I’ve seen many posts over the past few months proclaiming that businesses shouldn’t touch social media (such as Facebook or Twitter) with a ten foot pole.
This advice couldn’t be more misguided. In terms of selling online, I know of people consistently averaging 10x returns from Facebook ads and I don’t know how we at Hello Pretty would have grown our own company without it.
Some of the people advising against Facebook or Twitter don’t have accounts themselves or simply don’t understand online conversion rates. In many cases their arguments are sound, but founded on faulty premises.
The disclaimer for this post is that my most recent experience is in the South African eCommerce market. Mileage will vary in other markets or demographics.
It’s easy to hate on Facebook or Twitter, and people regularly do for all sorts of great reasons (for example: harbouring terrorists, irrelevant and obnoxious ads, and worst of all they can be a haven for photos of breast feeding mothers). One of the most valid concerns when it comes to using any new platform to help build your business is that the goal posts are constantly moving.
When we started marketing on Facebook, we focused on gaining page likes. Three years ago this made sense. With something like Google AdWords, when you stop paying for traffic, you stop getting traffic. With Facebook, you could stop paying but you’d still have the audience to feed posts to. The only cost to getting views on your content after you had the audience, was the time it takes to create new posts.
Shortly after we’d gained a solid fan base of 10K+ likes, Facebook changed the rules!
Suddenly Facebook only put content from company pages into a tiny subset of your fans’ streams. Unless, of course, you paid them to promote (now called boosting) the post. How dare they!
People were outraged by this change (still are), but what a lot of people seemed to forget is that they’re running a business. Facebook is a business. Why should Facebook give them marketing for free? If you want to advertise your business, why is it so surprising that you need to pay for it? Yet many businesses still refuse to spend a cent on online services other than the overheads to get online in the first place (for example, website hosting).
One post I saw a while back that was shared quite a bit is this article on The Atlantic. The author sought to prove that Twitter isn’t worth your time. He tested this by looking at the click through rate of some of his articles, seeing a measly 1.7% click-through to his article, and extrapolating that Twitter is only 1% useful, and 99% a waste.
Alas, my most popular tweets averaged a click-through rate of about 1.7 percent, still quite near the rate of conversions on flash-media East Asian display ads.
A 1.7% click-through may seem bad at first glance, but this is the Internet. The Internet doesn’t work like the physical world. At best, everyone is a window shopper.
A 1–2% conversion rate isn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things, particularly if you haven’t tried to optimize things yet.
On our marketplace we get a conversion rate of between 1.5–2.5% depending on the time of year (there are, of course, plenty of things we can do to still grow that, but that’s what it is). If you’re a physical shop owner, imagine what would happen if only 1 person out of every 50 that entered your shop actually made a purchase. You’d be out of business in a month.
I told him I had created something that 150,000 people had seen, 9,000 people had interacted with, and just 1,500 had followed to our site to actually read. (So, 99 percent of my labor on Twitter went to Twitter, and 1 percent went to The Atlantic. That’s not a very good deal for our boss!)
How much did you pay for those 1500 clicks? If you were paying for Google AdWords as many people do, those 1500 clicks could have easily cost you between $400 — $1500+. So I’d say this was an amazing ROI. And this isn’t even going into the value the brand gets with those 9000 interactions.
That this opinion exists at all shows a failure on Twitter’s part to manage users’ expectations. This author is actually getting a solid deal. It isn’t accurate that twitter isn’t useful; the issue is that many people don’t realize that the digital world works differently to the physical world. There are lower attention spans and lower conversion rates. But they still offer value.
Last month @rodrigotellom wrote a good article arguing against the use of Facebook. His argument is that you shouldn’t use Facebook because you have no influence over who sees your content.
The crux of his argument is:
If you pay to promote your content, Facebook will put you in front of people that are willing to Like your Page. But once that happens, those people also like more pages and you become a smaller percentage in their liked rack.
Nothing in the article is untrue, but his solution to building a relevant following isn’t particularly useful either (and since it’s out of context in my article, he is being sarcastic):
I don’t f**king know, that’s your job! It’s your product/company/group/rock band/football team/fundraising campaign/etc.
The Problem With This Argument
All of the points in the article also apply to every single 3rd party platform you use (including Medium). The platform (and it’s algorithms) controls who sees your content and who doesn’t. They can also cut you off whenever they want and aren’t obligated to give you a reason.
A solution he offers it to go out and “start talking to real people where they hang out”. This isn’t a reasonable strategy if you want to scale your business. It’s certainly a good way to get started (and we actually did this when we started our business), but you quickly hit a cap on how many people you can reach.
So build your audience with 3rd party tools and platforms
Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, the Apple App Store, whatever makes sense for your business. At the same time, be aware of the consequences and have a disaster plan in the event that you get cut off. Using these these tools puts you at the mercy of the company in question. If your revenue and traffic depend on a third party , it’s vital to have a Plan B.
If you refuse to use a third party platform because you “hate Facebook”, or feel that the proper audience should just “find you because you’re good”, or because you’ve “heard that Google Ads don’t work anymore” or whatever, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice. Research these tools and platforms, and try them. Spend a bit of money on advertising. You should be able to figure out if something will work for you for less than a few hundred dollars. You will find something that works for your business.
With that said… perhaps just stay away from advertising on any of these platforms, because then my content will reach more people and my costs will stay low :).
Autor: Scott Hadfield
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