TL;DR 2012 was the year that Facebook did everything it possibly could do to drive away Fan Page and business owners. Edgerank, Promoted Posts and low-quality Facebook users are why Facebook has virtually zero value to me.
Over the last two years I, like many webmasters and online marketers have invested a significant amount of time, effort and money into Facebook, carefully growing Facebook followers. In that time I have amassed a following of over 15,000 fans for my two of my largest website Fan-Pages. Approximately 4,000 – 5,000 of those fans are organic, the balance are the result of many Facebook promotions, contests, advertising and promoted posts with a cost of many thousands of dollars. Probably more expensive per Facebook fan than a marketing or Facebook advertising expert would have paid, but, it is what it is and had Facebook not started doing everything they can to reduce their value to me, it would have been well worth it.
A fan-base of 15,000+ Facebook fans would seem to be a very powerful way to drive traffic, generate engagement, online ‘buzz’ and increase revenue for my websites – and a year or so ago this may have been the case, but in 2012 the Facebook landscape began to change, seemingly shifting potential revenue away from me, and straight to the Facebook investors. Toward the end of 2012 I started to seriously evaluate the value of not only my Facebook fans.
What Facebook has done wrong
First is the whole Edgerank debacle. Edgerank is great for Facebook but lousy for me and all of the other Fan Page owners trying to engage with their fans. In the old days when I shared something with my fans, they actually got to see what I shared assuming they were online within a reasonable amount of time from when I shared it. I never thought to keep track of the stats, but it is safe to say that a very large number of my fans saw what they subscribed to my page to see. With the advent of Facebook’s Edgerank, something that I share today from my page with 10,600 fans might be seen by only 100 or 200 people.
Second is Facebook’s Promoted Posts. Now with Edgerank in full swing, the only way I could share something with the people that actually signed up to see what I share was by buying a “Promoted Post”. One of my Pages was one of the very first Facebook pages to have Promoted Posts available back around mid-2012 and I started using it right away. Now with Promoted Posts, not only could I reach all of my fans (that I already paid for) for only about $5, but I could also reach a portion of their friends too! This allowed me to reach almost double my fan-base for only $10 or $15. Promoted Posts were a great deal! But that would not last. After only a few months Facebook jacked up the price of Promoted Posts significantly. Now in order to reach that same number of Facebook fans, I would have to pay between $100 and $300. Another great business decision by Facebook, seemingly designed to drive me away as quickly as humanly possible.
Facebook user quality
Third and last, is what I will generously refer to as the “quality” of the average Facebook user. About a year ago I began to look at the actual click through rate to my websites from items shared from my Fan pages. Initially, the rate was very low – less than 1%. Even the best “calls to action” or enticing ‘teases’ in the shares did not help to actually get people to my website. I was able to increase the click through and engagement by running contests with prizes like iPads, iPods and hundreds of dollars worth of gift-cards, but once the contest ended, it seemed that it was just too much effort for the vast majority of Facebook fans to actually leave Facebook and come to my website.
“Viral sharing” on Facebook is also less valuable to me than many “experts” tell me it should be. It is very difficult to get any viral-traction on anything that does not include a picture of a cat doing something cute, but it is still possible. On my Fan Page with just over 10,000 fans the base is very vocal and has a very high rate of re-sharing, but after still getting very little traffic to my website (remember, that is still the ultimate goal!) I started looking close at these Facebook users that were re-sharing items.
Over the course of two months I examined the Walls of over 200 Facebook Fans that had re-shared something from my page with the largest fan-base. What I discovered is that over 95% of people that shared something from my Fan Page had also shared more than 20 other items in the same hour that my item was shared. This means that 95% of these people were spewing 1 or 2 items per minute! To me, these “Facebook fountains” are completely useless. It seems highly unlikely to me that any of the friends of these people actually pay any attention to anything spewing from them and have probably suppressed them from their Streams long ago. To make matters worse, over 50% of these people had 100 or less Facebook Friends.
Where is the value in using Facebook in 2013?
These are the items I consider when thinking about what value Facebook has to me today:
- I now have to pay to engage with my fans that I have already paid for
- The cost to engage my fans (Promoted Posts) has, and will likely continue to increase
- Even achieving engagement still results in an extremely low (less than 1%) click through to my website
From this I can now only conclude one thing: Facebook now has zero value to me as a marketing tool.
I still use Facebook, but the amount of sharing from my Fan Pages is less than half of what I did two months ago. And my Facebook Advertising budget that at it’s peak in 2012 was in excess of $3k per month? As of December, $0.
I predict that as more and more marketers and webmasters come to realize these same things in 2013, a tidal shift away from Facebook will begin. Many will increase their Twitter presence and many will begin to include Google Plus into not only their marketing strategies but also their SEO strategy as they realize the value of Google Plus.
Does Facebook still hold any value to you? Do you think 2013 is the year that marks the decline of Facebook and the rise of Google Plus or some other Social Media outlet? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.