Thursday, August 6, 2015

Look, Facebook, We Need to Talk

You know that I've been with you since 2005, when you were a way to connect with students at a variety American universities. I was there during all of the transitions, big and small. I watched you grow. I watched you expand and begin including non-university students: moms/dads, grandparents, and kid brothers/sisters. I was skeptical about that move, but I allowed it. When businesses started using you as a platform for reaching their audience on the cheap, I approved. In early 2011, I signed up Expertly Dyed for its own page. Until six months ago, at least, when I noticed that things were going less well. (TL;DR - Skip to the end for details about getting Expertly Dyed notifications)

What happened? Well, let's review the insights. As far back as I can go (July 27, 2013), my organic reach was:
  • 338 people served out of 442 Likes
That means, 76% of my audience was reached that day. Not bad, since some people don't go to Facebook everyday. Let's fast forward a bit and take a look at a year ago:
  • 269 people served out of 821 Likes
That means, 33% of my audience was reached that day. Okay, that's a big difference. Let's do this one more time and see what my insights were like as of a few days ago:
  • 95 people served out of 1236 Likes
You almost don't need to see the percentages to know what I'm driving at. Only 0.08% of my audience was reached on this particular day.

Since I began using Facebook, I have done my best to use the platform to my advantage so there is transparency between what I make and what you want. You want to see more red fibers in my shop? Okay, more red is coming. Want a tutorial about X? Well, that goes on the video queue. What do I think of Y book/magazine? It'll be reviewed on the blog. 

So, here are my gripes. Two days ago, I read a post from Hootsuite about how it's really not that hard to reach your Facebook audience. Well, my insights are telling me a different story. First, it says to 'know your audience'. As a spinner/dyer/knitter/so on, I am deeply entrenched within the community, and I'm also a fan of others who have similar businesses as mine. I'm fairly certain that I know my audience. (Don't believe me? Quiz me.) Then it goes on to say that I should capitalize on videos. As a video creator, I can tell you that I do all in my power to bring you all videos of things you really want to see. On my video post about Botched Dyeing, only 112 people were reached. Many of you specifically asked for that video. Let's review so far. It was a video post with relevant material and what you wanted to see. So why wasn't it served to more of my audience? Even if I posted it at a poor time of the day (which it wasn't), why didn't it reach a greater portion of my audience?

Let's keep looking. Okay, 'taking a stand, joining a conversation' is outside the scope of my business. I refuse to delve deeply into politics, religion, human rights, and so forth, especially on the formal face of my business on Facebook. There's a place for those conversations, but on my business page is not where they belong. Over the course of years, many of you have come to understand (or at least make an educated guess about) my position on things in the world. In the chat thread on Ravelry, its informal nature allows me bring my personal views to light. That is the right place for such discussions, in my opinion, where context is easier to establish than on my Facebook business page. Next, please.

"Listen to me," says Facebook. Oh? Every few months, I have to change how I use your platform because you have changed your algorithm. "I wanna see more pictures!" cries Facebook. The vast majority of my posts contain images or links or videos. Of course, by vast majority, I mean statistically overwhelming majority. "Don't be pushy!" whines Facebook. I completely understand that one. I hate it when people and companies shove their sales and wares in my face. I don't want to get my daily dose of 'buy my stuff!' from pages I have liked. So, Facebook cracked down on those posts so they weren't being served. Great. I run sales specifically for my Facebook and Twitter fans, but I don't overly promote those most, I will promote a week-long sale about 3 times in that given week. "You're being needy!" complains Facebook. Good news. My content takes a long time to produce, so I usually only post once a day. Occasionally, twice a day.

Here are a few caveats. When I have posted content which tags other businesses, it has paid off with a far grander reach. But it needs to be relevant, and keeping well-connected in that way on a daily basis is extremely challenging for a one-woman show. The one post which has managed to reach nearly my entire audience was the one where I was trying to figure out why my posts weren't getting to you all. That post reached 1364 people, and only 1253 people like my page. Bonus. But I don't want my rant to get the promotion; I want my relevant content to be seen. Facebook, please don't force me to have to go to these extremes every day so I can get even just 10% of my audience reached daily.

I'm not a professional marketer, but I'm smart. I can read, observe, analyze, implement, and discuss the results. I can see what is working, and what isn't. I'm a scientist at heart, so I research and hypothesize about what I think will work to build a following, reach my fans, and develop and maintain a community. I'm not perfect, and I'm willing to accept the fact that I will misunderstand and be imperfect about how to market a business. Five years on, though, I ought to be getting better at marketing and delivering content my audience wants to see. Instead, Facebook would have me believe that I'm clueless in that regard.

Hootsuite, I know you're trying to be helpful, but for many businesses in my spot, posts like this are condescending and rude. I know for a fact that I'm not the only small business experiencing such troubles from Facebook. Though we try to share with each other how we have managed to overcome the algorithm changes Facebook has brought forth, there is clearly something else that we're doing wrong. So, Facebook, if you're listening, what are you going to do for me? Relationships are meant to be balanced, but I fear that the table is tipping far more in your favor. I don't want to end our long-lasting relationship, but I feel like we may be nearing the point of parting as friends.

Oh, and if you're curious about how you can ensure you'll get updates about Expertly Dyed posts on Facebook, go to your profile and scroll down until you see the "Likes" category on the left-hand side of your Timeline. There, you will see a list of your liked pages. Find "Expertly Dyed" and click on "Follow". In the drop down menu for "Liked", select "Get Notifications". 

Now you will get a notification whenever a page you like posts something. I've been going through my liked pages and doing likewise. There is so much content I have missed myself!