In the last year, many businesses and individuals managing their Facebook campaigns contacted us. They shared their advertising experience and their ad management tactics, which were delivering satisfying results up until recently. In most cases, the “Invest $5 and hit $300 returns” method worked perfectly fine and we are not exaggerating here. It was literally possible to invest as low as $5 and sell products worth over $300. However, things have changed in the last couple of months and these days even $1000/day ad campaigns are not that prolific.
What on Earth happened?
In short, Facebook changed its algorithm. Some of you might remember that it all started in December 2013. If you are a new player, here’s what happened – before December 2013 pages on Facebook reached over 70% of their followers. This meant a lot of free traffic for website owners because just by having a popular Facebook Page, they could generate at least 300,000 visits per day.
Then, all of a sudden, the social media introduced its new rules. The new algorithm began showing page posts to a mere 10% from the page audience. Web media outlets were caught off-guard. Those who relied solely on Facebook saw their traffic plummet from 300,000 visitors to 20,000 visitors. As you see the difference is immense. We are not talking about a few percents here, FB traffic was reduced several times, which ultimately led to the demise of FB-based businesses. These companies, which had built their business on a platform that they cannot control went bankrupt. As simple as that.
Unfortunately, 2018 turned to be quite hard for Facebook as well. First, it was the whole Cambridge Analytica fiasco, which led to the controlling organs in the USA digging deeper into Facebook and the way it handles users data. Then this triggered a chain reaction, which saw advertising networks working with the social platform ceasing operations. Another crucial change came when Facebook gave its users the chance to decide whether they want to see personalized sponsored content or not. The new algorithm shows more posts from friends and relatives instead of promotional content and post from celebrities, fan pages, business pages, brands, etc.
To make things worse, ad pricing is not as transparent as it used to be. It is now difficult to estimate how many people we can reach be boosting a single post (regardless of the investment). After the recent changes, ad efficiency is estimated based on factors such as “reactions”, “number of people reached”, “interested” when speaking of promoted events and so on. The problem here is that it’s almost impossible to determine whether your ad investment is paying off or not. In other words, it is not exactly clear how you can estimate or predict the return of investment (ROI).
Why product lifespan matters?
We should take into consideration not only the changes Facebook introduced in 2018 but that fact that each an every product has a limited lifespan. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a website or something physical, products live their own lives – they rise, reach their peak and then demise. Facebook makes no exception to the rule. Despite that, the numbers tell a different story. Zuckerberg states that the number of active daily users is ever-rising but my advice is to read between the lines.
Everyone logging in Facebook counts as an active user and here is the catch – the platform detects when you log in other sites using your FB account and assumes you are an active user. Furthermore, Facebook owns Messenger and counts its active users as Facebook active users. This is undoubtedly the strongest hand of Mark Zuckerberg as Messenger is much more popular then other chat alternatives such as Viber, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Telegram, and MarcoPolo.
You have heard the saying that if you flirt long enough with data it will tell you exactly what you want to hear. I have seen how success turns into a failure (and vice versa) just to please the interest of the business owner. Accountants, financial experts, and statistics analysts know how to play with data and make it sound the way they want it to sound.
However, you should always take statistics with a grain of salt otherwise you can easily get fooled. Those thousands of people buying ads on Facebook tend to lose their connection with the real world. Their logic is that if traffic is up, then advertising should get more effective too. But it’s not how it works. If you currently make $300 with a $5 investment that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can make $300,000 with a $5000 investment six months later. It doesn’t happen because the rules of the game are not constant. They change by the day and neither math nor statistics can reverse that or give an accurate prognosis.
What is the solution?
I prefer to rely on experience. When I studied medical cybernetics we were often asked who is the better physician – the younger one, who graduated a year ago, has a bright mind, fresh up-to-date knowledge, is ambitious, has no hearing nor sight problems or the older one, who has some sight and hearing issues but a 40-year experience as well. In this paradox, the experience makes the difference, despite the fact that the younger physician seems like a better fit. When experience is by your side it helps you foresee the results, without even taking part in the game.
To prove my point, let get back to the 1990s. We were building websites back then and compared to modern-day technologies the 1990s were the Middle Ages. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about promotion, advertising, efficiency estimation tools, or tools in general, those were the times when everything sucked. Nevertheless, our websites were up and running because search engines indexed them and because they were listed on web directories. Naturally, the latter merged with the first, just because it is much easier to type search queries than scan endless directories. Undoubtedly, the driver of the change was the inception of Google in 1997 and its rise to prominence in the early 2000s.
We didn’t even know what was search engine optimization in the good ol’ days. In fact, nobody did SEO but everyone understood that if you are not on Google you virtually don’t exist. The phenomenon is that 18 years ago people realized things they are more likely to neglect today. Every corporation, online businesses, and every big fish we admire today place their bets on the premise that internet users will always search. Isn’t it in our blood to seek since the dawn of time?
Sit back and relax, let those numbers come in. According to data from Napoleoncat there are 3,400,000 Bulgarians aged 13+ on Facebook. Now take trolls out of the equation, take the illiterate out, the kids that hide their real age, remove business profiles and duplicate profiles as well. The number will surely fall below the 2,5 million mark. It is hard to tell how many of the real users are actually active and how much time they spend in the social media.
In contrast, Google.bg generates over 135,340,000 visits on a daily basis. The numbers surely exceed the population of Bulgaria but this is completely normal having in mind we use Google on smartphones, PC, tablets, laptops, smart TVs and so on.
There are over 2 trillion search queries on Google every month. To get an idea of how much that is, this is how the number looks like – 2,000,000,000,000,000,000. Fancy, ha? Is your business there? Are users reaching your website through Google? Actually, do you even have a website or you just have a Facebook page?
Some quick, yet effective solutions
Time is money they say. This is why I made up a short list of solutions for those of you who want to have a sustainable business model (read business, which can feed you and your family for over a decade).
- Have your own website
I know you can run a business on OLX, Facebook, Etsy, or other similar platforms but the thing is – you are dependent on someone else. What happens when Etsy decides to change its terms and conditions? What if Facebook thinks it is cool to have a commission on every sale you make? I will tell you what, you are out of the game and all of your efforts of building yourself a name go straight in the trash can.
If you are serious about your business and brand, a website is a must-have. You should not rely on supplementary channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. You must have your fair place on the internet and be able to do whatever the hell you want. My point is, a website makes you algorithm-resistant by a long shot. It is just unprofessional to base your business on a platform you cannot control, especially if your plan is to make this business long-term.
- Spend money on Search Engine Optimization
Some might say that if Google shuts down so does your company. So don’t we end up in the situation from point 1? No, we definitely don’t. Google isn’t the sole search engine on planet Earth and even if it disappears one day, there will be still Bing, Yandex, Yahoo, and hundreds of others. Because of that SEO is more than just optimizing for Google, it’s a long-term investment that pays off over time.
Me and my colleagues have been offering SEO subscription plans for years now and some of our clients rank #1 on Google for over 10 years in a row already. We have to admit that results don’t come quick but at least they are long-lasting and change-resistant. These websites ranked first on Google before Facebook came in, they still rank #1 and will continue to do so long after Facebook is dead and gone.
SEO is like training regularly. It keeps you fit, strong, and ready to overcome any obstacles coming your way. When you are in shape you don’t mind walking to work, jumping around with your children, or removing your furniture with your bare hands. In comparison, Facebook ads look more like weight loss pills. The results are almost immediate but in the long run, the effects are negative.
- Invest in search advertisement
Think of AdWords and its various alternatives across other search engines. Keep in mind that your ads in Facebook appear in the user news feed and most of the time they are not desired. I bet something similar has happened to you – you scroll through Facebook searching those photos from your best friend’s wedding and then you see an “appealing” advertisement offering you hemorrhoids treatment. To say that this is annoying would be a major understatement.
On the other hand, Google Ads shows customers exactly what they want to see because it displays offers based on searched keywords. That being said, if you are on a hunt for hemorrhoids treatment the chances are you would look for it on Google, not Facebook. I can’t emphasize hard enough that search ads are way more effective than Facebook ads. People are more likely to click on promoted search result than on promoted content on Facebook.
- Invest in your content
Search engine optimization is the first step entrepreneurs take after launching a website. Google AdWords naturally comes second but if there is no content on your website, these steps are unlikely to bring the desired result. Plus, if there is no text describing who are you and what you are doing, how are you going to optimize anyway? Additionally, an online store with no product descriptions is not trustworthy, meaning customers are not going to spend their money on something which lacks even some basic information.
- Self-treatment is halting you from growing
My father is a pharmacist and since I was a child I grew up with the doctrine that self-treatment equals poisoning, because the dosage makes the poison. More and more people intake drugs without prescriptions. Some even take antibiotics when they have a virus infection, which is not only pointless but it may also lead to long-term damages.
The same goes for repairing your car, fixing your fridge, or painting your house alone. It does the trick but it is not perfect either. The key to success is to rely on professionals regardless of what we are talking about. You know the saying, “Jack of all trades and master of none”, don’t you?
And no, I’m not trying to sell you my service here. My point is that life is easier when you let specialists do their work properly. Everyone is good at their own field and we should embrace that. We should better utilize our core strengths than trying to solve everything individually.