Dear Facebook, you want me to pay you HOW MUCH?

I am a Facebook user. I have: a personal page that I use for my close friends and family that I keep separate from my business stuff and colleagues, a business Fan Page for Cowbelly Pet Photography that I use to market and promote my photography to past and potential clients, and a fan page for photographers called Beautiful Beasties that I use to network with other pet photographer colleagues.

Around a year ago I started really realizing just how valuable the service was for my business professionally, and without knowing any of the details about how much Facebook makes in advertising revenue, just expected that at some point all Facebook users would be paying a monthly subscription fee. I figured it made the most sense- you use a great service every day for a month, every month for a year, for many years, you pay a price for it. Personal users would all be charged the same amount, and business user’s monthly subscription would depend on how many fans they had. Makes sense.

Well, this never happened, which made me a little nervous. “Facebook can’t be pouring all of this time, money and resources into this thing for no additional revenue from users” I thought. Well, they weren’t.

Sometime earlier this year, they quietly and discreetly rolled out something called ‘pay to promote’, wherein a business fan page owner has to pay to have their posts seen by their followers. And when I say pay- I mean pay for each post the fan page owner puts up on their wall.

Because this would only work if most of the fan page’s followers couldn’t already see the majority of the posts, Facebook intentionally limited the ‘post view’, where now, only around 15% of a fan page’s followers will see any given post, when before- 100% of them could. This means that you are now missing 85% of the posts put up by your favorite fan pages, including mine (more on how to remedy that in this post). Unfortunately it has gotten bad enough that I have fans who now NEVER see ANY of my posts, unless they actually visit my page, as evidenced in this screen grab.

In order for the post to be seen by more fans, the fan page owner is required to pay to promote each post.

For example, recently I shared a post by Best Friends Animal Society where I pointed out that the dog in the photo was a Fergie Doppelganger. Only 680 of my 4,670 fans saw that post.

That’s a normal number of fans seeing my posts since Facebook implemented this new advertising scheme. It’s paltry compared to how many actual follow my page. The highest number of fans who have seen any one post on my page has been around 1,200, and that’s a lot. It should be much higher than that, even if some of those visitors are only on the site once a day or less. It used to be a good 75% of my fans seeing my posts, so you can see how big of a difference that is. From 75% down to 10-15%.

BUT, since Facebook wants to help us ‘unthrottle’ the posts they are throttling traffic on, we have the option to pay them to do that. How nice!

For example, if I wanted to promote the post above sharing BFAS’ photo, I could pay Facebook $20 to potentially reach my whole fan base, as seen in the photo below. (Although, the Maximum Budget box they had generously pre-selected for me was for $30 for the post).

Hmmm, no thanks I think I’ll pass. Now if it was a post on a new product I was launching, a new service offering or other important announcement I might think about it, and I have paid to promote posts, like when I announced my book and when I needed feedback on my neck issue (random, I know). But a cute little post about a dog that looks like my dog? No thanks.

I post on Facebook an average of 3 times in a 24-hour time period, sometimes more often if I am scheduling posts. If I were to pay to promote posts I would be paying $60 per day, $420 per week, $1680 per month, or $20,160 per year.

Facebook is asking me to pay them $1680 per month to allow my fans to see my posts. That’s $20,160 per year. 

Never have I, nor would I, ever pay almost $1700 a month to advertise online. I am a one-person photography business, and some annual services I use that have a MUCH higher ROI don’t even cost me that much on an annual basis. Nowhere near that much. I have always believed in low-cost grassroots marketing efforts for photographers, and Facebook is clearly not one of those anymore.

If it were a monthly subscription I’d be fine with it. If they were more aggressive with their advertising requests of businesses I’d be fine with it. If I received an email from them every single day promoting ad options I’d be fine with it, I’d probably even advertise. But as such, none of those things happen. Just this covert little ‘Promote’ box down in the right-hand corner of each of my posts, asking me how much it’s worth to me for my fans to see it, and taunting me to click ‘promote post’. Facebook makes it so easy for me they even have my payment information on file, so all I need to do is click. One click, they have my money, and maybe some more people might see the post. To be fair, they only charge for how many additional people see the post, although I have no idea how that algorithm works. I have paid to promote posts, even ones put up during peak use hours, and have only maybe gotten in front of around 45% of my audience at best.

Because of the issue I take with their ‘promote posts’ advertising, and their whole lack of any customer service (ever tried to contact a human being at Facebook?), I am acutely aware that Facebook is not a viable long-term marketing solution for my business.

So what do I plan to do in the meantime?

This is a two-part temporary solution, until something better than Facebook comes along, which it will.  All it will take is one more creative, unique, super cool social networking site going viral, users will jump-ship én masse, and Facebook will be something we talk about in past-tense. “Remember Farmville?”, “remember tagging?” “remember friend requests?” “remember relationship statuses?”. Do Facebook users have brand loyalty? I think that went away years ago when all of the privacy issues started. It’s just a matter of time before we are all using something else.

Here are my (temporary) solutions to the Facebook issue:

1) I am going to be posting to this blog much more frequently. Whereas before I was posting maybe a handful of times per month, long posts every time, now I will be posting much more frequently, with shorter posts, some with frivolous content I wouldn’t normally share on a blog, some more in-depth, some with photos, some without. I CAN control my blog and what goes on it because it’s on a server I control, and happily for me, I don’t have to pay any more than I do to host the site.

I know people don’t really comment on blogs much more these days, but I know you guys are still out there. I will also soon be adding the ‘comment with Facebook’ functionality to my blog, which, of course, is ironic.

If you don’t want to miss any cute photos, in-depth articles, or random goodness from me, I ask you to please follow my blog. Subscribe to my RSS feed, which y0u can do here:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/CowbellyBlog

2) On Facebook, in order to see more of my posts (which you can do- you can see ALL of them if you want!), you will want to do this:

Go to the Cowbelly Pet Photography Facebook Fan Page.

Look under the Timeline photo (the large photo at the top of the screen), where it says ‘Like’ or ‘Liked’. Click on the little icon with the drop-down menu to the right of that, and select ‘Add to Interest Lists’.

Create a new list. Call it Dogs, Photography, Favorites, Dailies, whatever.

Then, the new list will show up in the left-hand column of your regular personal news-feed. Click on it to see ALL of the posts from your favorite fan pages that you have added to that interest list. What’s really cool about this is you don’t have to be bothered with seeing stuff you don’t feel like seeing every minute you are on Facebook. You can choose when you want to take a look at that feed for that interest list.

 

This way you won’t miss anything, but you also won’t be annoyed by posts about cars if you are in the mood to be reading about posts about being environmentally friendly that day. Of course, I would hope that posts with cute dogs and cats would never be annoying, but if you don’t want to check out my posts that day, you have that option! This gives you- the user, control over what you see and when, and takes the control (and throttling) away from Facebook.

I hope this temporary solution works, and I hope you continue to follow me on the interwebs. I cherish every single one of you. Thanks for being here.:-)

 

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December 12, 2012 - 4:43 pm

Katie | Invitations by Ajalon - You are not alone in your frustration, Jamie! Great post.

December 12, 2012 - 5:12 pm

Joanna Reichert - Thanks for this, Jamie. This writing’s been on the wall a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time coming and I don’t see how the Facebook wizards are letting greed cloud their logic. Oh well, it happens everywhere and I suppose it was bound to happen with them too. I will definitely be visiting your blog and your BBN more often as I, too, await something to topple Facebook. Any thoughts on Google +?

December 13, 2012 - 2:32 am

Jamie 'Cowbelly' - Thanks for the sympathy Katie! And Joanna- ah-greed! Not sure about Google +. I’m envisioning something even cooler. :-)

December 13, 2012 - 8:07 am

Bonnie - Great post! I have seen so many photographers asking fans to add them to their interests, but I didn’t really understand what the actual problem was. On my photography facebook page, I saw the ‘promote’ when I very first started posting, but it no longer comes up. Any idea why I no longer see it? I wonder if they have changed it to businesses who have a certain number of likes?

December 14, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Richie Schwartz - It’s not just Facebook…. I have been getting emails from TWITTER “inviting” me to “gain more followers by advertising on Twitter. Help others spread the word about you.”.

It seems Social Media is going Anti Social.

December 17, 2012 - 11:46 pm

Fenne - Cats,dogs and photography are never annoying :-)
Looking forward to to blog posts.

December 21, 2012 - 12:24 am

Tara Lynn - The one thing I have noticed with the “interest list” is that you can only do it with your profile. I went to the Cowbelly Page while being logged in as “InBetween the Blinks Photography” and it doesn’t allow pages to create interest lists. I don’t follow pages on my personal page, but do on my business page so I can “like” and “comment” as InBetween the Blinks. I do this like you, to keep my personal page more private. I try to remind fans to check my page every day as I post about three times a day.

December 28, 2012 - 11:25 am

Luna's Dad - Hi Jamie,

Thanks for the tip. Great photographs. I truly believe that if Facebook moves from an Ad’s based revenue model to charging their users most people will drop it like the plague, which is fine. Life goes on even if you are unaware your neighbors status is shopping at Walmart :-)

March 26, 2013 - 9:25 pm

Donna Sellers - Thank you SO much for sharing this.

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