People often tout Facebook Ads as an extremely significant reason to get a page for your small business. Facebook claims these ads will help draw more people to your page, and therefore draw in more revenue for your business. This, however, may be based on the false assertion that Facebook pages boost sales at all.
One survey found that 62% of small business owners felt Facebook Ads failed to bring in more customers. The same survey found a common belief that the likes linked to these ads were from fake accounts, and an inability to link new customers to Facebook Ads. To make matters worse, another common sentiment amongst small business owners is that Facebook is a huge gamble whether you pay for it or not.
And there’s more. Let’s break down some of the reasons why you may want to reconsider advertising your small business on Facebook.
Pay to…Not Play?
Over the years, numerous small business owners attempting to advertise on Facebook have levied accusations that the platform is purposely hiding their posts from the majority of their followers. Whether or not that’s true, it’s well known that only 1-5% of the people who’ve liked your page will see your posts unless you pay to boost them.
Even then, there’s no guarantee the boost will be effective. You see, when you pay for Facebook Ads or use Facebook’s “Promote” feature, you’re not guaranteeing more people will take notice of your page. You’re literally just paying for that post to show up in more people’s feeds. There’s no guarantee they’ll click on it, look at it, or even notice it. Since millions of businesses operate on Facebook, you’re more likely than not to get drowned out.
For a small business operating on a tight budget, this results in a huge, unnecessary expense with effectively no return.
Worse Than Nothing
As mentioned previously, people have noticed many of these likes aren’t from real accounts. A significant percentage of the likes from Facebook Ads come from fake profiles likely tied to “Click Farms,” or places where employees (usually from certain developing countries) are paid to like pages. It’s theorized your page may get clicks from these farms even if you don’t pay for their services. According to this hypothesis, click farm workers will click on almost anything in order to avoid detection from Facebook’s security programs.
This ends up being worse than getting almost no likes. The reason why Facebook only sends your content to 1-5% of your audience is because they actually intend to send it to more people if it gets good engagement early on. The 1-5% is intended as a test audience. If this test audience responds well, then Facebook’s algorithm will send it out to more of your audience.
However, if a significant percentage of your likes are from click farms, this decreases the likelihood your post will get past the test audience. Click farms are only meant to like posts and pages, and therefore won’t continue to engage after they’ve liked your page. This means any post sent to a click farm feed won’t get engaged with, and won’t get sent to more people.
The result is that these Facebook Ads can actually do more harm than good.
Going At It Alone
It’s no surprise, then, that many small business owners decide to go it alone and rely solely on their organic reach. Unfortunately, some of the problems we discussed may still apply even if you opt out of Facebook Ads and promotions.
For example, your posts still need to get past the test audience and the Facebook algorithm to reach more people. This can prove more difficult than it seems, as the miniscule impressions business pages receive makes apparent. To make matters worse, the algorithm prioritizes posts made by profiles over content from pages. If you think you can bypass this issue simply by making a profile instead of a page, that would violate Facebook’s terms of service. While you might not care about following the rules and dense legalease Facebook subjects you to, it’s important to note that ToS violations can result in your page or profile being deleted. All your hard work would be for naught.
Even if you play fair, the algorithm takes so much data into account that it can baffle social media marketing professionals, much less those dipping their toes into the role for the first time. As a small business owner who wears innumerable hats, you probably don’t have hours to sink into social media management on top of that.
In fact, social media marketers have a job far more complex than simply creating content and posting it. Not only do they juggle the demands of various social media platforms’ algorithms, but they also spend a good portion of their work days researching effective strategies, staying up-to-date on social media trends, and monitoring data. They take into account not only what to post, but what day of the week to post, what time of day to post, which platforms to post on, and much more. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more that goes into a professional social media account compared to a private, personal account.
When you add the cost of producing high-quality graphics, photos, and videos to these issues, Facebook is almost indisputably more effort than it’s worth.
Other Failings of Facebook
Unfortunately, there’s still more issues with advertising on Facebook. First of all, according to data from Pew Research Facebook hasn’t had much growth since 2016. While other social media platforms continue to grow their user bases, Facebook remains almost stagnant.
Moreover, it’s important to consider your target audience. Facebook is well-known for its popularity amongst older users, but what if you want to target a younger demographic? In that case, your time is better spent elsewhere. Moreover, Facebook’s demographics skew slightly male. If your target audience is majority female, then advertising on Facebook might not be the best choice.
Another issue with Facebook is the widespread distrust in the platform. According to Pew Research, 59% of users stated they distrusted Facebook as a news source. Another survey found Facebook ranked last in terms of “protecting users’ personal information and providing a safe online environment.” While this might not result in a detriment to your business’ reputation, it may contribute to why people don’t click on Facebook Ads.
Facebook’s also garnered a reputation amongst small artists as a place rife with plagiarists. If your business specializes in art, handcrafts, custom clothing, or other artistic ventures, it’s important to protect your IP before you share on Facebook.
If you have a strong moral character, you might also oppose many of Facebook’s operations on principle. Facebook has faced so much controversy since its founding that there’s literally a Wikipedia page devoted to listing them. Though it’s not possible to discuss every criticism of Facebook in this article, a few examples include subjecting employees to traumatizing conditions, refusal to remove images of child abuse, and failing to remove extremist content. This is also setting aside the numerous accusations of privacy violations levied against Facebook over the years.
Given all this information, it would be completely understandable if you wanted to distance your business from Facebook.
If Not Facebook, Then What?
It’s also understandable if you’re disappointed Facebook isn’t the quick, free, and easy advertising you’d hoped. Small business owners usually can’t afford to break the bank on advertising, so how else can you get your name out there?
Fortunately, there’s more avenues than you might think.
Creating and Optimizing a GMB Listing
If you google the name of a business you’re likely to see a box with that business’ info. This box is a Google My Business (GMB) Listing. Since more than 90% of organic searches come from Google, you’ll want to make sure your business shows up in a Google search.
Think of your GMB listing as a quick-facts sheet for your business. At a glance, users can see your business’ address, phone number, and hours. The listing also provides links to your website, links to your menu or products and services, and quick access to Google Reviews. You and your customers can also post photos and videos of your storefront, store interior, and/or products.
Unlike Facebook, using GMB is actually free and relatively easy to set up. In fact, your business may already have a GMB listing. This is totally normal, and there’s a process for claiming your business so you can manually update your listing. It will take a little time to process your claim, but then you’ll be able to edit your GMB listing.
To optimize your GMB listing, you’ll want to start by filling out as much of the requested information as possible. This includes the location of your business, its location, its phone number, and its website. Then you’ll want to add some photos, manage and respond to customer reviews, and showcase your products.
Once your listing is set up, you should see an uptick in traffic and sales. You’ll quickly find that spending time on your GMB listing is far more effective and efficient than sinking countless hours into a Facebook business page.
Local SEO and Google Map Pack Ranking
Once you’ve fully filled out your business’ information, you’ll want to make sure your GMB listing shows up for your local audience. Since Google bases local results on relevance, distance, and prominence, there’s only certain factors you can control. Fortunately, completely filling out your business’ information and adding photos goes a long way to helping you stand out.
Verifying your business’ locations will also make you more likely to show up in local results. This process may take some time, but it will assure your customers that your business is what it purports to be.
Other ways you can optimize your Local SEO include embedding Google Maps in your website, asking for reviews, building up local citations, and creating locally-focused content.
Geographically-Targeted Google Ads
Another way to make sure your small business remains relevant to your local community is through using geographically-targeted Google Ads. By paying for ads to show up specifically within the community you’re operating in, you’re maximizing your efficiency. After all, a coffee shop in New York City wouldn’t want to advertise to people in Los Angeles.
Emphasizing the ROI
In that effort, you’re increasing your ROI (return on investment). Whenever you make a business decision, you likely already weigh the pros and cons. Focusing on your ROI is a more specific form of that: you’re focusing specifically on how much money you’ll get as a result of your investment.
While Facebook Ads yield a near-nonexistent ROI, the methods in this section will get you a better ROI. When researching which other methods to use in promoting your business, you’ll want to keep your ROI in mind. How much will the venture cost and how much do you expect to get back? The more money you get back for a smaller investment, the more it’s worth considering.
Of course, the most important aspect of marketing your business online is your website. You want to make sure your website is professional and mobile responsive. There’s numerous affordable websites where you can create a website on your own, but you may also want to consider having a professional build your site for you. While the latter may save you money, the former will save you time and stress—and probably yield a better result.
Making a website mobile-responsive is also critically important. If someone looks your company up on their phone only to encounter a difficult-to-read website, they’re very likely to hit the back button and take their business somewhere else. There’s a lot going on in the world today, and people simply don’t have the time or energy to devote to deciphering a cluttered website.
If your website looks good on both mobile and desktop, then you’re one step closer to making returns—which is more than you can say for a Facebook page.