What is Facebook Good For?

By Jonathan Goodman | Follow Him on Twitter

viral marketingOver a month has passed since Facebook introduced “promoted posts” and I have kept my mouth shut. Instead of rushing to city hall with a pitchfork and calling for Zuckerberg’s head I sat back and analyzed the situation. After watching all the dumb stuff that’s happened since then it’s time I break my silence.

I believe that everyone complaining about the changes Facebook has made are one of the following: uninformed, misinformed, whiny, or lazy.

There’s a common theme that’s emerged with Facebook page owners that they act without thinking. If you have never checked your stats you have no right to be appalled that Facebook had diabolically changed their algorithm to show your material to 10% of users. If you did check your stats you would know that nothing had changed. The argument was that the users had already opted in to see their material and now Facebook was charging page owners to show material to their own fans. So let me get this straight, people were upset because Facebook had developed a system whereby, with very little effort and money, businesses could specifically find and target their ideal customers with ads? And now they’re charging for it? That’s terrible.

Well yeah that’s the case if your Edgerank scores are low because nobody cares to interact on your page. Consider email marketing whereby a good open rate for a message is 30% but if you do a bad job at creating a relationship with your list less than you are probably looking at less than a 10% open rate.

Facebook didn’t change recently. Edgerank was developed to deal with the massive clusterfuck of information that was jamming up our feeds. It’s an attempt to figure out who and what we want to listen to. If you want more people to see your posts then take the time to become relevant to them. It takes a considerable amount of effort. Viral marketing doesn’t happen by accident. Setting a spark, no matter how big it is, won’t set off a fire unless the wood is placed properly.

Instead of considering the problem at hand and weighing their options, many page owners frantically made rash decisions without considering the potential implications or just how bad it might make them look. The first of such examples was the sharing of this picture:viral marketing, facebook marketing

Then a couple days later they saw another image in their feeds. And, once again, they rushed to share it. It looked like this:

viral marketing, facebook marketing

I didn’t share either of these images and the interaction, fans, and my sales have steadily increased amid this turmoil. My posts also get seen by an average of 25-40% of page users. The reason for not sharing these images was calculated.

The most successful Facebook pages are not set up as business pages even though they may act like one. They are pages where like-minded people can go and hang out and share a common interest. The page owner is either a brand or industry celebrity who facilitates the process in the name of fun and community, not business.

So these pictures were met mostly with apathy, which are how most marketing messages are met that ask people to perform an action without any intrinsic or extrinsic reward. I also felt the posts appeared intrusive and, worst of all, skewed the view of the page. The exceptions to this rule are pages where a real community had already been built and there aren’t many. (Congratulations George Takei, you made the list.)

In asking people to add a page to their interests lists I felt it was telling them that they are a customer and I am a business. We’re not here to hang out, I’m here to sell you something. While that’s obviously the case it’s important to maintain the sense of community. When people feel they are being marketed to they put up walls — walls that are hard to break.

Why do you feel as if Facebook owes you something?

Even before it was a public company it was built as a business. That business was to provide a social network as a way of collecting information; the information is then sold to a third party who proceeds to sell it back to advertising platforms like Google.

The issue was that Facebook made you feel like you were entitled to its usage because it’s your network with your loved ones. But the network is proprietary and it’s simply a means of connecting you with people. If it were never around you wouldn’t miss it. But now that part of what you mistakenly believe is owed to you is being taken away or charged for you have gotten angry.

It has made you lazy in your attempts to market. People go to school for years to understand the psychology of customers and the behavioral economics principles that drive action. Yet you feel that, because you have a Facebook page, you are marketing effectively because of the ease of creating a message and sending it out — crickets, it’s not easy. Messages must be intelligently composed, pictures should be crafted carefully, and sales funnels should be fully developed to gather and convert the leads that result.

Posting a cute picture of a cat is not marketing. It worked for a while but times have changed. The gravy train has passed and you should have seen it coming. Effective marketing requires money and creativity.

Facebook is not a democracy and it doesn’t care about you. It’s proprietary software built for a purpose and can change whenever it pleases. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Relying on proprietary software is asinine. You focus is not to get a lot of “likes”, your focus is to sell stuff. But Facebook is good for one thing and that one thing is the most powerful marketing medium available to us today.

What is Facebook good for?

I love Facebook unabashedly. But if Facebook weren’t around I wouldn’t miss it. This is because I understand why people use Facebook and how to get my leads off of there onto my own email marketing software.

Perhaps the biggest benefit that Facebook has as a marketing tool is that it makes it easy to identify and build relationships with people who have similar interests to you. The purpose of your page is not to educate or inform. The purpose of your page is to gather an audience and intrigue them enough so that they want to opt-into your marketing funnel.

This is done with interesting content that is short and easily absorbed. It’s most effective if you take a controversial subject and argue the one side that you know the majority of your existing users sit. You can do this jokingly with a meme or more serious in a status update. For example if you’re in the fitness world talk about your one-sided opinion on: CrossFit, Intermittent fasting, Paleo, or those dopey toe shoes. Don’t educate on both sides of the equation because Facebook isn’t a place for education. Being controversial gathers an audience and education comes later, when they have already opted in for more information.

Users do not log onto Facebook to be educated or sold. They come to Facebook as a gathering place, to interact, and to find interesting information.

Your goal should not be to build your Facebook page; it is to develop leads and get them off of Facebook as soon as possible. A Facebook page with 500 “likes” where the page owner has 500 targeted emails is more valuable than a page with 10,000 “likes” where the owner doesn’t own a single email. Facebook could squash you tomorrow and your business is ruined. This already happened by the way, remember the now defunct Facebook groups?

So please stop asking me to “like” your page, instead give me a reason to like it.


“To say that content is king in entertainment when it comes to social media therefore misses half the point. You need content, yes, but it has to reflect the collective sensibilities of the fans, not just the imperatives or tastes of the entertainer. [...] most simply people don’t care about the 10k race you just sponsored. Instead, I’d prefer to put up a picture of a kid running it with prosthetic legs, and make that the focal point of the post.” – George Takei