Facebook promoted posts: hot topic or massive flop?

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Everyone is talking about the new Facebook promoted posts feature as if it is a brand new thing. A hot topic, yes, but it is something that has been noticed by social media enthusiasts and others who use the platform for marketing and social purposes for a while now.

About a month ago Ryan Holiday wrote an insightful piece for the New York Observer, Broken on Purpose: Why Getting It Wrong Pays More Than Getting It Right, in which he discusses how more and more people who manage Facebook pages have noticed a decline in their reach:

It’s no conspiracy. Facebook acknowledged it as recently as last week: messages now reach, on average, just 15 percent of an account’s fans. In a wonderful coincidence, Facebook has rolled out a solution for this problem: Pay them for better access.

I myself manage a Facebook page for one of our company’s clients, but the page is only a few months old and the true impact of this new feature would probably only be measured in the long run. But for many the impact is quite clear, especially if your content gets lost, and only reaches a fraction of the fans it used to, unless you pay to promote.

This is fascinating because, if you think back a few years, the initial appeal of Facebook and the reason why so many jumped on the Facebook bandwagon is because it was free access to a massive audience.

One of my colleagues and her partner are upcycling enthusiasts who manage their own Facebook page and website Upcycle That. She shared some noteworthy insight into their experiences with promoted posts and from proof says it’s not such a bad thing, if you do it right.

She says that this is one of those things that is really frustrating for brands. You spend a fortune on building your Facebook page only to lose the full reach that you’ve worked so hard on building.

In August they promoted a Facebook post for Upcycle That. The post was called 5 creative pallet upcycles. To this day it is one of its most popular posts, with 3 457 views. This was due to the virality of the post as this is many more Facebook fans then it has.

For them the important thing to keep in mind of is the actual goal of Facebook for your brand. Upcycle That uses Facebook to drive traffic to the website. After organic search and direct traffic, Facebook is its third highest traffic source.

Compared to other popular posts (that weren’t promoted) this post drove four times as much traffic from Facebook. The site itself also got a significant boost in likes from this promoted post.

So for Upcycle That, promoted posts make sense as they fulfil its goal of driving traffic to the site. It works on getting people to its site (rather than keeping them on Facebook) as it understands that it cannot monetise traffic on its Facebook page and cannot control Facebook policy changes like this one.

But let’s do some math, which is probably the first thing all Facebook page managers are doing now. How much would it cost to get your content to all your fans? The bigger your audience, the more expensive? It would seem so. Let’s say you have a Facebook fan base of about 50 000. That means that in order to promote a post it would cost you US$200 per post.

If you post every day, every day of the week, over a year’s time, you would be paying hundreds of thousands to get your posts promoted. This has been illustrated by another very insightful article featured on the website Dangerous Minds.

It is however still early days, and promoting posts on Facebook still needs to be tried and tested before we can truly make a valued judgement. They say the best things in life are for free, and for a long time Facebook was. But it has to please its investors and, for now at least, its best hope of being better in that regard is being worse.

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