All you need in social media is Facebook, right?

Social MediaAs I write this post on what will become my new professional blog, it is August 2015. Facebook has long broken away from its origins as a networking site for college students and is now the “go to” social network for anyone in the news media, business or non-profit world who wishes to reach their fans, reachers and potential customers.

Given the reach and the targeting that is possible with Facebook, and how comfortable people have become to using Facebook for everyday communications with friends and family, it’s been tempting for some to take the easy way out and say: “All I need is Facebook. I don’t need traditional advertising. I don’t need to be on other social networks. I don’t need my own website.”

I’ve heard all that.

A word of caution:

You don’t really own your Facebook page or account. It is free to access. You also can post what you want within the network’s rules. But it is always what some people call “rented space” instead of “owned space.”

That means the status quo can change at any time.

To explain:

The Facebook news feed formula – the complicated calculation of what you actually see when logging in among the friends you have connected to, the groups you join and the pages you like –  is meant to keep people on Facebook.

It’s not written to keep people seeing your content.

When those goals overlap, your Facebook campaign efforts will seem incredibly successful.

When those goals don’t mesh, or Facebook changes its formula based on what it thinks people want to see, your marketing and promotion efforts will not work or will no longer work as expected.

I have hosted or co-hosted numerous brand and project pages since 2010 and have seen this happen first-hand.

A page that I thought would do well, given that the demographics of Facebook users meshed well with the content and theme, stalled out. I could never boost the fan numbers above 500 despite access to timely and interesting content, and monitoring what similar pages were doing.

Another page continued to attract fans months after the project itself wrapped up and my last post was made. I finally did delete that page – it seemed silly to keep it open a year later.

And my signature project, the Monroe on a Budget personal finance website, saw both the highs and lows. When my Facebook fans saw content crossing their Facebook news feed, they went to my site for the latest newspaper columns and public service announcements. When the news feed formula changed in late 2013 and organic reach no longer worked for such a niche topic, page referrals from Facebook to my site fell and with it, my site traffic went down. A fan base of 1,500; with geographic and demographic data that fit my target audience; just could not get the same information out that previously worked fairly well with the organic (aka “free”) traffic.

Do I still recommend Facebook as a news and business marketing strategy?

Absolutely! I’ve seen how much traffic it can drive to a news site; and how fast word can get around when there is a post or photo that people want to share with other people they know.

But I do not recommend Facebook as your only communication with your fans or the public. It just doesn’t work that way.

— Paula Wethington


Author: Paula Wethington

Paula Wethington works on the digital side of journalism for The Monroe News in Monroe, Michigan.

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