers but only 100 likes on each post.

If you buy fake likes from third parties, then your posts will be sent to fake people. You’ll gain no actual sales, and the odds of your real customers seeing your posts will fall.

The obvious alternative is to spend money inside Facebook to gain ‘authentic likes’, but even they’re a grey area.

Look at the advertisement I’ve included here for example: this post has almost 200 thousand views. That means that the company has paid to place it in front of almost 200 thousand people. And yet only 82 people engaged with the post. That’s an engagement level of 0.04. And chances are this company did everything Facebook recommended.

So what’s happening?

An experiment

In 2012, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones devised an experiment. He created a Facebook page called ‘virtual bagel’ and spent $10 on Facebook advertising. Within 24 hours he had 1,600 likes on his page. And yet the page contained nothing of value. It made no sense.

After clicking through the people who had liked his page, Cellan-Jones realized that most of them were from people who worked for click farms. Many of them had liked thousands of pages. He had gained the same followers he would have using a third-party app. Chances are that many of the users the advertisement above were promoted to weren’t even real Facebook users.

That meant that users who bought Facebook ads still gained fake followers, and would have to pay to promote posts to real fans.

If you’re still doubting the effectiveness of Facebook advertisement, consider this: the US state department paid $630,000 to gain two million fans. They later realized their engagement was at just 2%.

Likes from click farms are empty. They never convert into sales, and they’ll result in no engagement on your posts.

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So, what can you do?

Most advertisers report that paying for likes doesn’t convert into sales for them.

However, if you’ve never paid for likes it can be well worth paying to boost your posts to existing fans. That way, the real people who’ve liked your page will see more of what you’re creating.

But if your goal is to connect with new customers, not existing ones, read on.

How to get real engagement (for free).

So how can you gain real likes, and in turn more sales? The answer is Facebook groups, where people with similar interests can connect.

The best, most affordable way to get likes which will actively engage with your page and products is through those Facebook groups. Here’s how:

1. Enter a phrase which applies to your business in the blue search bar on top on Facebook. You’ll see that a number of individuals, pages and groups will drop down.


2. Search through ‘see all results’ and keep refining your search. You want to find people who are are based in your area and whose members might be interested in your products.

3. Apply to join the groups you choose. You should check that the groups you join are active. If no one has posted in them for a few days, then chances are no one is really engaging.

4. Spend a few weeks watching the groups, seeing what kind of posts are made. This is important: you don’t want to join a group and straight away start pushing products. It’ll only annoy the members. Instead, find out the common questions and discussions which arise in the group.

5. Once you have a feel for the groups you’ve joined, you can start posting useful content. Try to answer questions group members might have, or give them tips and advice.

6. The goal in doing so is establishing yourself as an expert. Once you’ve become part of the group, you can inform them of your business. That way they’re more likely to like and then buy from your page.

It's a long process, but connecting with a Facebook group can give you real engagement. It can also help people identify you as an authority figure in your field! Offering a discount to group members can be a great incentive for them to check out your products. 

An alternative option is to create your own Facebook group, but make sure it isn’t just advertisement. There needs to be a reason people would want to join. Making a group can be done similarly to making a page, simply look up ‘create a group’ in the Facebook search bar and follow the prompts.

A final note

Facebook is cracking down on posts which seem too much like advertisements. Try to keep your posts informative and interesting, and try to add as much value to them as you can. By using Groups to connect with customers, you can sidestep many of the problems users are having with advertisement. But remember to stay respectful and follow group rules. 

- Lena Klein

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