by Erin Mitchell
On Thursday, the venerable Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “What’s a Facebook Follower Worth?” It caused quite a stir…largely because it was terribly misleading in several ways. So I thought a sort of Cliff’s Notes (remember them?) might be helpful…
Quotes below are in order, but aren't the whole of the article.
Figuring out the value of a Facebook fan has become more complex for many small-business owners,…
Figuring out return on investment (ROI) can be difficult for small-business owners, regardless of marketing vehicle. For authors, it’s often even more so. That said, Facebook has actually made it easier to determine ROI by showing you on each post the number of people who saw it and the number who are “talking about” (sharing, commenting on) it. Ultimately, though, for authors, the value of all online marketing is Occam’s razor- simple: If you’re selling more books, it’s working. If you did less or different marketing with your last book and this one is selling better, well, it has value.
...ever since the social-media giant began asking businesses to pay to "promote" their posts.
Facebook is allowing page owners to promote their posts. They’re not asking. They’re not insisting. And the fact is, they’re not doing anything different if you don’t. Facebook’s EdgeRank is the same as it always was. The Facebook EdgeRank Algorithim is the formula Facebook uses to display posts in newsfeeds (aka, your Facebook home page). If you’d like to know more about it, here’s a helpful infographic.
According to the company, the average business post reaches 16% of its fans.
While this might sound like a dismally small number, anyone who knows squat about marketing will tell you that as marketing metrics go, this is pretty damn high. For comparison, people who do a lot of e-mail marketing are thrilled with a 0.5% response rate. So let’s not get our collective knickers in a twist about this.
It does point out, though, the importance of having as large an audience as you can muster on your Facebook page. To this end, there’s nothing wrong with advertising on Facebook to build your brand awareness. Said advertising, when correctly executed, can deliver strong bang for the buck.
Mr. Bishop says he puts out an average of 35 posts a week…
Whoa, Nellie. That’s seven posts per day. Way too many for a person, never mind a business or brand of any sort. Mr. Bishop’s griping about paying for posts is, therefore, kinda silly. Of course, having zero posts per day for days on end is also not terribly helpful. As a general rule of thumb, you should be posting at least five times per week, more if you have more to say. But not seven times per day, unless your only goal is to piss people off.
And some even use [Facebook’s] business pages in lieu of a company website.
If you’re an author and you don’t have a website, shame on you. And I think it will shock exactly nobody when I say that if you want a good website, make the investment in getting a professional to create it for you. Here’s a shocker, though: The same goes for Facebook pages. Just because you can figure out how to do it yourself, doesn’t mean you should. Investing in someone who knows what they’re doing can have huge benefits in the short- and long-term.
Having to pay for social media puts small businesses at a disadvantage over larger rivals, says Eric Yaverbaum, co-founder of SocialMediaMags.com, a magazine publisher in New York. "They don't have the same amount of money to compete with the big companies," he says. "They're going to have to reshape their online sales strategy or bow out if they can't afford it."
This paragraph frustrates me more than any other in the article because is misses the point of Facebook for small businesses (and authors) completely. The goal is not to compete. It is to build relationships with customers—readers—in order to leverage the reach each of those people has and to engage with them.
So let’s assume for a moment that you don’t want to pay to promote posts. What can you do instead to amplify your reach?
Pay attention to when you post. You might be surprised to learn that a lot of people spend time in Facebookistan during the weekends.
Post photos and videos. Then post some more photos. Especially funny ones. Also create photo albums.
Explicitly ask your fans to do something. Ask them to share a post, click a link, comment, or enter a contest. People like to be asked.
Make the text in your posts a little longer. No need to write 400 words, but more than two sentences is good, because then people have to click the ‘Read more’ link to finish reading, thereby engaging with your post.
Share your posts on other networks. I’m not a fan of posting everything everywhere, but with some qualitative consideration, sharing your Facebook posts on other networks can help drive engagement.
Remember mobile. More than half of the billion people on Facebook access it via mobile device. So if your posts and page tabs only work on a computer, you’re losing half your audience before you even start.
There’s more to be said on this topic, to be sure. As to whether Facebook is “worth it” for the authors out there, I believe that the answer is normally yes. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense for you to do everything all the time. It might make sense to get help. But giving up on a network where your readers invariable are? That’s just crazy talk.