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Facebook. Oh, Facebook.
A marketers dream. A marketers nightmare.
Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you have seen posts from pages saying ‘please like if you can see this’, or ‘naughty Facebook, not showing our posts to people’.

How many times have you seen comments from page admins moaning about how Facebook is ‘just trying to take my money’.
Yes?
I have. All too frequently.

I call it Facebook bashing.

Times have changed

Here’s the thing, times have changed. As businesses, we all know that to succeed and have a presence online, there’s places we need to be, and Facebook (for many of us, not all) is one of them. It’s no longer a place for individuals to throw sheep at each other; it’s a marketing platform.

As I’ve said before, the digital world is becoming an increasingly saturated marketplace with companies all vying for that precious little bit of screen time to engage with you, the audience, to promote/push/sell their product.
However, many people think that by setting up a Facebook page, they suddenly have access to millions of people who are all going to want to buy their product and that it’s all going to be magical and just happen in front of their eyes.

But let’s think about it. This is where it starts to go wrong. Having a Facebook page does not give you what you think it does unless you work at it. I won’t use the cliché ‘you get out what you put in’, but, you do.

I’m a member of many craft forums on Facebook and I often see people posting with little rants about how the posts on their pages reach only a few people and no-one comments. They often ask group members to pop over to their pages to have a look to give them some tips. A quick glance at many pages shows post after post of ‘For sale, £xx each’. A little while ago, Facebook changed its algorithm to filter out ‘overly promotional posts’, so just putting loads of pictures of items for sale isn’t going to make Facebook want to put you in front of people. You need to give your audience something to engage with.

And there it is. The magic word. Engagement.

You don't need to be a marketing expert

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to be a marketing expert with a full-on business plan and strategy to run a Facebook page for a small business, but a little bit of creativity and initiative goes a long way.

And, as for the ‘all Facebook wants is your money’ issue… Aaaargghhh! Well, yes… and no! Of course they want money, they’re a business after all. Of course they need a revenue stream, but this leads me on to my main bugbear… They’re (in my opinion) not a sinister organisation who are after every single penny you make, which is how I see many people refer to them, they’re there acting as a marketing platform from which YOU can run YOUR business.

Go and find another channel which has the reach and potential that Facebook has…. for free… Can you?

You have the choice to pay Facebook. They are not going to steal money from you. They’ll only take it if you offer it to them. You have the control.

You can run a successful page without a budget

You can run a successful page without a budget if you provide the right content. Trial and error will show you what works and what doesn’t. And, Facebook is actually quite good in giving you hints to help you.

Do you use your insights? Yes? Good. No? Make that the next thing you go and look at….

You’ll be able to identify your audience, see the demographics, where they’re located, what time they’re online as well as how individual posts have performed in terms of reach, clicks, comments and shares. Use this information to post when people are most like to see your posts. If you find simple text posts don’t perform that well, try using pictures. If you find pictures are doing ok, try using videos. Make your posts visually stimulating so people stop scrolling when they get to one of yours. Mix all this up with some shared viral content and a few random posts then that’s a good mix to get started with. Consider that your audience doesn't want to feel that they’re constantly being sold to.

Don’t forget the magic word of engagement. Talk to your audience, not at them. Ask them questions. Don’t forget, the way Facebook currently works is that if someone you know comments on a post, this may then appear in their friends’ feeds, so try and get as many people to like/comment as possible to increase your organic reach.
Have you considered running a competition? Don’t forget the Facebook rules for competitions and make sure you adhere to them to prevent having your wrists slapped, but it’s a great way to get your content noticed, to have a bit of fun, and to drive traffic to your page, and ultimately your website (if that’s your goal).

And all of this…. It’s free!

There are options to pay Facebook to show your content to more people, but as I’ve said, you’re in control. You can boost posts from as little as £1. Hardly bank-breaking.

So what do I do?

Let’s face it, I’ll never understand how the Facebook hamsters work, so I just do a mix of both.
I use my insights and try and make sure my posts go out at a time when I know the majority of my audience are online (hoorah for scheduling!). I make sure there’s more often than not a photograph attached, but better still, a video. Go for inline video, rather than a link. Facebook likes that!

I try and make conversation. As I’m sitting here writing, it’s pancake day, so later, I shall be posting asking people what they like on their pancakes. Absolutely nothing to do with sock monkeys, but there’ll be a picture (probably of a monkey work in progress and a pancake!), some text in the image and a question. This should drive some engagement and start a conversation.

I also like to share videos that I find of other crafts, be it sculpture, calligraphy or painting on a cookie. It keeps my audience interested and is very handy if I don’t have an update myself. Take Christmas for example. Many of my makes were presents and were personalised so I couldn’t share any photos. So, I after making this clear to my audience, I just found alternative content to share, and my page didn’t suffer at all for it.

Remember, even if you haven’t got anything to say, still have something to say.
I will also pay Facebook to boost posts every so often.
It may be that the page has been a little quiet, so I promote the page itself using Facebook’s targeting functionality. E.g. females in the UK, between 18-35, who have an interest in crafts and toys. I may also choose to boost an individual post. For example, if I’m going to run a competition, when I announce it, I boost it to my followers and their friends and then the competition entries just take care of themselves.

What have I learnt?

One of the main things I’ve learnt is that Facebook likes to keep you there. If you start pointing people to external websites, the reach tends to be lower, but if your content is within Facebook itself, happy days. As a result, I put more text into an image with a website (but bear in mind, Facebook doesn’t like to boost text heavy images). If I’m selling an item, I put the price in the image. A) it’s more eye-catching and, therefore, engaging and b) it allows me to more of a conversational theme to the actual text of the post. For this, I use the WordSwag app – a good piece of tech with loads of styles and themes and where you can use stock images as well as your own.
But that’s just me. You may find that the opposite works for you. As I’ve said, the hamsters are odd little creatures….

So you see… you get out what you put in.

Oh, I said it.

Oops.

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