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DrugsIs Facebook the new drug dealer for small business owners?

Facebook finally admits that it is deliberately holding back your Page updates so that they only appear in your Fans’ newsfeeds if you pay for advertising.

In a recent article in Ad Age Facebook are being more upfront about the amount of updates that are getting shown. Previously they clouded the issue by telling users they were trying to cut down on spammy updates … but now the clouds are lifting and it’s become obvious that there has been a huge and sudden drop in most Page’s reach.

Your Page reach is based how many people have actually “seen” your updates ie clicked links, clicked like, added comments or shared your posts. And when many small businesses have been working tirelessly over recent months (and years!) to increase the number of Likes of their pages, many businesses are feeling lost and confused why fewer people than ever are getting to see their updates.

It’s as if Facebook has become the drug dealer for small business owners, just like you.

You’ve been fed with promises of free traffic and easy ways of getting to new customers. You’ve been hooked on building a fan base and adding Like buttons on every page of your website.

And then slowly over time, Facebook cuts you off by making it more difficult for your Page posts to reach the very people you have worked so hard to Like your page.

You can get in to your Fans’ newsfeeds … but this time you will have to pay with Facebook adverts.

It may not be fair, but that’s life for you. Facebook was never going to be the holy grail of marketing that so many social media gurus were promising.

Facebook was always set up to be a business to make money.

This post is not about how much I hate Facebook for what they’ve done (and will continue to do) … but how much I hate that so many small business owners get caught up in the hype.

So what is a business owner like you meant to do?

Is Facebook really the necessary evil that you get addicted to? Even though you know deep down you shouldn’t or don’t want to be doing it … you still find yourself getting sucked in by promises of an easy way of getting new customers.

Can you really cut yourself off from this drug baron?

I’m not so sure this is the answer for most people (unfortunately!). I use Facebook in my own marketing. I have a real love hate relationship with Facebook – I hate to use it but love the buzz when suddenly one of my sponsored posts work and I get a few dozen sign ups to my mailings from a $20 dollar spend.

There’s a big part of me that would love to turn my back on Facebook and decide that I am leaving, once and for all.

But I can’t. The withdrawal symptoms would kick in within a few weeks and I would wonder … what if? What am I missing?

Perhaps one day, I will be brave enough to try it (who’s with me?!)

But for now, if you are like me and so many other small business owners forced to admit their addiction to conquering the beast that is Facebook, there are certain rules you must set yourself.

Rules that are designed to keep your time and energy spent on Facebook focused on direct sales and growth of your business … because why else would you be on Facebook? And please don’t give me that nonsense of branding and “getting your name out there”. Leave that to the big brands who have departments of assistants and budgets to spend.

When you are your business and it’s just you, the dog and a laptop perched on your kitchen counter, you can’t kid yourself that X number of likes, comments and shares are going to bring in the profits. You have to be focused on what’s going to get your customers, whether that’s today, tomorrow or sometime in the future.

So, back to the rules before this post becomes one long rant LOL

1. Facebook is ALL about list building

Yes, you have to build your Likes so that people have a chance to see your posts. And it’s now becoming more apparent that you have to build your Likes to get your ads seen too (isn’t Facebook clever … they make sure you spend money on getting new likes as well as advertising your stuff!)

And yes, you have to post stuff that encourages your Fans to like, comment and share as the more engagement you get, the better reach your page gets and – again! – the better chance your posts AND adverts will be seen.

But stop there and you will be falling in to the huge Facebook trap that so many business owners have fallen in before you. You have to go beyond the Likes, Shares and Comments and ensure you have a strategy of turning those in to email addresses.

MagnetWithout your own database, you will continue to be at the mercy of Facebook’s terms and conditions and changes to it’s newsfeed algorithms. If you continue to see your Facebook Fans as your “list”, you are on dangerous ground.

2. Have more than one lead magnet

If you have something that you offer on your home page to encourage people to part with their email addresses, great. But to keep touting that on your Facebook page is going to get boring and spammy.

You need to have at least 3 or 4 different offers that you can rotate throughout the month.

This is why live events such as webinars or teleseminars are so good for list building. Having a time defined event naturally means you have to keep your lead magnet fresh and new.

3. Schedule, schedule, schedule

Posting “real-time” updates is time inefficient, unless you are planning to change your job title to Facebook Administrator. Now that Facebook offer scheduling options on all post types, it’s OK to plan ahead. It’s not going to affect your engagement levels or reach.

Now I am not telling to set-and-forget and ignore your Page all week. You still need to jump in once or twice a day to respond to comments or answer questions. But a focused session doing this should only take 10 or 20 minutes at most … and you get back out again fast.

I’m sure you’ve done it (I know I have!!) … you decide to check your updates and 2 hours later, you still find yourself watching the latest cute puppy video or creating yet another BitStrip. If you spend an hour at the start of each week or fortnight (depending on how many posts you want to create), it will save you stacks of time throughout your week.

You can still post real-time … but these posts can be extra to what you’ve created already.

4. Be prepared to spend money

Gone are the days that Facebook was truly free. It operates a freeium model now and the only way to see a return on your time investment now is to spend money.

So when Facebook tell you “It’s free and will always be” when you login … it’s not strictly true for you!

5. Give yourself permission that it’s OK to forget Facebook once in a while

It’s not compulsory to be active on Facebook each and every week. Yes, consistency is important in your marketing. To make social media work, you can’t dip in and out and expect potential customers to take notice of you when YOU are ready to make the effort.

But I feel there is also a compulsive obsession to putting Facebook marketing ahead of other stuff that is, frankly, more important at certain times. To make a decision to spend half an hour (which ends up being 2 or 3 hours!) responding to comments and joining in discussions in your various groups, rather than pick up the phone to potential customers is madness.

There are going to be days and weeks that other stuff – outside of Facebook – is going to get you better returns on your time and money investment. So give yourself permission to leave Facebook alone for a time if you need to get on the phones, get out and see people or lock yourself away to do some copywriting for your new email marketing campaign.

Believe or not, Facebook will still be there when you are ready to come back.

Facebook will still welcome you back with opened arms and lots of reminders on how to start your next ad campaign.

So this post is not about starting a Hate Campaign against Facebook. They are a commercial business and a lot of the strategies they adopt I respect and admire. They are not a charity and although they may stipulate they are a free website to use, too many business owners think this applies to them too.

It’s easy to jump on the Facebook band wagon with the impression it’s free platform to promote your business on.

It’s not. And the sooner you treat Facebook as an investment, the sooner you realise you need to focus your energies on getting a return on that investment … in pounds, shillings and pence!

What do you feel about the recent changes to Facebook? How have they affected your Page posts? Or is this just another reason why you really can’t or won’t go near Facebook?!?

Please leave your thoughts or a comment below. I would love to know what you think, too.

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