Facebook Changes Hard on Small Business
By Shawn McGowan
By now, I'm sure you've heard the news about Facebook's 100 billion dollar IPO. Now more aggressively than ever, Facebook continues to take a more corporate-focused shape toward increasing profit via advertising and marketing, using its vast social graph.
Unfortunately, the recent trend also leans toward more paid services, a greater need for ads and an increased cost of time spent managing one's account on the site. Here are three challenges small business Facebook marketers now face:
EdgeRank Update and Reach Generator
Late last year, many marketers wondered why their fan engagement stats were so low. AllFacebook.com teamed up with EdgeRank Checker and analyzed 4,000 fan pages' recent performance (Q4 2011) to find that only 17 percent of fans were seeing Fan Page posts. It turns out that there were some changes in how EdgeRank (the algorithm used by Facebook to govern what is displayed and how highly it ranks on the News Feed) operates.
These changes have everything to do with a new type of advertising Facebook offers to promote content to existing fans called Promoted Posts, which magically boosts that engagement percentage from 17 percent up to 75 percent or more (money = magic). That's correct, Facebook basically admitted by shipping this product, the EdgeRank change was to cap Fan Page exposure in fans' newsfeeds in order to charge businesses for reach rather than allowing them to organically cultivate it. This�signals the shift of brand Fan Pages from owned to paid media.
Changes to Facebook in every facet are par for the course. In three years, as a community manager for a small business, I've tracked countless updates; Timeline being the biggest change yet. What has Timeline done?
It has made the Landing Tab we developed to maximize our Facebook advertisements obsolete. The tab is still available, but ads can no longer be directed to it and must be redesigned to fit the new size constraints.
We had to design a new cover image under Facebook guidelines, which now don't allow for "calls to action" or specific information that is necessary for effective small business branding.
On a positive note, I'm personally excited to see the addition of Direct Messages, so fans can speak with me privately with questions and concerns. But the reality is that most small businesses don't have a devoted marketing employee, and this is being viewed as yet another task to stay on top of.
Third Party Tools
A recent study by Hubspot revealed what was suspected but largely unmeasured: that content published to Facebook via third-party tools suffers 67 percent fewer likes and 60�percent fewer clicks.
When using social media to market your business, a significant time investment comes with the territory. Scheduling important updates ahead of time is a huge boon, hence the rise of Hootsuite and Cotweet. But punishing users of third-party software forces companies to create real-time, manual updates - something they just don't have time to do consistently.
Facebook also allows Fan Page administrators to schedule posts in advance. This is a great help however, having to switch websites to make updates across social media platforms is still much less convenient than managing with a third party application.