Stop crying about paying for ads on Facebook – Here’s how the paid game works

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This past summer, our friends at Morgan Miller Plumbing (who we are very proud of!) were invited to talk business with Facebook at their HQ in Palo Alto, California. You know what Facebook told them? They told them that Facebook was only 1% done. Wow. There’s never been a Facebook before so what a great perspective.

Here’s another great perspective Facebook has…regardless of what all the haters say, they do listen to their users. They may not respond in the human way we would like (answering messages would be nice), but they listen to users in the data. And the data this year told them we humans do not like spam.

What is spam? It’s your unsolicited promotion making its way through the newsfeed telling us why you are so great, or what we better buy today (that your business happens to carry). We disliked spam so much this year that we told Facebook about it by clicking the “block” or “hide” buttons when this type of content was seen. When a company is repeatedly seeing things blocked or hidden from its network, you better believe they are going to listen, or at least ask a few questions.

So they started asking questions. We noticed early this summer, Facebook would ask questions directly above promotional content that said “Do you think this post is overly promotional?” or “Does this look like an advertisement to you?” And everyone answered with a resounding YES! Hmmm. Okay, so Facebook decided if we don’t like that, maybe there should be some separation. Users clearly want a choice in what they see and evidently, they do NOT want to see overly promotional posts. So Facebook said ok businesses, fine. If you want to be promotional, you can. But you’ll have to pay.

WHAT?? We aren’t paying! We are leaving because we cannot follow the rules and we want to use your platform to promote all our stuff. Why are you doing this to us Facebook? Why are you making us pay you to use YOUR platform?

If you have a company that services more than half the world’s population, you cannot make everyone happy. And it’s very, very difficult to make everyone follow the rules. So the new rules are clearer. If you want to spam, you have to pay for it. If you want your posts to show up in the newsfeed without paying, you have to post things people would actually “like” – not hide or block.

You are telling Facebook every day what you like by taking the action to click the like button. If you take no action, you are also telling them something. Facebook is not going to keep showing you posts you rarely “like” when you have already told them you ALWAYS like to see posts from your friend Jason, and your mom, and your college buddies and maybe CNN or Huff Post. You see in the newsfeed what you have most recently taken action on – or, what a lot of your friends are taking action on. If enough people like a particular business post, that business is all over the place because people keep taking action by clicking the “like” or comment/share buttons. That tells Facebook we like, we like!

People have historically not taken that kind of action on spam so that’s why you have to pay. Facebook literally has to force your spam into the newsfeed because organically, there is just not enough room to show ALL the posts we frequently take action on, AND all the posts we take no action on. Something has to be bumped. If some of the posts a user wants to see are going to get bumped, you better believe you’re going to have to pay for that.

This is not malicious behavior on the part of Facebook. Of course they want to make a profit with paid ads but they are not trying to control or hinder your business growth. There is simply not enough room in the newsfeed to show ALL 350 of your friend’s posts and ALL the 200 pages you may have liked. And if you are in groups on Facebook, those posts would also be competing in the newsfeed because they are always shown to group members.

Who has time to see all those posts? If you like 200 pages and every single one of them posts something in the morning, by the time you log on at lunch, many of your friends have also shared stories about their morning too so now you’ve got your friend’s posts AND all those business pages to look through. It would take all day just to get through the morning posts and most of us have jobs so that’s not going to happen.

Most Facebook users check their newsfeed several times a day but they don’t typically stay on very long. This doesn’t mean you don’t have an opportunity to engage people without paying for ads. It’s just more difficult than it was before things were this crowded. You can still get in front of a LOT of people on Facebook for free. The cost is in your time.

You must spend at least an hour or more EVERY DAY interacting with other pages as your business. Yes, if you don’t want to pay, you have to treat it like a daily networking event and actually show up and network. Your business must like, comment, and share what other businesses are posting. Your business must be supportive of other pages, especially those you want to do business with.

Stop focusing on your own posts and go out and participate. Remember, you are telling Facebook what your business likes by who it participates with so if you can get those businesses interacting with you on their own page, they may eventually come over and start interacting with you on yours. This takes a lot of time and effort. Most of us don’t have that kind of time so we have to make a choice. Do we pay with our time or do we pay with our cash? Either way, we need to reach our audience.

We saw Copyblogger‘s release on why they said goodbye to Facebook. While we think they have some valid points, we are not ready to abandon ship just because there is a cost tied to it. There is a cost tied to everything. We wholeheartedly believe Facebook is the best platform to show your company’s human side so we aren’t planning to leave anytime soon.

Will we pay for ads? Yes.

We will set a budget and we will specifically target our ads to those fans who have told Facebook they are interested in what we have to offer (yes, you told Facebook what you liked too when you clicked the “like” button on all those sales jokes and inspirational small business books!). We can target those who are interested in sales and small business and guess what? You will be targeted to see our ad because we think there’s a chance you might like our LinkedIn class. We must word the ad in such a way that it does not appear to be spam in your eyes or we know you may click the hide or block button. We do however, need you to take action on our ad so our next posts will show up in your newsfeed for free. Even if you don’t click the link to buy the class, if you click the like button on the ad itself, you just told Facebook you want to see more from us.

We don’t want to advertise at you. We may have to pay to get you to notice us the first time around but our real goal is to get you involved with us, and interacting with a network that can start referring you. If we continue to post things that you take action on, we will never have to pay to advertise at you again because you keep telling Facebook you want to see us. The challenge is not in paying for the ad but in keeping the audience you build once you run an ad. People are on Facebook for personal reasons so if your company is going to be on Facebook, it’s going to be personal. You have to show the human side of your business, the people behind the magic and the communities you serve. When you do that, people take action on your posts and you can get in front of more people without paying. If all you want to do is promote, all you’re going to do is pay.