If Facebook Ads Worked, I’d Buy Them

photo(1116) Inside sources are reporting that Facebook plans to throttle page views for businesses even more than they already do, effectively choking off any organic search your business (or blog, or possibly organization) page hopes to have. If you want page views, you’ll have to pay for them, the plan goes. If you don’t pay for page views, you’ll only get one or two page views out of very 100 followers. Lots of people are angry that Facebook wants to charge for views, but I’m not. Sure, I’ve enjoyed the free advertising platform. I benefited from it. But Facebook is a business, too, and it has just as much right to profit from its business as I do from mine. The problem isn’t that Facebook wants to charge for advertising. The problem is that Facebook ads don’t work. When my coffee shop, Church Street Coffee & Books, posts on Facebook, around 10-20% of our followers see an average post. When I boost that search organically by posting about our appearance on a BuzzFeed list, or by putting up a Throwback Thursday picture of our most popular barista, or by capitalizing on a popular theme like a holiday, our page views go up — and engagement (likes and comments) goes up, too. (Better engagement is actually what gets us page views in the first place.) When I pay to promote a post, Facebook shows me that the post has about the same number of page views as I had with those high-view organic posts. But almost nobody engages with the post. Hardy anyone clicks like, and nobody comments. This tells me that, although Facebook might be showing the ad to more people, they aren’t the right people. They aren’t the people who care enough about my business to want to participate. And the problem of junk views isn’t limited to my business, either: This video from Veritasium breaks down the problem and proves that Facebook’s promotions don’t go to the people who matter. A smarter move for Facebook would’ve been to improve the algorithms that determine who sees promoted posts to make their advertising effective. That would’ve made me, and millions of other business owners, actually buy advertising. Trying to force us to buy ineffective ads won’t. What the change will likely mean is that only big corporations like Starbucks and Target, companies that can afford to scatter a broad message without the benefit of more targeted marketing, will buy Facebook ads, and mid-level and small businesses (like mine) will get off the site, or at least stop updating our pages. What that means for users is that our feeds will be clogged with the same commercials we see on billboards and on TV, and the messaging from smaller community businesses that we might actually care about will disappear completely. Our feeds will seemed more clogged, and users will be even more fed up with Facebook, which is bad news for the company’s numbers. And that’s bad news for their bottom line, too.

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