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A slap in the Facebook for marketers

Tue 5th Aug 2014
By Todd
Facebook, Facebook Pages, Marketing

Facebook thumbs downFacebook kinda sucks for businesses right now, doesn’t it?!

It used to be an amazing network to share your stories and products with your customers. It used to be fun. It didn’t used to have so many memes and obvious quotes pasted onto pictures.

Yes, in the good old days it used be simple.

But then things changed. Facebook changed, and the way businesses use Facebook changed too. You see, the problem with popularity is – your feet no longer touch the ground. Facebook got too big for its boots and we fell out of love with it (well, many of us did).


Related post: 11 hidden tricks that will make you love Facebook again.


Here’s a quick catch up in case you’ve been under a rock, or on Google+ for the last few years.

  • February 2004: Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook for students, in an attempt to get back at his ex-girlfriend (how mature).
  • August 2008: Facebook reached 100 million users.
  • April 2012: Facebook announced that they were buying Instagram.
  • May 2012: Facebook announced that they would float on the Stock Exchange and were valued at 100 Billion Dollars! *Does Dr Evil face*.
  • August 2013: Facebook announced updates to its algorithms to show ‘More High Quality Content’ and marketers saw diminishing reach.
  • February 2014: Facebook bought Whatsapp for 19 Billion Dollars.
  • March 2014: A US company Eat24 wrote an open letter to Facebook titled “A Breakup Letter to Facebook from Eat24” and left their Page (with over 70,000 Facebook fans) for sites like Google+ and Twitter. Facebook didn’t respond.


Now obviously a whole lot more has happened in the 10-year history of Facebook, but for me, as a marketer, there’s one very important part – those pesky algorithms!


Years ago, when Facebook was a young gun in the social media playground, you could start a page, people would like it, and they would see everything you posted until they fell out with your constant updates and spammy behaviour.


Back then, the game was to keep people engaged and be social or they would unlike you. It was their choice if they binned you off in favour of their Auntie’s birthday snaps and gifs of cats climbing up curtains.


A slap in the Facebook for marketers

Newsfeed the death of FREE Facebook marketing

Now though, now it’s all in the hands of Facebook, or at least the hands of the algorithm that they built to show only the ‘most important’ stuff. Facebook got too popular and too busy, so they helped us all out by hiding some of the marketing messages… or at least that’s what they’ll tell you.

The fact is, Facebook are on the Stock Exchange and that means they have shareholders. That means they need to make money, and that means they need more and more advertisers.

Only the huge brands were paying to advertise.

So they tightened the rope and squeezed out the life of Facebook, making it almost impossible for brands to be seen unless they paid. That forced smaller businesses to advertise, and Facebook’s advertising revenue increased to 2.91 Billion for the financial quarter ending June 2014.

Being honest, I don’t blame them. They created a really successful platform and that took a lot of skill and hard work. Hey, I’ll even go as far as to say I’d have made some of the same decisions. (Apart from not buying Snapchat… I’d have bought that, or at least hired the guy who built it!)

So what?! Facebook are making money from businesses?!

Well, they have kinda upset the whole apple cart in my mind and regular users are annoyed with auto-play videos (you can turn them off if you hate them) and Newsfeed updates. Facebook – stop messing about with it! Every time it’s updated, my timeline is in uproar (even though we don’t pay to use Facebook).


During a recent workshop on Twitter and Facebook, a very important point came up…

When one of the attendees logged in at night they saw posts from the company’s Page at the top of the timeline even though the post was from the morning. They had time-relevant content like ‘Good morning’ or ‘enter by 10am’ on the posts, meaning they looked outdated.

Facebook had decided these were top stories and of course the person’s Facebook was showing those by default. How do we get around this one? We can’t make everyone on Facebook set their timeline to Most Recent instead of Top Stories – most don’t even realise they can!

What we know is that users will have their timeline set to Top Stories so our posts need to be less focused on time and be more focused on longevity. We also decided that actually when you post at night about events happening tomorrow you get the best of both worlds. You get the late night Facebookers (between 8pm-10pm is best) and then in the morning that post can become a top story and hits the early morning crew too!


Have Facebook messed with your Facebook marketing?

The simple answer is yes. They’ve made it impossible to get any decent reach without advertising, and we’re having to pay to play on what is still the largest and most engaged network. But how can you beat it? How can you truly get around the Facebook algorithm, and how can you get back to the hay days of actual interaction with people on Facebook?


Here are some of my hot Facebook tips to take away

  • Facebook is still very image driven so don’t post without an image, but please make it relevant and don’t use the same as everyone else – you gotta stand out!
  • As mentioned above, Facebook’s newsfeed is automatically set to ‘Top Stories’ for everyone. When you go to Facebook (do it now or after reading this) you’ll notice that the updates are not in chronological order. This means that you don’t see what someone has just posted; you see what Facebook decides is popular from earlier! Choose ‘Most Recent’ to view your newsfeed instead.
  • Facebook users are more active in the evening, so posting in the morning is potentially a waste of time. Again, test your audience.
  • Your timeline is full of adverts even from the Pages that you’ve already liked. The ads are directed at you based on your interests, age, gender and almost every conceivable part of your account.
  • Video is now a big (auto)player in the timeline. People ‘like’ videos even though the whole auto-play option annoys them.


A little Facebook marketing homework for you

Facebook recommends boosting (a form of advertising) popular posts. Although I don’t believe Facebook that often, I believe this tactic could work well.

You could try this Facebook formula and see how you get on:

  • #1. Post later: Update your status at around 9pm when there are more people there.
  • #2. Add a strong image: Images are still king on Facebook – but make sure it’s relevant or unusual.
  • #3. Don’t be time specific: This post may well appear in timelines the next day.
  • #4. Make your post engaging: Facebook’s algorithm won’t show your post to many people unless it sees interaction. Ask questions, provoke a response and get people commenting and liking. Often a great image will get likes and the questioning text will get comments!
  • #5. Then wait and boost: I’m not a massive fan of boosting posts as the other advertising options are more focused and more powerful… but, you may get better results with popular posts, posts that already have social proof of comments, likes and shares. People are more likely to comment if others have, and if you’re boosting you’re showing that post to people who already like your page.
  • #6. Interact and plump your post: Don’t stop engaging on the post and remember to ‘reply’ to comments, otherwise your fans won’t know you have responded. Under each comment you can hit reply and this will respond to the actual comment – but more importantly the person who commented. They will get a notification and it will draw them back to the post. If you just comment in the thread of a post there’s a chance they won’t see it. Facebook won’t always notify people about activity on a Page post that they’re commented on – this is not like a post on a Friends post – this is Pages and this is more of a game!

Give that a try and let me know how you get on?

Check your Page Insights and find out exactly when your audience are online and keep and eye on the page reach. Although these stats are provided by Facebook and should be taken with a truck of salt they do show better posts over less popular ones.


Is Facebook marketing really for you?

It’s fair to say that the good old days of Facebook for marketing are over. Advertising aside, you’ll never reach everyone again and as a brand you could find yourself trying everything and everything to do it. You’re in danger of spending way too much time on Facebook instead of actually running your business.

Don’t forget why you’re marketing on Facebook and please don’t forget that it’s social media that you’re marketing on. After all this, people are on Facebook to keep up-to-date with friends and family so make sure that your posts aren’t too salesy or too in-your-Facebook!


Go steady and entertain your audience. We actually just make people laugh with our Facebook and our reach is good because of it. It’s nothing to write home about because we don’t focus on it, but when we get some good interaction on a post we notice a better reach and more interaction on the next few posts as a result.


“Post. Engage. Review. Repeat. It’s just like any other marketing. Test and try again to get the right formula!”


Facebook is still the largest and most engaged network with 50% of users logging in daily. You can’t ignore that and you shouldn’t give up just yet. It has the potential with the advertising and the network to still be great for your brand… it’s just grown into a different beast!


Good luck and keep us posted on your Facebook homework – happy posting!


Now it’s your turn. We gave you loads of tips there. Help us and the readers of this blog out a little. Add your own tips in the comments below.

Tags associated with this article

Facebook Facebook Pages Marketing

3 comments on this article

  • Geraldine at 8:21am on August 8th 2014

    Great article Todd with lots of ‘meat’ – thanks! Couple of observations from my own page that I thought I’d share:

    1) Even though updates with images are more visible in the news feed and tend to get more engagement, I still think it’s worth throwing the occasional text only update into the mix. From my experience (and I’ve heard the same from others) these generally get higher reach, but less likes. If they’re interesting enough – and ask the right sort of questions – they should still get comments.

    2) My fans are spread all around the world, so in theory there is always someone online. My insights show that the best time to post is 2-7pm, so I generally do a lunchtime post and another one late afternoon/early eve. Used to post at breakfast time, but that cut off a load of overseas people who were fast in the land of nod – or busy at work.

    3) I couldn’t agree more with your tip re. replying to comments. I make it a point of principle to always ‘like’ comments on my page or to reply to them (if appropriate) as I think it’s just a matter of common courtesy. If I take the time and trouble to leave a comment on other people’s pages, which I often do, I get rather annoyed if they don’t at least ‘like’ it as I then don’t know if they’ve even read it! Plus, as you say, it helps to ‘plump’ the post, which in turn makes it appear more popular…

    1. Graham Todd at 8:31am on August 8th 2014

      Thanks Geraldine, great comments.

      The overseas point is a very valid one. We have a mainly UK audience and the post was written (as ever) from my perspective and findings. If you do have overseas fans then yes, post at times to suit them too, and yes, insights should tell you this (if you trust Facebook that is!)

      I’m interested in the text only updates. We find that doesn’t work for us and when we’ve tried it in the past they’ve received less engagement (which is our main aim). I guess it’s dependent on the audience and what your fans expect but again this is my findings and it’s great to hear about yours.

      Do you find that your longer text updates with tangible content and questions get more reach? Or can they be varied?

      1. Geraldine at 12:21pm on August 8th 2014

        It’s more a case of trying to vary it I guess, plus sometimes it’s quicker to just bang out a text only update rather than hunt about for a suitable image (blogs are different as they have longevity, although I see quite a few blog posts that are text only… but I digress!).

        Overall I find (both on my own page and a couple I co-admin) that text only updates – long or short – invariably get a higher reach but often less engagement than those with images. This would imply that FB chooses to show them to more people, even if those people either don’t ‘see’ them as they get lost amongst all the pics etc (which by virtue take up more space in the news feed) or just skim read and move on. Saying that, off the top of my head, I can think of a proofreader who only posts text updates (mostly about typos etc she’s come across in her work) yet each update gets a decent amount of engagement – admittedly from the same small core of fans.

        Horses for courses, like most things in life…

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