Will the decline in Facebook usage combined with the decline in organic reach affect your online business?
Let me start by saying, social media (Facebook in particular) transformed the way most of us interact and do business. Facebook reconnected me to old friends and family, boosted my business, and connected me to people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise met.
It did all that and more… for free.
For me, it all started back in 2009. It doesn’t really feel like it, but that was a long time ago. That was then, this is now.
Facebook as a platform has been through a lot over the years. Some argue that it brings out the worst in people. Others cite studies that show social media leading to increased stress, depression, and other psychological issues over time.
All I can say from my personal experience is, “It doesn’t feel as good as it used to.”
I realize that’s a broad, sweeping statement. But, I want to specifically look at the platform in terms of business use.
Social Media Then, Social Media Now
It would be impossible for me, all things being equal, to accomplish today what I did back in 2009 without spending a LOT OF MONEY on ads.
If you were around back in 2009/2010, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Being “social” was literally all it took to leverage the power that Facebook brought to the table.
My girlfriend and I filled up her art gallery with local artists and art enthusiasts alike, just by talking about it on her personal profile (wall).
Today, we’re locked into what amounts to a pay-to-play system.
Social Media, in general, has involved into a pay to play marketplace.
Most people find they can’t reach a significant number of people without investing in advertising. On top of that, the cost of advertising continues to increase.
From a business standpoint, I understand all of this. Facebook giveth and Facebook taketh away.
The Question is, has this affected your online business?
If I’m honest about it and take a closer look, absolutely. At the very least, fewer people see anything I post (links, articles, photos, etc.). If I were to chart it out on a graph, I think it would resemble steps leading downward.
First, you have a drop. Then, there’s a leveling off. Then, another drop.
When you think about the time invested in creating the content you’re sharing on Facebook, you have to ask yourself if the platform itself is worth your continued, sustained effort?
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about personal communications.
I’m talking about the building of your business brand. Sure, your personal brand and business brand may intersect (or even be one and the same), but at this point, what kind of return are you getting?
If you were working for someone else, would they think the return you’re getting on Facebook is worth the investment you’re making? Again, we’re only talking about business and the effectiveness of the platform without investing in paid advertisements.
Other Reasons for the Decline
Time, attention and focus. All three are in decline. Here are a few other reasons you hear being discussed (in no particular order).
- Being social is no longer fun for many people
- Getting traction organically takes a long time
- People no longer trust what big companies are doing with their data & personal information.
- You don’t own the platform. You can be penalized, turned off, kicked out, etc., with little to no recourse.
Think about your own family and friends who’ve basically stopped using social media and why. Are those reasons affecting the people in your market, too?
Facebook has put a leash on Organic Reach
From personal profiles to business pages (and soon – groups), Facebook is locking down the organic reach. If you want to reach a significant number of people with your products and services, realize that teams of people are working on the platform to ensure you’ll have to pay to do it.
You can still network with other people in your niche. Just remember, they’re facing the same restrictions you are. Unless you can redirect people to the web properties and assets you own and control, you’re being boxed in by a system designed to be sustained by advertising revenue.
Originally, we built on a system that freely exposed and circulated our messages to the masses. That was the Facebook of old.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying that advertising in general or advertising on Facebook (in specific) doesn’t work. What I’m saying is, it’s not cheap. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be flat-out expensive. That’s the whole appeal of “organic reach” on any platform.
Do you see why it no longer makes any sense to build someone else’s platform at the expense of your own?
In the beginning, the traffic was free. Today it isn’t.
Back to Your Own Domain
Since 2008, I’ve built all my business sites and client sites on WordPress. WordPress is as close to a dream come true for an SEO person, blogger, writer, etc. as it gets.
Still, once the traffic moved to Facebook and other social platforms, how many of us (plugin and software updates aside) basically put these sites to the side and redirected our focus?
Think about your home for a minute. Sooner or later, everything has to either be repair and/or replaced. Time does that to everything including your business site.
Prior to the advent of social media, marketing basically centered around building your site’s authority, reputation, and search engine ranking. Your website was the online representation of your business – or it was your business.
Facebook, in its original form, did such a good job in getting our message out there, SEO became an afterthought for some.
Can you see now that the pendulum’s swinging back the other way?
Changes We’re Seeing in the Last Half of 2018
Two reports were release – one in April and another in August. Both show people are spending more time on Google now than on Facebook.
There’s a marked decline in social participation.
Is this good news or bad news? I guess it depends on what you do about it. We haven’t hit a tipping point yet where it becomes obvious to everyone.
The point is, now is the time to get out in front of the curve and make the change.
With Time, Everything Levels Off
First came radio. Then TV. Imagine being among the first to use either of those mediums for advertising a business?
Today, we might call them early adopters.
I really don’t see social media as being much different? When something catches on, you see the spike in activity. Then, eventually, things level off. The newness fades.
I wasn’t alive at the advent of radio or TV.
I was here for the Internet and social media, though. Remember the Dotcom boom? After that came the leveling off. Business didn’t end with the boom. It actually stabilized after it.
Listen to What the Decisions Makers are Saying
If you talk to the decision makers in your local area, I think you’ll find some of the common threads of unhappiness connecting all the pieces I’ve written about up to this point.
They’ve had years of high-ticket, barely move the needle offers filling their inboxes, just like you have.
They’ve been targeted by services such as Yelp and other advertising platforms that took their money in return for very little in the end. Too many of them, the online world is starting to resemble one, big, used car lot.
If that’s who you’re trying to sell your services to, in the light of everything else, this would be a great time to adjust your approach.
- Be more personal. Know who you’re talking to.
- Understand their frustrations. Make them understand that you understand.
- Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
- Be willing to give before you receive. Prove your worth on the frontend.
Recognize that mental “fatigue” is an undercurrent that currently affects most marketplaces. This alone is a good enough reason to adjust your approach.
Redirect Traffic to Your Own Domain
Let’s talk about getting people to visit your site to find out more about you. Some people post the same information on each social platform they use. Then, they email the identical information to their list.
People are creatures of habit. Some have a Facebook habit. That means, if they get your business updates on Facebook, there’s no reason to open your emails or visit your website. They already know it’s the same information.
If you post a partial piece of information on Facebook and provide a link to your site to fill in the blanks, you give them a reason to click on the link.
The original idea of having a presence on all the different social platforms was to “be seen everywhere.” Over time, however, many people grew their social presence at the expense of the web properties they owned and managed.
The content on their own domains withered and died as their primary focus was elsewhere.
The lesson here is simple. Don’t neglect your website. Keep track of who’s visiting, what they’re reading, and how long they’re staying. I use a combination of Google Analytics and AWStats on most of my sites.
Think of your website as something that gives your business the “home field advantage.”
You have the ability to present your offers, information, and anything else without restrictions or hurdles to deal with.
Who Are You Really Competing Against?
In the early days of my business, I toyed with the idea of building something huge. Something with multiple departments. Maybe with 50+ employees?
Big companies compete against big companies. I didn’t have a big company!
Honestly, I didn’t give it too much thought. I just jumped into the business world and started selling the best way I knew how. In the beginning, everyone was my competition. That’s how I saw it.
Certain jobs, however, were beyond the scope of what I was able to handle. That I quickly realized.
Think about sports and sports leagues for a minute. High school teams don’t compete against college teams. Not successfully. College teams don’t beat pro teams and so on.
Physically, a tennis player who is 50+ can’t compete successfully in a league filled with young players. You get the idea. Size, weight, age, these are just a few things taken into account when a competition or league of any kind is structured.
Boxing gives us some really good examples, too. There are weight classes from Heavyweight all the way down to Strawweight (yes, that’s what it’s called). The weight limit for Strawweights is 105lbs. There are 17-different weight classes with contenders, world-class fighters, and champions in each division.
There was once a Bantamweight Champion named Panama Al Brown. He stood 5’ 11” tall in a weight class that had a limit of 118lbs! His height and reach advantages made him really tough to beat in that division when he was in the prime of his career.
Now, take this mindset and apply it to your business.
Focus on Your Natural Advantages
I’ve used these different illustrations to make the point that we all have natural advantages or disadvantages depending on where we decide to compete. The structure of our businesses do the same. They present advantages and disadvantages based upon where we decide to compete.
Starting with the foundation, the main advantage you don’t want to neglect is the building up and the establishing of the online properties you own, manage, and control.
It starts with your website.
If one Facebook change can wipe a critical part of your business out, you need to rethink your strategy.
Have a Backup Plan in Place
If you have a business page or run a group on Facebook, have a backup plan in place.
Get the members to join a list or register on your site in the event of a sudden change.
I’ve seen groups, pages, video channels, you name it – all shut down under questionable circumstances.
One person lost their page because someone claimed they were using content that was copyrighted by a third party.
Crazy things happen online, I’ll just leave it at that.
What’s Your Plan?
So, what’s your plan? Have you noticed less people participating in your Facebook groups and pages over the last six months? Do you think the trend will continue or do you think it will level off?
Personally, I’ll continue to use Facebook to connect with individuals I wouldn’t have otherwise probably connected with. I enjoy meeting new people, hearing their stories and seeing what they have going on.
As for investing serious time on the platform, I’d say that’s something I won’t be focusing on. Sure, I’ll still pop in and out of groups and see who’s doing what. I enjoy catching up with people. For business purposes, however, my focus will be centered on podcasting and blogging for the next 12-18 months.
Feel free to share your own thoughts, plans, and comments below!