Should You Pay to Play? Evaluating Facebook’s Latest Changes

Should you pay for promoted updates on Facebook?

When Facebook first came onto the scene, it felt like a Wild West for companies looking to market themselves to a wide audience. Instead of the old method of creating a print, radio, or television ad, you could simply post your latest information to your site, where followers would discover it and proliferate its impact by sharing with their own network of friends.

Unfortunately, everyone caught on pretty quickly, and that Wild West was tamed, developed, and suburbanized. These days, having 5,000 followers may be great, but that doesn’t mean that they will all see and respond to every post you add to your page. In fact, estimates show that only between 12 and 16 percent of a page’s followers will see any given update.

That’s a problem, and it’s one that Facebook aims to alleviate — for a price. Thanks to both the vast popularity of the service (and the decreased impact, percentage wise, of an individual post) and the necessity to monetize the mobile Facebook experience, where screen space is limited and sidebar ads just aren’t possible, the social media giant now offers an array of paid options to ensure that posts reach the maximum number of viewers.

No Money Down?

Beginning last spring, Facebook launched Promoted Posts for business pages, allowing companies a tiered pay-to-play option that gave posts the chance to be viewed by a larger array of followers. For example, a page with 3,000 followers might pay $5 to ensure that a post reaches 1,000 of them.

That seemed harmless enough, and the impacts on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm don’t seem to have scared away the average user. An occasional sponsored post within the previously (mostly) ad-free news feed wasn’t enough to cause a stir.

Here’s the problem — Sponsored Posts only reached people that have already liked a page. And just because you haven’t liked Nike, Pepsi, or McDonald’s, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want you to know about their new products and buy their stuff. Hence, the debut of Suggested Posts this October. Now, a company can pay to reach news feeds of users that may have no connection to them whatsoever. Within the post, there’s an option to like the page behind the post.

Exacerbating all of these new marketing angles is the simultaneous October debut of promoted posts for regular users. Released only amongst a focal group in the U.S. thus far, early users are reporting being given a ‘Promote’ button next to the ones for ‘Share’ and ‘Like,’ where they’re given the option to pay $7 to make sure that a post reaches a higher percentage of their friends by bumping it up in news feeds and making it stick around longer.

If you’re an online marketer, does this mean you should start allocating part of your budget for promoting your posts on Facebook? Not necessarily. Fortunately, the old rules still apply, and a post that has value will still be carried on its own merit to the viewers it needs to reach. Of course, a little extra nudge doesn’t hurt.

Whether you opt to pay or not to pay, remember these key facets to get the most punch and longevity out of each of your posts:

  • Start a Conversation

Just because you’re paying to post something doesn’t mean you can fall back on one-sided marketing strategies. A promoted post is like adding some turbo fuel to your tank — you still need regular old gasoline to get you down the road. A good post should ask questions, and you should be ready to respond in the comments.

  • Use Pictures

This time last year, Pinterest was just a baby taking its first steps. It grew into a social juggernaut on the strength of photo sharing (and not even photos taken by the users themselves!). Every post should have a strong, compelling image to attract people to it.

  • Create Incentives

If you pay for a post, you’ll (hopefully) draw people to your page that have never been there before. How do you keep them coming back? In addition to engaging content, loyalty programs and contests can inspire repeat visits. Services like Perkville and PunchTab integrate with Facebook to create rewards programs that inspire people to spread the word about your business.

  • Keep Track

Facebook backs up their paid post programs with analytical evidence. It may be worth paying for a couple of posts just to see the effect that it has on reaching your target audience. Keep track of which posts are most successful and try to duplicate that approach. Was it a picture, or a question you asked, or simply exciting news that you shared?

Do you plan to pay for Promoted or Suggested Posts on Facebook? Are you concerned that the increased monetization of news feeds could affect your business, or do you think it’s an exciting development?

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