The Facebook marketing free ride is over

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If you want to grow your business through Facebook marketing, you will very likely have to pay for advertising.

That is the new truth.

In years past, many pages on Facebook could do all right in terms of driving sales and traffic to websites without using advertising. But now, as more pages become serious Facebook marketers, you’re battling for diminishing space in your audience’s News Feeds. Demand for impressions, views and clicks is higher than ever, while the supply of News Feed space hasn’t grown to keep up.

So while Facebook is financially free if you want to chat with friends and look at cat memes, if you are using Facebook as a tool to grow your business, advertising needs to be part of the plan.

When Facebook went public two years ago, the game changed for marketing. Facebook had to prove to shareholders that the site was a viable advertising vessel. The company worked hard to create ad models that are easier to use than before, trying to get more advertisers onto the platform. As Facebook was being publicly mocked for its stock price, the company avoided failure by turning to mobile as an ad beacon.

Since Facebook has gone public, the site has also gained considerably more small businesses with Facebook pages. Last year, Facebook’s Director of Small Business Dan Levy told Inside Facebook that there were 16 million small businesses with a page on Facebook. Now that total is 30 million and growing. Every single business on Facebook wants to reach fans, but those people aren’t spending enough time on Facebook to account for the increased friend connections and pages to like.

Facebook, despite what you may think, is not decreasing reach just to mess with small businesses and non-profits. Facebook as a company has to continue to look appealing to shareholders, and therefore continue to become a serious advertising platform. If you’re marketing on Facebook like it’s 2011 and expecting to build an empire on rented land for free, you’re going to be angry about the drop in organic reach. If you’re marketing on Facebook like it’s 2014, you’ve gotten smarter about targeted advertising and are reaping the success of being ahead of your competitors.

However, trouble could be on the horizon. Just like how organic reach dropped considerably for pages, paid reach will likely suffer in the future as Facebook attracts more and more advertisers.

So then what? Diversify your plan and incorporate marketing of other social channels — utilizing, but not being completely reliant on Facebook.

Unlike display advertising, the nuts-and-bolts of Facebook advertising change rapidly and continually. It does take effort, time and money to build and grow your Facebook presence now. But people who are smart about utilizing Facebook know that it should be used in concert with other social channels — Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, or whatever makes the most sense for your business. Brands that build a targeted cross-channel strategy are the ones that succeed. Using Facebook as a crutch for lead generation or brand notoriety is like building your house directly over a fault line. The landscape has changed and will continue to change — you can either adapt or complain.

There’s still a lot that Facebook can do for your page for free, but if you’re looking for in-store sales or conversions, the new reality is that some form of intelligently planned and targeted advertising needs to be in your plans.

Readers: Agree or disagree?

Image courtesy of Juan Novakosky / Shutterstock.com.

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