Facebook: Balancing paid and unpaid posts for optimum exposure

Social Media

Unless you’re a social media buff who is on Facebook all the time, the networking site can be a little intimidating. That’s especially true for small-to-medium size businesses that may not have the budget to hire someone to look after their page full time.

Over the past few months I’ve noticed that while a lot of Scribe’s clients understand what Facebook is and know the potential it offers their businesses in terms of it being a great marketing tool (if used correctly), the constant changes that the platform makes when it comes to how businesses can use the posts on their pages have them feeling confused.

Here’s a totally random example. If you’ve set up a Facebook page for your coffee shop and you post about the kittens that were born outside last night (‘Omw! Five gorgeous kittens born at the front door of the coffee shop in the middle of the night! [Insert adorable picture of cats here]), you might discover that particular post gets more views than if you publish a promotional post that focuses on something your business actually sells (‘Have we told you about our summer promotion? If you order a pizza on Tuesdays, you’ll get another one for free!  See you on Tuesday!’). It’s not just because kittens are gorgeous (and the most viewed thing on the internet as a matter of fact), it’s also because, a) Facebook holds back unpaid promotional posts, and b) people want to engage on a more personal level.

Let’s start with point a. As of January this year, Facebook upped the ante when it comes to filtering out unpaid promotional material that businesses post as status updates. That means that if your company has used its Facebook page to market posts that aren’t paid – either via free posts or reusing content from existing ads – you’ve experienced “a significant decrease in distribution”, according to Facebook. That also means less people are seeing your page, which equals less likes and less potential reach.

To select which stories to display, the networking system ranks each one by looking at thousands of factors that are relative to every individual on the site. With the new changes I just mentioned in place, out of every 1,500 unpaid posts that a user could potentially see, only 300 or so will be displayed on the news feed. That means that as more and more businesses and users post and share articles, videos and pictures as free posts, the chance of an unpaid key promotion not getting to your desired marketincreases.

That’s not necessarily bad news if you consider that new research shows that users are actually tired of seeing promotional posts. Which is where point b comes in. According to a recent survey by Facebook, audiences want to see less promotional content and want to interact and engage with brands on a more personal level instead.

I know what you’re thinking: the above sounds a bit contradictory. If you pay for your posts so that they actually get seen, won’t you be hurting your business by irritating loyal fans and followers with promotional content they don’t actually want to see? As with most things in life, moderation is key. You need to strike a balance between good, paid promotional content that will drive new potential customers to your page and therefore your business, but you also need to engage on a personal, social level to keep the customers, fans and followers that you’ve already won by your side.

Can’t be bothered with any of it? Before you deactivate your Facebookpage, consider that a recent ComScore study saysthat Facebook fans still have cumulative value. The study found that one retailer’s Facebook fans were 27 per cent more likely than a control group to make a purchase in the four weeks following a paid campaign. That’s a significant amount.

With this in mind, it’s probably not the tool (Facebook) that’s a problem; it’s how we use it. Consumers want a relationship with their favourite brands. They want to be valued and understood, and to be spoken to rather than spoken at. They want to be treated as individuals, in short.We need to stop using Facebook as a mass marketing tool, and meet our customers one on one, instead.

So, how do you do this?Use Facebook to talk to yourcustomers directly. If you’ve got access to reliable data, target people with messages that are highly personal and relevant to them. Over time, this will help you to establish the behavioural and buying patterns of each person and, armed with this knowledge, you’ll know exactly what type of campaigns you need to use to transform one-off customers into loyal customers, which at the end of the day is exactly the type that every brand wants.