Facebook Fan Page is Less Effective if Free

by diannejacob on September 17, 2012

Here’s what Facebook would charge Stephanie Manley to post to fans and friends.

Do you use a Facebook fan page to promote your blog and books? How about Google? Do you depend on Feedburner for free blog feeds?

Free was great, but now it’s over.*

Stephanie Manley of CopyKat Recipes alerted me that Facebook now wants us to pay to promote our posts to viewers. In her case, the cost is $30 per post and $75 per post for fans and their friends. That comes to…let’s see, almost $11,000 annually to send a daily post to her fans! Without payment, only 11.1 percent of her 18,400+ Facebook fans see her Fan page.

That’s not effective at all. But it’s still free.

Facebook says an average of 84 percent of your fans are no longer seeing your posts. They justify it this wayTo find out what Facebook is charging you per fan page post, click on the promote button, on the bottom right of your posting window. Surprise!

I emailed another food writer with a huge fan base, David Lebovitz, to get his reaction to this Facebook news. “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” he wrote. “Imagine if WordPress was only making part of my posts visible to certain readers. I think it’s a huge mistake on their part but since Facebook is free, I guess that’s the price we pay to use a free service (however losing trust of users generally means it will cost them in the long-run).”

Like the rest of us, Stephanie has to decide what to do. Her mailing list has 20,000 subscribers, so she may move to that and Pinterest for promotion. And like the rest of us, she’s learned something. This Facebook move “proves that if you want to reach out to your audience, you need direct communication,” Stephanie said in an email. “Whether through Twitter, Pinterest, or the old fashioned mailing list, you can’t be dependent upon any one service.”

True. Who knows which free Internet communication platform will start charging next, or go under? Which brings me to Feedburner, Google’s free  service to send out emails. Feedburner is going away in October.* You have paying alternatives, such as Feedblitz, MailChimp, or Aweber.

What is the solution? I’d like to shut down my Facebook Fan page and move my readers to my personal (Dianne Jacob) page. But that has a limit of only 5,000 people. Now I have to pay to ask my fans to move.

And I use Feedburner, so I’ll have to investigate another service.*

What about you? What will you do about your Facebook fan page? If you use Feedburner, have you already chosen an alternative?

Please talk amongst yourselves. I’m leaving to teach in Ireland this coming weekend, and then off to Food Blogger Connect in London (see you there if you’re coming!). I’ll check in when I can. I want to read your ideas about these issues and potential workarounds.

***

*Corrections: As people more technical than I have noted in the comments below, only the Feedburner API is going away in October, not the service. Sorry for any confusion. I fell for a post on the subject that turned out to be incorrect.

 

{ 17 comments }

Stefan Brunner September 20, 2012 at 9:45 am

Certainly an interesting business model. But why not? Mark is a very smart guy and his job is to maximize shareholder value. He does not do anything different than Google does with their paid keywords. For vendors, it all comes down to how much marketing budget to plan and how to distribute it. Of course it sucks for very small vendors who do not get their bang back. It might be tough for some vendors, but the people who are really hurt by this are all the non profit enthusiasts and activists. For large vendors, $10k/yr are peanuts in a marketing budget. The immediate effect will be, that messaging will become less cluttered. The secondary effect will be that people will actively check their favorite fan pages instead of passively digesting a messaging stream which again might be good for some. FB is in new territory and it is always easier to lower pricing than increasing it. So, I believe this strategy will be successful for FB. @TechStefan

Rick September 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

I sense from some of the comments that whether to use Google and Facebook’s services are somehow up for debate. I would argue that Google and Facebook are the gatekeepers of the net much like the publishers are the gatekeepers of the cookbook industry. Both industries have their “rules” and you can choose to abide by them or not. But if you don’t abide by them, you aren’t likely to be as successful. If you don’t use Facebook or Feedburner (and hundreds of other services on the net) you won’t be as successful. It is just a simple fact, much like you won’t get a book deal if you don’t do a book proposal. You can like the rules or not but they are what they are. Also this isn’t a debate about which service is best. Pinterest is better than Facebook is better than Twitter etc. I would argue that they all are important to a certain extent and everything enhances each other. For example Google looks at Pinterest as well as Facebook to determine search rankings, so if you don’t do both, you won’t rank as high. This is simply the realities of the net, like it or not. This is an extremely complex issue that I think is often vastly over simplified, much to the determent of the people that are trying to actually make a go of it on the net.

Another point about Feedburner that needs to be mentioned is that the benefits go beyond the obvious when it comes to search. If you are using Feedburner Google knows about your new posting within minutes and can list your page in search within very short order. This is why they do Feedburner for free in the first place, so they have first knowledge of new postings and can have the freshest listings of the search engines. As a blogger if you switch you will lose this advantage. That is why I very much doubt they will ever shut it down because they would lose visibility of millions of websites and that would hurt their search quality. They probably shut down the Japanese domain simply because the service wasn’t popular in Japan, so I would suggest that it’s a huge leap to suggest it means the service is going away. When we put a new page up I can usually find it on Google within an hour and it is 100% because of Feedburner. So like I suggested about Facebook’s search benefits, if you don’t want search traffic from your posting right away, don’t do Feedburner because it will take awhile for Google to find it. It’s that simple. Also Google can gauge the interest in the posting using Feedburner’s data to help them decide how well it should rank out of the gate. So if it is a hot posting and you don’t use Feedburner they may never know that and not rank your page as highly. All this data can use is why they give it for free.

I totally agree with David’s comments on the benefits of Facebook going far beyond being a simple content notification service. We use Facebook to develop an ever growing community, to help people with their problems, to launch new content, develop and enhance the brand, to keep them interested over the long haul etc etc. There are many benefits to all of these services that often go much beyond the obvious and people need to dig much deeper before they judge whether to drop or add a service.

Megan September 21, 2012 at 8:16 am

Hi Dianne,

Just a heads up – many of us found out this morning that our Feedburner subscribers have dropped down to zero. Luckily I was able to save my e-mail subscriber info using this info: http://www.thecreativityexchange.com/2012/09/feedburner-users-save-a-copy-of-your-email-subscriber-information.html but I don’t know if I can retrieve/move my RSS subscribers.

Not sure what is going on there, but there ARE some issues affecting us bloggers, so it appears to not just be the API.

Gail Gardner September 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I wrote about FeedBurner probably going away and the alternative I was already moving to back in July. The handwriting had already been on the wall and I wrote that post (linked to this comment from my name) the day @FeedBurner “signed off” of Twitter.

I caution bloggers away from MailChimp because their rules about monetizing and affiliate links are not clear. One blogger saw not only his latest newsletter blocked but EVERY LINK in EVERY previous newsletter broken intentionally by MailChimp because he supposedly broke one of their rules. No notice – no nothing. Just all his subscribers gone and all previous links stop working. I had warned about MailChimp’s position on affiliate links before and questioned whether they just meant not to have them in a newsletter or not on your blog or exactly what they meant.

In his case when he wrote about it on his blog, MailChimp claimed it was because Yahoo! mail got hacked, but I don’t know what that had to do with him – and regardless – that points out a major drawback to using them.

AWeber has always been solid, but you have to monitor your lists or you’ll be paying for addresses that don’t work. And using ONLY email to connect with your audience may be problematic because what percentage don’t make it through spam filters and how many get so much email that they filter newsletters and rarely see them?

The other challenge is – as Dianne wrote, “Who knows which free Internet communication platform will start charging next, or go under?” – so my thought is we need to use something that has multiple alternatives of reaching your audience and let them choose which one they want to use.

FeedBlitz is my choice because it integrates email and social media – but it does have a learning curve which we can reduce by sharing tips and writing how-tos. If most of us use it then it will become more familar to readers and they will be more likely to subscribe.

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well September 21, 2012 at 8:24 am

A little late to the discussion, but I’d like to chime in about Facebook. I saw that “promote” button go up months ago, read up about it, and ignored it. While some of my “likers” have expressed concern over not seeing my posts in their news feed as often, for the most part I haven’t seen that much of a decrease. Perhaps, like Andrew had mentioned earlier, this is because of the interaction level: I post fairly frequently on my Facebook page, as it’s the hub of my social media connections, and try to interact with my readers on that page as much as possible. We have great discussions in the comment threads, they post photos, etc. I try to use my page as a place not just for me to share my own links, but to encourage my readers to share their knowledge with me, too. This is one of the biggest reasons I prefer Facebook over Twitter: it’s far more personal and allows me to build a community, not just build traffi (Twitter just feels like a giant RSS feed to me). However, I’ve never felt the need to pay to promote my page or my site, and I’m definitely not in a position to start doing so now.

But just out of curiosity, I checked to see how much I would be charged if I wanted to promote something on my page. I am floored at the price. To reach the majority of my 18K+ followers, I’d have to pay $75.00/post! YIKES! Again, not something I’m willing or able to pay, but wow… you’d have to be pretty proud of that post to pay that much, just to have an extra thousand folks read it.

As for Feedburner… ACK. I need to start researching options ASAP. I didn’t realize October started in late September (my Feedburner is pretty much DOA today).

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well September 21, 2012 at 8:36 am

Sorry, I’m not still fully awake. The point I wanted to make was that through regular interaction on Facebook, I’ve found that the amount of “likers” or subscribers, etc. will grow on its own. The viral nature of internet postings and the whole “sharing” function on Facebook allows you to grow your audience with very little extra effort. And you have the added bonus of getting to know your readers, which I’ve always found to be quite fun. Anyway, what I’m trying to say (in a very poorly worded fashion), is that paying on Facebook isn’t necessary. There’s a lot you can do for free that will grow your audience and allow you to reach new readers, if that is your goal.

David September 21, 2012 at 9:41 am

Hi Kimberly: I agree with you that for many of us, social network is mostly about interaction and community builds naturally through that. However what irks me is that when I use a service, such as Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Pinterest, even if it’s free, for some silly reason (and I’m not being sarastic toward you.. but about FB), I just assume that the recipient that signed up to receive the message will get it.

I just think it’s poor form not to be completely upfront when people are using your service. Perhaps they did and I didn’t catch it. But it’s not a very good business practice in my opinion.

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well September 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Hi David,

I completely agree with you about Facebook or any service keeping certain posts away from subscribers and followers. I, myself, subscribe to a lot of different fan pages (yours included!) and it’s been quite irksome to realize how much material I’ve missed unless I take a good chunk of time out of my day to create special lists, etc,, etc. There was once a time that you could see what was posted immediately; now I have a hard time even seeing my own PGEW fan page posts in my own news feed! (Perhaps I don’t interact with myself often enough?)

I guess what I’ve done as a page operator is to just carry on and keep posting, without giving in to the pressure of having to pay or promote in a way I don’t feel matches up with my own principles. I send periodic reminders to followers to subscribe to my feed via email (which I can’t seem to do anymore d/t Feedburner) and to update their lists on Facebook so they stay connected. It’s not a perfect system, but it seems to work for now. I’ve also been a very persistent pest on the FB Developers side about this issue; not like Zuckerberg is going to change his mind overnight, but maybe the whole “squeaky wheel” thing will eventually make enough noise.

Anne @ Webicurean September 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

Re Feedburner–all my subscribers appear to be gone too with no access to the Analyze subscriber page; however, under Email Subscriptions > Subscription Management, the full list of subscribers is displayed at the bottom of the page. No one is missing. There is an option there to export to CSV, so I’d recommend doing that just in case the whole list does go away.

Rick September 21, 2012 at 9:42 am

This is a known issue and Feedburner is in the process of fixing it. http://feedburnerstatus.blogspot.com/2012/09/known-issue-subscriber-counts-and-stats.html

Laura @ hip pressure cooking September 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Thanks for that… I almost had a heart-attack when I saw 0 subscribers! Downloaded the CSV of email addresses – just in case.

Ciao,

L

DJ SGZ September 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm

The problem with social media is that you don’t have control over it. Anything can change any time without any notification or choice. One thing you have to remember is that Facebook is a social network not a marketing tool.

Yes, we marketers are smart enough to use it as a marketing tool. So if you are marketing yourself on my stuff and making money then I want a share, it’s like that with Facebook guys. They also want something from helping you reach those fans.

Anyway, that’s just my 2 cents. All I can say is that adapt or leave those are the only choices you have. Complaining wont solve anything.

Max September 22, 2012 at 1:55 am

Facebook is indeed getting their share by collecting massive amounts of personal information about their users, raising questions that invite government interventions. They didn’t pay nearly a billion dollars for Instagram for access to all the pretty pictures of food and sunsets – they did it for the user information. So yes, it’s adapt and accept that that’s happening, or leave. A number of people will probably start using Facebook less as a result. However bringing up the issue may prompt Facebook to review its policies and make changes, as they see appropriate.

Rick September 24, 2012 at 10:24 am

Out of curiosity I checked which percentage of our 146K fans saw our 4 postings. The percentage ranged from 25% for the newest, to 37% for the oldest. I suspect that over time the number grows as the people that don’t use Facebook much log in. But it clearly significantly higher than the 16% on average that Facebook quotes at least for us. That leads me to believe their are other factors involved. Maybe if your posts are more engaging to fans, they are shown more and less engaging posts are shown less.

Chris Parker September 25, 2012 at 10:25 am

This isn’t surprising to me at all. Facebook is now a public company and has to answer to shareholders. What do shareholders want? Their stocks to go up in value. How does any company do this? Increase revenue. Oh, yeah, FB stock has basically plunged since the initial public offering. Shareholders will not be happy. So, expect FB to add additional fees in the near future.

Personally, I think it would be better to have a monthly subscription (for businesses) that is priced based on the number of fans you have. This way, all businesses pay something and ALL your posts will then be seen by ALL your fans. I’d be happy to pay a monthly subscription vs. per post.

Just my 2 cents.

Laura @ hip pressure cooking October 25, 2012 at 2:27 am

Dianne and Stephanie, take a look at this article. An online marketing website did some tests with a few Facebook promoted posts. The results are… well. Worrying. He provides evidence and wonders if Facebook is using a “bot” to make the “buyer” feel like there were lots of likes. More importantly, the Facebook “activity” did not jive with the website traffic.

http://econsultancy.com/it/blog/10910-case-study-do-facebook-promoted-posts-work

Since the introduction of this “scheme” I’ve seen my “posts seen by” numbers drop considerably. When they used to be “seen” by 500-600 Facebookers just a couple of months ago now each posts hits max 200 viewers – and this is for a page with 1,500 likes!!

The interaction started to go down the drain with the page re-dsign. Other people could not see each other’s posts on my page to reply and converse. But I would say that my Facebook page is pretty much dead now – I don’t get much more than one question a week – when I used to get several a day.

My point is this. If you are tempted to PROMOTE your facebook posts, read the article above first and decide for yourself if you will be satisfied with the “shady” results.

Ciao,

L

diannejacob October 25, 2012 at 9:38 am

Thanks for the link, Laura. It’s great to see that someone is already investigating the value of promoted posts. Now I see that we can pay to promote our regular Facebook pages too, in addition to our Fan pages. So much for my plan to shift people over to my private page!

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