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Who Says Facebook Has to Play Fair?

The Wall Street Journal published a piece last week called “For Small Business: What’s a Facebook  Follower Worth?” The author talks with a small business owner who says that Facebook is devaluing the worth of his followers with their Promoted Post option.

Mr. Bishop, a caterer, says he can’t afford to pay to promote every one of his 35 posts a week, so only a portion of his followers are seeing all of his messages in their time line. Since he can’t communicate with every fan on every post, the value of his pool of followers is lower than it used to be.

Lindsay Gonzales of Making Memories Photography said she wasn’t even aware that only some of her posts were being pushed to the fan feeds. Now that she knows, her position on paying to promote?

“It’s a waste of money because even if you pay they still regulate who sees your posts,”

The article likens the situation to a “bait and switch” con – they pull you in with the allure of “free” pages then hit you up with fees in order to reach your audience. How is that fair?

Let me answer my own question. First off, Facebook (or any social media site) is under no obligation to provide any service free of charge. We’re grown so used to having free reign on the internet, it’s become expected. I know hundreds of small business owners who still use free services such as Blogger rather than pay a nominal amount for their own website. They say they can’t afford it, but it should be part of the cost of doing business.

You pay rent for a space in the real world, why should you get space on the internet for free?

Now here’s Facebook trying to pick up some revenue by offering businesses a way to up their visibility. How is that wrong? Is it tough on the small business? Maybe. But remember that Promoted Posts charge on a sliding scale, so Coca Cola has to pay more to reach all of their followers than a small artisan cheese company would pay to reach theirs.

The real problem is not Facebook’s methodology but the results. You pay to promote a post and see that 73% of your audience got the message. Great, but how does that translate into dollars and cents? If you promoted a deal and only three people click-through to buy the item, then you probably wasted your money.

Bottom line is that Facebook is a gamble. Even the “free” pages cost you time and effort to maintain. Facebook ads are unpredictable and Promoted Posts might gain you some extra visibility but no added revenue. But what did you expect from an outlet that you don’t control?

What happens if tomorrow, Facebook decides to charge for business pages? Would you stay on for $50 a month? If not, your page is gone with all the posts and the followers. You don’t have contact info outside of Facebook for those people do you?

Look, Facebook is going to do what they want to do. And as long as you’re using their pages free of charge, you can’t really complain about the lack of service. Just roll with the punches, do what you can and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a few customers in return for the effort. You can ask for more than that, but chances are you won’t get it.