There was a time not too long ago when Facebook was a viable marketing tool for businesses who did not invest into Facebook ads. Over the last year, this has changed to the point that today, ads are a necessity for most businesses to be able to find success.
Some have been very vocal about their displeasure over this. Nearly a year ago, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban publicly advised Facebook on how to make things better. This came after he watched his reach numbers drop dramatically.
There’s really no need to be upset. It’s a part of the game. Facebook is a public company that has to make money. If they make it easy for businesses to find success on Facebook without spending money (or worse, giving that money to a social media agency) then they would be dong a disservice to their shareholders. Compared to other forms of online advertising, Facebook’s is more user-friendly. They can be inline or on a sidebar. They appear on mobile devices nicely and rarely distract from the social networking experience.
From a business perspective, Facebook marketing without advertising versus those with a properly managed advertising plan are often night and day. The ads can account for exponentially higher traffic than similar pages that don’t advertise without being overly expensive, at least for small businesses.
Larger companies see that the rates go up sharply. Advertising a single post on Facebook can cost the owner of a small page as little as $5 while still generating strong results. On larger pages, a few zeros need to be added before it is effective. For huge pages, the options to advertise start in the tens of thousands of dollars per week and go up sharply from there.
Facebook has always had a challenge with demonstrating the effectiveness of their ads, but in many ways it’s more akin to television advertising rather than other types of online advertising. The mentality is clear to see. With search marketing and other forms of advertising, the goal is normally to grab people’s attention when they’re already in the market. With Facebook and television, the goal is to catch them when they’re higher in the sales funnel, exposing product information while increasing branding.
Nobody goes to their spouse to say, “I think we should look for a vehicle. Let’s turn on the television and wait for a car commercial.”
Nobody goes to Facebook thinking, “Okay, time to scroll down on my news feed until I see a car special.”
It’s for this reason that higher funnel sales work so well. The only way for most to achieve this goal of awareness and education is through ads. There’s simply no way for small- to mid-sized businesses to keep their Facebook marketing completely free and organic just as there’s no way to advertise on television without spending a little money. Thankfully for advertisers, Facebook ads are much less expensive and can often deliver equal or better results. From a pure ROI perspective, a strong overall strategy can blow away any other form of high-in-the-funnel marketing.
The days of Facebook marketing for free are dead. Facebook has made sure that your exposure with a little bit of advertising money heading their way can actually move the needle. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Facebook marketing for free has no chance of working unless you have an extremely interesting niche and or if you’re running a strategy for a company the size of General Motors. Then again, they shut off their Facebook ads, then turned them back on a few months later when they saw the real benefits.