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.
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.