Promoting your local business used to be fairly straightforward.  Fifteen years ago, marketing a small business most likely looked something like this:

  • Put an ad in the yellow pages.
  • Print some business cards.
  • Put a couple of flyers together.
  • Put a sign up.
  • Network with prospective customers and local businesses and ask for referrals.
  • Run ads in the local papers occasionally.

This has dramatically changed in the past decade and social media networks are frequently used as the main conduit of connecting with customers online.

One of the most frequently used social networks for businesses is Facebook.  The ability to create a page for your business and the potential and ease for your customers to spread the word about your company and services is hard to beat.

The problem arises when that Fan page, on a platform and space paid for by another for-profit business, is made to be the main online funnel for your business.   Last week I talked about stewarding your assets and building and nurturing your customer list.   The goal should be directing those fans and Facebook audience into a medium that you control such as a newsletter subscription, signing up for an account on your web site, subscribing by SMS, etc.

The Impact of Facebook Fan Page Changes

So what happened with Facebook?

Obviously if you use Facebook at all, you’ve seen the new Timeline.   As a user I hate it, but the layout itself isn’t the biggest issue for company or brand pages.  The three biggest Facebook page changes that affect businesses are:

No More Welcome Pages

Before the change, if someone who wasn’t already a fan went to the Legacy Marketing Facebook page, they would have landed on this page.  The option for directing new visitors to specific information was very cool.  In addition, you could create menu links for your page that appeared in the left column.  Those are now also gone that have been replaced with . . .

Horizontal Info Icons

Instead of having the ability to direct new visitors and create items in the Page menu, now there are customizable icons that are display in the information bar.  Customizable to a point.  While you can add icon links to custom pages for your Fan page, only three will display in the information bar (there are four total, but the photo icon cannot be moved.)  A visitor would have to click the “more” arrow to see any of the additional icon links.

So you have to choose which three you want to spotlight at a time.  This is an example of the custom icons we created for the recent March of Remembrance.

facebook icons

Fan Page Update Throttling

The most serious change, the one that will have the most impact, is that Facebook has begun to throttle the number of fans that see your status updates.  If a fan hasn’t interacted much with your page, the odds are your page update won’t show up on their newsfeed.

Kind of defeats the whole purpose doesn’t it?

Your purpose anyway.  It’s great for Facebook’s business model because then they can sell you more exposure through their Reach Generator.

So the question is, is your online marketing and Facebook campaign building a customer base for your business, or are you creating a distribution channel that Facebook controls access to and will charge you for the privilege of reaching?

 Update 6/14/2012:

As I was writing this post yesterday, apparently George Takei was also venting his frustration on the changes to the visibility of fan page status updates.  Mashable has a story on his comments as well as Facebook’s response.

Update 7/10/2016

Over the past four years, this trend of limiting free exposure on Facebook has only increased.  Why Facebook has implemented other business promotional tools during that time, the latest change to the page and timeline layout has limited exposure to anything other than recent posts.  While Facebook continues to rise in useage, actual engagement rates have plummeted.1

Contact Us to Discuss Marketing Options for Your Business.

References Cited
  1.  Nate Elliot. How Does Your Brand Stack Up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Forrester Research. Published September 15, 2015. Accessed July 5, 2015.
    In terms of user interactions based on a percentage of a brand’s fans or followers, Instagram receives exponentially more engagement than all other social media platforms: 2.261% versus .042% for Pinterest and .215% for Facebook. []