This blog post is provocatively titled, but it’s not meant to be sensational. Efforts to use Facebook and other social media to promote your small business may be misplaced, and you may be better off investing your time and money elsewhere. In this post, I want to explain what’s happening and suggest what you should be doing instead as a small business owner.
Facebook recently announced that starting in mid-January they will reduce the reach of posts from their businesses to their fans that they deem “overly promotional.” Fast Company also published an article talking about new research that suggests that businesses that make Facebook and Twitter the center of their customer engagement efforts may be wasting their time. They cite a recent Forrester Research study that showed top brands on Facebook and Twitter are reaching only 2% of their fans, and only 0.07% of followers actually interact with each post. Even on our Fivestars Facebook Page, we’re really only reaching about 6% of our fans on average with each post.
In 2012, I wrote a post on my personal blog about how I felt that social media has let down local businesses. It was a controversial and bold statement at the time, when everyone was talking about social. I still stand by the statement but modify it if a local business owner is savvy enough to use some of the targeted paid advertising options that Facebook has introduced. Facebook is rapidly becoming the best direct marketing channel on the planet, which is great for direct marketers like myself, but for most busy small business owners, this isn’t what they signed up for.
So what should small business owners do if they’re not reaching people with their social media posts? Here’s what I recommend:
- Build your own customer database (names, phone numbers, emails).
- The easiest way is to build your database is with a digital rewards program.
- If you pick the right platform, you’ll be able to reach over 90% of your “fans”.
With Fivestars, over 90% of your customers will see your promotional messages, and 10% of them will buy after seeing the message. It’s a great alternative for any business trying to engage their customers. Once customers sign up for Fivestars, AutoPilot kicks in, and we can double the rate that your customers come back in.
But what about Facebook? Should small business owners abandon it completely as this author advocates? In terms of social media, the posts that are still getting reach on Facebook are ones that are generated by your own users. If you can get your customers to “check-in” or to tag your business on Facebook, those posts still can generate a ton of reach and word of mouth for your business, but if you still want to use your Page to reach your fans, you’ll have to pay to get the reach and engagement you want.
Social media is indeed losing relevance to local business owners, but customer engagement is not. Build your own customer database, so you can keep engaging your customers after they leave your store.