To Facebook, or not to Facebook? That’s a question many small business owners may be asking these days.
The social media giant has rolled out policies over the past couple years that have made Facebook seemingly less beneficial to small businesses using it for customer engagement and marketing. For starters, Facebook has cut down the organic reach of businesses’ posts to less than 2%, in order to encourage businesses to fork over money to promote their posts.
There’s also been growing questions over how valuable social media is to small businesses. A report by Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, suggests businesses are wasting their time by focusing too much of their marketing effort on Facebook and other social media, when they could be focusing on something far more profitable: email marketing.
“If you have to choose between adding a subscriber to your email list or gaining a new Facebook fan, go for email every time,” Elliott writes.
The Case Against Facebook for Small Businesses
Elliott certainly isn’t the first person to question the value of social media marketing. Several business owners have tried and given up on social media, finding it saps time without the payoff one would expect from other marketing channels.
A 2013 survey by Manta found that 61% of businesses found that they don’t see any return on investment from their social media activities despite devoting more time to it.
Terry Benton, owner of Terry’s Fabric Cottage, a Sulphur, Louisiana, quilting store, said she tried to build a presence on Facebook and other social networks a few years ago, but hardly anyone followed her pages. “I love reading things on the Internet, so I thought the social media stuff would be great for me, but it really has not turned out well at all,” Benton told USA Today.
The Case for Facebook for Small Businesses
Despite the detractors, some social media experts say business owners who think Facebook isn’t a valuable tool are probably using it incorrectly. Instead of expecting Facebook to produce a return on investment like, say, a pay-per-click ad would, Facebook is about engaging customers in conversations in a place where customers likely spend a big chunk of their time.
For one, some marketing experts say small businesses should view Facebook like other marketing tools — and be willing to pay for their exposure. The beauty of Facebook is that it has a massive reach, and a 2014 study found that the average American spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook. It provides its business users with helpful analytics, so they can see how many people view their posts and how many engage with them through the site.
Tablas Creek Vineyard, a Paso Robles, California, winery, chronicled how it’s seen its Facebook posts reach fewer and fewer people over the past few years as the organic reach of posts has been cut drastically.
The vineyard began paying to promote posts and found it was worth the money considering that the promoted posts reached so many of the company’s Facebook fans.
“We've paid to promote four posts so far this year, and have had these posts served something like 5000 extra times for each $20 we've spent,” Tablas Creek wrote recently. “Given that our average post is reaching something like 800 of our fans organically, if we were to choose to promote one post a week, at $20/post, we might be able to double the total number of views of our content at an annual cost of around $1000. That's hardly exorbitant.”
Whatever a business owner decides on Facebook, it’s important to make sure you’re targeting your online marketing efforts toward the places where your customers spend their time — whether that’s on email, Google or Twitter — and tracking the performance of each of those channels. You might realize that Facebook is more worth it than you thought.
About the Author
Kelly Spors is a freelance writer and editor based in Minneapolis. She previously worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, covering small business and entrepreneurship.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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