I started using Facebook back when it was only open to students. It was the best way to stay in touch with all my soon-to-be distant high school friends. And more recently, it seemed like the best way to reach a built-in audience with posts about my music? But what I’ve only now come to understand is how limited Facebook is for marketing purposes. This is for three basic reasons:
1) Facebook was not designed for marketing.
I thought it was. I knew marketing was not its primary purpose, but I thought it was an important secondary one. After all, what other social media platform allows you to control your business page so extensively, even letting you display your product catalog, run sales, and collect e-mail addresses? But that’s about it. A lot of bells and whistles (though for some reason I still can’t control what my page preview looks like when someone hovers over a link to my page…). Facebook, at its core, was never meant for marketing. And if it were, people wouldn’t be addicted to it (or depressed by it) like they are (at any rate, I’ve never heard of anyone being depressed by the classifieds or Craigslist). But why does this matter? That brings me to the next point.
2) Facebook is designed for 1 thing: Facebook.
If there’s one thing clear about Facebook’s policy changes over the years, it’s that the social media giant wants all your attention. The #3-ranked site in the world wants to keep you away from the #2-ranked site in the world: YouTube. It used to be that YouTube videos would play directly from your Facebook post. Pretty great, right? That disappeared around the time that Facebook started its own video platform. What’s more, posts with external links seem to get distributed to fewer timelines. Facebook is intent on keeping users inside its ecosystem: watching Facebook videos, engaging with other Facebook users, and not being distracted by external links or marketing posts. How many times do you see a local business page post show up on your timeline? Now how many times does is that post sponsored? You get the picture. If the pages that I visit frequently don’t even show up in my timeline unless they’ve sponsored a post, how often will the local businesses that are just getting started show up?
3) Facebook advertising is (frequently) a money pit.
And that brings me to my last point. Facebook has weaned away businesses from getting free marketing, and that totally makes sense, right? After all, Facebook has to make money in order to stay afloat (some other big online companies still haven’t made a profit). But the substitute is their paid advertising service, which should be used with great caution. I don’t have hard data here, but I do have a personal anecdote. Facebook offered me some advertising credit a while back to try to get me hooked on paid advertising. Facebook selected which post to promote (which was fairly random from my perspective–it happened to be a link to a video advertising a new sample library), and I tried it out. What happened? Did I get any views? Yes. At least Facebook said I did. In fact, allegedly the post reach more than a thousand people (when most of my posts only reach a hundred or so “organically”). The post even got some likes. But the people who liked the post were not at all people I would have predicted. I couldn’t tell that any of them were particularly interested in sample libraries. And as far as I know, I got no new page likes out of the deal. I had set the target demographic to focus on people in my own city who were interested in certain kinds of movies or music (still broad categories), but where did these likes come from? It made me wonder if Facebook pays people to like posts just so that their advertising scheme shows results. Or maybe I just don’t know my target audience. At the end of the day, do I want to be paying Facebook to “like” my music if it doesn’t reach people who will support me as an artist?
So what should I do instead?
I realize this is an oversimplified view of Facebook. I know that some people have been able to use it for marketing with a lot of success. My point here is just to help those who, like me, were under the impression that Facebook offered a free and easy way to reach fans. What it actually offers is a free way to reach friends and a (questionable) paid way to reach some people who may or may not actually be interested in my music at all. On the other hand, there are much better ways to reach people who are interested. E-mail, websites, even Twitter (as suggested by CDBaby). These are less limited approaches that put your content in front of people with similar interests, and they make it easier to do so (e.g., Twitter embeds YouTube videos for immediate viewing).
What has worked for you? Please comment below with your experiences of successes (or failures) in marketing.