[Update: I made it almost a year with this little experiment. Of course, I’m back on Facebook. It was fun while it lasted, and I have a new strategy now to deal with my frustrations.]
Is having a Facebook fan page really worth it?
For about the past year I’ve been occasionally putting an idea on the table and then quickly laughing at it. Should I give up on my Facebook fan page?
No, that’s nonsense! Facebook is my largest driver of traffic from social media and I use my personal account as well. I have almost 3,000 followers, they like me!
Well, yes and no.
Facebook sends me the highest quantity of traffic but quality is questionable. And I don’t really use my personal account much anymore because it seems to just wreck my day (can you relate?).
Now that’s not to say I’m dropping Facebook altogether. I may stop in to my personal account a couple times a week but that’s it.
The case for dropping my Facebook fan page
Don’t even get me started on the personal reasons. You know how sometimes you just roll out of bed in a great mood, hop on the hostile environment that is Facebook, then you just hate life for the next few hours? Let’s just talk about the fan pages here.
Why have a Facebook fan page in the first place?
Facebook is by far the largest social media platform with approximately 1.7 billion users. For comparison there are close to 500 million on Instagram and Google Plus, 300 million on Twitter, and over 100 million on Pinterest (as of late 2016).
You’d be out of your mind to not have a Facebook community with that kind of potential reach. If you’re on Twitter too you have a pretty good idea of just how many 300 million is. Yeah, Facebook has almost six times that amount.
Like any other social network, Facebook Pages is a place to share stories & photos, engage with your audience, and advertise services that they might need. Participating with one another about certain topics is what it’s all about. They learn from you and you learn from them.
But let’s be honest, it’s about the bottom line too. Many people like myself make money off of sales and advertising, so of course I want to get people to my website. I won’t hide that. I am genuinely passionate about everything on my website and everything I share. I hope it comes across that way, and yes it also pays for my food. Shouldn’t you make money doing what you love?
Tracking social media analytics
I’ve been tracking my analytics from various social networks over the past two years. I was always most active on Facebook and only sporadically posting to Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram. Sometimes I’d forget about those other networks for weeks at a time and just focus on Facebook.
But the analytics show something surprising. The engagement statistics (time on site, pages per visit, bounce rate, etc) from Facebook were about on par with or worse than those other networks that I was neglecting.
Facebook also gave me the highest rate of new users. I do want new users, but I also want people to come back. Facebook referrals aren’t coming back for the most part. Hit-and-runs. Visitors from all other social networks have been much more loyal and coming back for more. That’s how you build community.
Pinterest has actually been skyrocketing past Facebook in the past few months as I’ve been putting more effort in to it. Just last month Pinterest sent four times more visitors to my site than Facebook, and that traffic was of a much higher quality as well.
Yes, Pinterest – the network that for years I thought was only for women planning their weddings and sharing recipes. Surprisingly, 77% of my Pinterest community is made up of men.
Why is this significant? That measly Facebook traffic that I mentioned earlier – I was paying for it. That brings me to my next point:
Facebook is not friendly to some small businesses and bloggers
I say “some” because Pages does work for some small entities. Maybe I’m just another disillusioned Facebooker joining the bandwagon. Copyblogger and author Dusten Carlson explain their reasons for quitting, and this article in Forbes tells the story of another small business.
Unless you already have great PR, a massive following, a massive budget, and/or a massive Facebook marketing team, it’s tough to stand out. I’m a nobody! Facebook is constantly changing their algorithms on deciding which posts they’ll display on someone’s feed.
The reasons? There’s simply too much content and Facebook only wants to show you the best. They only want to show you what you think would be relevant to you.
My question is, the simple act of “liking” a page means that I think it’s relevant to me, so who are you to say whether or not I’d want to see it? If I don’t want to see it I’ll unfollow it, right?
A study cited in this recent article from HubSpot shows that organic (unpaid) reach declined from 16% to 6.5% between 2012 and 2014. By March 2015 that number was down to 2.7%, and it’s even lower now.
I went back to some of my posts that didn’t perform – didn’t get any engagement – and those numbers are about right. Somewhere between 90 and 150 people saw those posts. If only one or two people interacted with it, those numbers may go up to around 200. It’d go higher the more people interacted with it.
So initially these posts show up to only about 3.5% of my “followers”, and if those followers are the types who only “window shop” and don’t interact, Facebook won’t show it to anyone else. The post is dead on arrival.
Now you see why it’s so important to post explosive, gripping content at precisely the right time during the day. That can be exhausting for a busy one-man show. Too much to keep track of!
I experimented with different things – links, photos, awesome posts from other people, memes, inspirational quotes, longer posts – nothing seemed to work.
If your post isn’t doing well you can boost it for $5 to reach an additional ~300 people (in my case) on top of the 100 who would already see it. Or $20 to show it to a few thousand (the number of people who like your page anyways).
Additionally, you grow your community on all other social networks by directly engaging with people. You can’t really do that on Facebook. When you’re as small as me you pay to get a community on Facebook. Pay to get followers who will only see things you pay to show them.
Maybe I just wasn’t finding the right audience. But I am on the other networks, so…?
It’s all about return on investment
Even when I was paying to show you my posts, much of the engagement wasn’t what I was looking for (except for a select few of you – thanks!). “Like” it as you scroll down the page and that’s it. Maybe some people would click through the link.
As I’ve said earlier, I’m looking for quality and not quantity. High numbers by themselves don’t do shit except stroke the ego. My ego is fine, thank you. I don’t need any kind of self-affirmation or friends.
When I would post the same content across all other networks, be it a link or a photo, people would actually engage with the content and with each other. So that kind of proved to me that it’s not necessarily my delivery, though my delivery still needs work. It’s Facebook.
For example, a while ago I posted the same picture to both Facebook and Instagram (which…sigh…is owned by Facebook now), and invited people into a caption contest. None of my 2,800 Facebook followers would touch the thing (probably because they never even saw it), but many of my 700 Instagram followers (about what I had at the time) had a blast with it and we all seemed to get a little closer.
And it’s not just about money, it’s about time too. Each social network that I manage takes precious time out of my day – time that I always tell myself needs to be spent doing something active instead of in front of a screen! And I even have some apps that will manage it for me!
That’s why we track these things, right? Put forth more effort in what’s giving us a return and dump what’s not giving us a return. Less is more.
It’s a business decision and I apologize to all of my Facebook fans.
Some of you consistently engaged with me in the world of Facebook, and I appreciate that. You know who you are! We had valuable conversations. But they were conversations that I mostly had to pay for, and frankly that’s bullshit.
I beg you to join me on the other social networks so that we can continue these conversations, for free, and with a larger number of interested people! That is, until, they suffer the same fate as Facebook.
To those of you who have figured out the magic formula of Facebook Fan Pages – kudos, best of luck.
Join me on these other social networks
I never thought that I’d have meaningful conversations with anyone on Twitter (hell, I never even thought I’d touch the thing!). But it’s happening! I’ve actually made some really strong connections on Twitter and with influential people, people who are helping me get out in front of others and join in bigger conversations about the topics I love.
GOOGLE+: John Peltier
I’m ramping things up on Google Plus and have enjoyed the experience so far. I’ve joined communities in sailing, hiking, backpacking, travel, and photography. I can visit them when I wish, post when I wish, and interact with an actual community. I’ve just started Collections, which are like little specialized rooms you can go into just to get your fix on sailing, hiking, cameras, or just to look at pictures.
I like the interface on Google Plus much more than Facebook. It just seems like a more “serene” environment.
Finding some interesting things for you from all over the web, and organizing them into boards that are much easier to peruse than Facebook. Sailing, hiking gear & tips, hiking trails all over the world, photography tips, healthy recipes, and inspirational quotes.
Shooting for at least one, if not two photos a day! Trying to come up with fun things like caption contests, guess the location, etc.
So that’s it…my Facebook widget in the sidebar has been replaced by Google Plus.