Is Facebook a Colossal Waste of Money? - Social Media Explorer
Is Facebook a Colossal Waste of Money?
Is Facebook a Colossal Waste of Money?

Is it blasphemy to call out the most powerful social media channel ever built as a colossal waste of money? Perhaps, but hear me out and see if you disagree with me. I’ve been running Facebook campaigns since 2008 and in that time Facebook has changed just about every rule and term of service that you could possibly imagine.

As a marketer, Facebook has pulled the rug out from everyone. Sure, they are raking in the profits and their stock price has never been more outstanding, but their gain is your loss. Let’s break this down and if you disagree with me, I welcome your comments and feedback. The industry could use a healthy debate about this topic.

Is Facebook a Colossal Waste of Money?

Cardinal Sin #1: Thou Shalt Pay To Build Thy Audience, And Then Pay Even More to Reach Them

Please forgive me if I sound like a crotchety old man complaining about this one, but after 22 years of pioneering in the digital marketing industry (I’m 43 and started my career in 1994), nothing frustrates me more than an algorithm change whose beneficiary is the owner of the platform. Facebook encouraged everyone to invest heavily in building their pages. If you’re old enough to remember “Like Gates”, we marketers invested heavily in getting our best customers and prospects to “Like” our page.

The first algorithm change forced us to go back and re-up our audience from “Like” to “Follower”. And just when you thought that was safe, Facebook changed their algorithm again to force you to pay dearly to reach anyone who liked or followed your page. God help you if you didn’t get some organic engagements before boosting your posts, as you were doomed to pay through the nose just to reach the very people who already gave you permission to market to them via Facebook.

Cardinal Sin #2: Thou Shalt Not Use Tried and True Promotional Tactics to Promote Thy Page

Outside the Facebook marketing universe, it’s perfectly acceptable to give your audience something of value in exchange for them taking an action you’d like them to take. Hell, Marketo and Hubspot each built their respective Billion and Multi-Billion dollar businesses doing just that. What this awesome eBook? It’s free, just fill out this form. Care for a sweepstakes entry? Give us your data. But God forbid you reward one of your ideal customer prospects with a sweepstakes entry just for liking, commenting, or sharing your content. You’re out of bounds and risk the Facebook police shutting you down. Why is that? Because you’re siphoning off Facebook’s revenue stream. Don’t give our audience anything of value until you pay our increasingly expensive toll first. Want more likes, comments, and shares? Facebook’s solution is to sock your money into boosting your posts, not rewarding consumers for their behavior.

“Facebook continues to raise the tolls to reach your audience and just when you think you’ve figured it out, the rules are summarily changed…”

Cardinal Sin #3: Instagram is Our Platform, Ergo Our APIs Won’t Work with Twitter

Before Facebook bought Instagram, you could take awesome photos and share them on BOTH Facebook and Twitter. Remember those days? Now, if you share your Instagram pictures on Twitter, you look like you’re a total newbie. That’s because Facebook intentionally removed the APIs that allows your pictures to display properly and instead only shares a link that forces you back onto the Instagram platform. The message clearly being that Twitter is not part of the Facebook family and so if you want to see Instagram pictures you must be on Instagram or Facebook.

Are Three Reasons Enough or Shall I Continue?

Other possible gripes would include:

(4) Access to opt-in customer data
(5) Facebook Apps Restrictions
(6) Exorbitant Cost of Video Ads

and a host of other changes that make marketing to your customers outside of Facebook’s ad network increasingly prohibitive. The bottom line here is that Facebook continues to raise the tolls to reach your audience and just when you think you’ve figured it out, the rules are summarily changed with little to no warning.

So, What’s the Alternative?

I know what you’re thinking: “So what are you going to do? Facebook is the 800 lb gorilla and has a monopoly on social media reach, don’t they?” Yes .. and no. You see, the tighter Facebook pulls in the reigns, the more enticing the alternatives look. Ultimately, your best bet is driving customers back to your website where you control your engagements with them. In the meantime, Twitter keeps missing its growth projections and is hungry as anything to get your marketing dollars. Snapchat has grown up from the sophomoric drunk idiot at the party taking dick pics to a respectable platform that has captured the hearts and minds of Millennials and growing into many other generations at a rapid clip.

The point is that you are not beholden to Facebook marketing despite how massive its numbers are. Even if you run several Facebook campaigns, you’d be wise to find ways to drive the audience back to your site where you can entice your audience to exchange their information for items of real value. The more you blindly invest in Facebook, the riskier your long-term propositions are for cost effectively reaching your audience. So before you throw your hard earned cash into the Facebook marketing black hole, take a minute to consider your options. When you do, you’ll find that there are at least 3 exponentially better alternatives to banner advertising.

About the Author

Bill Carmody
Bill Carmody is the CEO of Trepoint, a digital marketing agency dedicated to delivering breakthrough marketing and innovation that is as powerful as the clients we serve. He is an international public speaker and contributing writer to Inc and Entrepreneur magazines. Tony Robbins follows him on Twitter.
  • Michael Schriner

    Agree nothing converts regardless of offer or product. Absolute zero return on investment!!!!!

  • Louise Bradley

    Bill, great article. I get that FB has to ‘make a profit’ but I am sick to death of jumping around trying to please the piper all the time. I’m suggesting to clients currently that they gather leads via ‘live’ broadcasting and send those to their own sites to ‘have and to hold’….There is great info on FB to drill down into, but it is all driven by them, and can be given and taken as they like. Yes, compared to traditional media, it is good value and has its place, but not a great idea, to be ‘blindly investing’ and a spread across other alternatives as well, makes very good sense.

  • Tim Nicholas

    It’s probably all due to one thing – being a publicly listed company means they gotta make money. Or else suffer one or more of negative press/Mark looking like a loser CEO/Wall St turns on them.
    Also note the typo in #2 – “What this awesome eBook?” should be “Want this awesome eBook?”

  • Robin S

    Yes. End of story.

  • Drew Neisser

    So Bill, is it time for brands to consider building their own communities like we were doing in the ’90’s? That is an expensive proposition as well as it costs money to get people into the community and it costs money to keep them engaged. Of course, once you do that (a la SAP), you own it and you make the rules!

    • As Robin says above, “Yes. End of story.” My feeling on this is that the pendulum is swinging the other way (back towards the 90’s era) where we need to have more direct connection with our customers and stop paying tolls to platforms that disaggregate them from us. Facebook was an incredible platform to build and engage in community efforts, but as they continue to raise their tolls to talk to your own customers, it’s become far less economical to do so. That’s why engaging directly is so much more appealing. Better yet, leverage your raving fan customers to engage other prospects on your behalf (assuming you’ve done your job to create raving fan customers in the first place).

  • I know this is a rant but there are a lot of inaccuracies in it. You can run a competition on Facebook that asks for a like or comment, you just can’t ask people to spam their friends by sharing or tagging. I’m not sure you can equate a sweepstakes with a freebie anyway.

    You couldn’t share Instagram photos to Twitter properly before Facebook bought Instagram. As far as I remember this was down to Twitter not Instagram.

    • Hey Amanda, thanks for this feedback. I’m not one to usually rant, so I appreciate your calling me to task to ensure that the right information is being discussed. The Facebook terms of service (see spell out that you can’t ask your followers to share the promotion to get more entries .The point you’re making is that you can still ask them to like or comment, which is true, but that neither helps you grow your page nor advance your communication outside your existing followers. The main point I was making is that Facebook keeps increasing the toll for you to even reach your own audience let alone expand it within Facebook.

      There was a point when you could easily share your photos from Instagram on Twitter without the link popping up. I can assure you that Twitter didn’t change their API to be less friendly. I will have to dig in to see if I can find the timeline of when that change occurred. My recollection was that it happened when Instagram was bought by Facebook, but you could be right that Instagram made the change before being bought. Either way, you’re discouraged to share outside of the Facebook platform for clear cut financial reasons, not for a better user experience.

      • You may be right about the integration between Instagram and Twitter. I do think the competition point is misleading though. They have actually relaxed the regulations regarding competitions in the last few years. Facebook makes money by keeping it’s users happy. Small businesses make money by keeping their customers happy. I’m sure even in the bad old days this was the case. Therefore I’m not sure I agree with your point but I did enjoy reading it.

        • Thank you, Amanda. I really appreicate your feedback and alternative perspective. I noted the risk of blasphemy at the start of the article. I know my views are not the standard fare, which is why I was compelled to write this article. Have a wonderful day!

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