Although Facebook has claimed to be on the side of small to midsize businesses (SMBs), it seems to be only on their side if they want to pay to play. Starting in January 2015, the social media giant plans to crack down on small businesses that promote marketing content in free Facebook posts.
The move will help filter out marketing posts from users’ feeds, but it will also hurt those small mom-and-pop shops and entrepreneurial ventures that, as startups, can’t readily afford to shell out thousands of dollars to advertise sales and marketing promotions to customers on Facebook. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dan Levy, vice president of small business for Facebook, feels their pain:
He says he has ‘a lot of empathy’ for business owners who ‘are feeling this evolution’ in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. ‘Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,’ he says. ‘We don’t want them to spend any dollar with us unless it’s doing something spectacular to help them grow their business.’
And though it’s true that having a Facebook presence is better than not having one at all, losing the ability to reach consumers without paying the big advertising fees may still damage online marketing for many startups and small businesses.
However, Justin Draplin, co-founder of Superfly Kids in Livonia, Mich., told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook is but one part of his marketing plan, and it’s not the largest part. Superfly Kids “has more than $2 million in annual revenue,” but hasn’t been able to “monetize either its 9,044 Facebook fans or its Facebook page.” Instead, the small business casts the bulk of its marketing money toward improving its SEO ranking on Google.
Another option might be a new software tool called Likeable Local Pro, which was created to “combat Facebook’s imminent algorithm change in January 2015 that will force businesses who want to reach their customers and prospects on Facebook to pay for advertising.” The company claims that the software tool can help smaller businesses build “a more customizable experience” for clients. Though the tool still costs money, the company feels that it is better spent than on just Facebook ads alone:
… Clients will receive personalized business strategy and consulting sessions, additional Facebook advertising spending, customized and branded content, expanded social network support, and blogging features. These will enhance the components innate to Likeable Local's software for small businesses, including listening tools, vertical-specific content publisher, Turbopost™ social ad technology, mobile web profiles, analytics tools, and offline marketing kits.
Some seem to hang their hopes on Facebook changing its mind about the upcoming ad algorithm change. But ValueWalk predicts that some small businesses could walk away from the social network altogether:
It’s not clear why Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) took this step, but recently the company has made a great deal of changes in its advertising policies. Although Facebook remains the preferred network for businesses, big or small, to promote their content, advertisers might ditch the social networking site if its aggressive advertising policies continue.
Then again, would ditching one of the biggest social networking sites completely be the best business decision? I say probably not.