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Paid Promotions: Has Facebook Turned into the Grinch?

Has Facebook Turned into the Grinch?
By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

As you know, your comments on Facebook (for both your Personal Accounts and Professional Pages) do NOT go out to all of your followers. In other words, if you share important updates or news on Facebook, only a fraction of friends and followers will actually have that update show up in their news feed. (If this is new information to you, go HERE to read all about it!)

Yes, this Facebook phenomena has long troubled me. But like everyone else, I've been helpless to change the downward spiral of Facebook's way of doing things.

What has become apparent over the past couple of years with the severe limitations in comment reach is that Facebook wants to make money. Their goal is to get people to PAY to "promote" or "boost" their comments (and yes, this is true even on your personal page!).

I've accepted that. And for the most part, I don't pay Facebook to promote any comments to my hard-earned followers (who by the way, follow me willingly and actually want to see my updates but usually don't realize they're not seeing them because of Facebook's stingy posting method).

Recently, however, my publisher put the ebook for A Noble Groom on sale for $3.49 during December (which is a good deal since the ebook is usually $9.99). I wanted my followers and friends to be aware of the sale and be able to get the book at the really good deal.

So I broke down and decided to pay for a Facebook comment boost.

I have over 5300 followers on my Page. So as I browsed through the costs of boosting a post, I picked a promotion I thought would reach the majority of my followers. I decided the $20 promotion would reach up to 6,400 people versus the $5 promotion which would only go to a maximum of 2,100 people.

Here's the promotion I picked:
 

Here's the 'boosted' comment I posted on Facebook:

So how did the promotion work?

TERRIBLE!!

The boosted post only reached 1738 people. When I paid the $20.00 I was under the impression that I would AT LEAST get within the range specified (2400-6400). Not only did it fall short, but it didn't even come close to reaching all my 5300 followers. The reach of 1,738 was in the range of the $5 promotion.

Here are the results:

I was REALLY disappointed. I felt like I wasted $20.00. Because the truth is, the boosted post didn't do ANY better than my usual posts. Most of the normal comments I make on my Page reach that many people or more.

Of course, I sent a complaint to Facebook about what happened and asked them either for a refund or to increase the reach of the promotion. I have to give them credit for responding within the day of my complaint. But I was extremely disappointed (again!) with how they handled the whole issue.

Here's how Facebook responded to my complaint:

"We appreciate you letting us know about the discrepancy you've been seeing between estimated and actual reach. We're aware of this issue and are working to make our reach estimates more accurate.

The reach you see when you promote your post is an estimate, not a guarantee. Your promotion may be seen by more or less people than indicated originally, but you'll only be charged for the actual reach of your promotion. 

We apologize for the confusion and appreciate your patience as we continue to improve our reach estimates.

I reviewed the details of your campaign to confirm that all advertising services you were charged for met the conditions you selected when you placed your ad. After reviewing your account I can see that your ads were delivered as requested, so we can't offer you a refund at this time." (Emphasis mine)

So, in summary, I was NOT given a refund. The post was NOT promoted to the range that they originally said. I was NOT just "charged for the actual reach" of my promotion. I was basically given an apology for the "confusion" but told it's MY fault and that I have to live with it.

Recently, I've had a slew of awesome customer service. I had to call Audible about a missing credit, and they responded positively and immediately. I was SUPER impressed with how they handled the problem.

I also had to return a song on iTunes because it wasn't what I expected. And even though I didn't talk to anyone live, they responded positively and immediately also, without ANY questions or haggling.

In light of such positive experiences, I'm not only frustrated with the stingy way Facebook boosted my paid post, but I'm also incredibly frustrated in how they responded to my complaint.

Shouldn't Facebook be in the business of making happy customers who want to continue using their services? If they have confusing advertising, shouldn't they go out of their way to correct their mistakes? If they give a range, shouldn't they try to promote it to the middle or high end? Why not be generous? How would that hurt them?

Maybe bigger companies and corporations have better luck with Facebook Paid Promotions because they can put more money behind the promotion. But if Facebook is offering lower costing promotions to those of us who have small businesses (like authors), then I for one think they need to be fair, don't you?

I'm sorry to say, that Facebook reminds me of the Grinch. And a very stingy Grinch at that.

What's your Facebook experience been like lately? Have you paid for a promotion of a comment? How did it work for you?

P.S. I've posted my annual Christmas Letter over on my family blog: Hedlund Happenings. I invite you to stop by for a personal glimpse of my family and life! In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas! I'll be taking a short blogging vacation. See you back here on Tuesday, January 6th!

53 comments:

  1. This is why I don't like FB. When I friend or like a page, I do it because I expect updates. What's the point of doing that if we see nothing...unless the person wants to pay for me to POSSIBLY see it? I did one of their paid advertisements (I think it was for likes) and stopped it after a few hours when I realized it was useless. Besides, I usually ignore those promotions so why would I expect everyone else to be different?

    In short, FB sucks.

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  2. I've been hearing a lot of complaints about this recently. As a Facebook user, I find it very frustrating. I follow people/pages to see their posts, not to have Facebook hide them from me. (I follow you, and didn't see this post, which is rather disappointing. Instead, I came here from Twitter.)

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  3. I have a page with more than 8000 followers, but with free posts I can reach about 7-15, while with paid posts, Facebook is reaching me bots with zero activity. In the past I used the regularly, but now after Facebook has turned very unethical, I won't pay for FB posts again. I just started an IndieGogo Campaign, but I can't reach any of my followers, while I based my initial marketing on that. And I can't reach them even with paid promotions. And what is worse, Facebook is not even willing to respond, while they simply took my money, while they didn't deliver anything at all. So I also wrote to the F.B.I. as what Facebook is now doing is fraud and scam services. First they're deliberately restricting your visibility to force you to pay for services, then they simply don't deliver, or worse, showing your posts to inactive bots. And not I'm the only one who have experienced this. A friend has a page with 700k followers, he has invested thousands into advertisement, but lately all his page interaction was dropped by 88%+, regardless how much he is paying. In my case they simply screwed the launch of my crowdfunding campaign.

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  4. Okay… I'm so glad you wrote this honest post about Facebook, because I'm afraid everyone I know is just letting this happen and is scared to hold FB responsible for being a really pathetic site to do business on. I, too, paid for an ad recently. WASTE OF MONEY!

    My solution? I'm learning how to use Google+. And I REALLY REALLY love it. There are so many more awesome features over there, but… NO ONE IS ON IT!! I told my husband about my new crazy campaign idea to get people to come over to G+, and he had this really smart thing to say… "No one's on there (G+) because no one's on there."

    How do we get people to move over to a better site? We have to go there and start interacting with people there. Guess what? I've made new friends on G+. It's a prettier site. It's organized WAY better. You can organize your private page posts by categories. VERY COOL!

    Anyway… I know G+ isn't the perfect answer to FB, but it's frustrating to put time into a social media site if the people you hope to reach aren't seeing the content you expected to offer for free!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right about G+, Heather. I got on it, rather than FB, when it first came out. Then my agent said I need to be on FB. The problem is that readers I want to reach are not willing to go to G+ because they don't want/need another social media site similar to FB. It's a catch-22 and I'm not sure what the solution is. If you find one, let me know. :)

      Helpful post, Jody.

      Delete
    2. I use G+ all the time, Heather!! I love it!! It's visually better and so easy to use. Plus my posts help my author name SEO! Win-win!!

      Delete
    3. Heather, just for grins, I just clicked through to your website and your contact page doesn't have your Google+ link. I think if we all make an effort to connect on Google+, we can drive traffic there, and get our fans to join us. More activity on your Google+ page will boost your rank in searches, so it's really worthwhile to put an effort into it. Jill, I agree 100%!

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  5. I ran a FB ad just last week. It was the first time I'd ever tried it, but Amazon chose one of my books to be part of their Kindle Big Deal promotion so I thought it was a good time to see if utilizing FB would help get the word out. I originally tried to boost a post like you did, but the post included a small graphic I made about the KBD and FB kicked it out as having "too much text." I found it interesting that they went ahead and charged me for the 1,700 or so people who saw it before they told me I couldn't run it. (That cost me about $7.00, by the way.) So I decided to use their Create an Ad service, and set my total maximum budget for one week for $30.00 with ads to run in newsfeed and in the right-hand column. I set my objective as having people click to the book's Amazon page to find out more information, and targeted women over 21 who expressed interest in reading and ebooks. The ad wasn't splashy or jarring, just the book cover and a simple, short description of the Amazon promotion. According to FB, in that week the ad reached over 17,000 people. And by reached, I assume they mean it showed up on user's FB feed. The right-hand column ad reached over 12,000 people but received no interaction at all - no clicks, etc. The newsfeed ad reached over 5,000 people. 100 of those people clicked on the ad, and 85 of them clicked through to the book's Amazon page. So I suppose running the ad did what I wanted it to do, which was create interest in the book. But I will say that I cringed all week, feeling like I was spamming unwary FB users. :)

    After reading about your experience with boosting posts to the people who already follow my page, I won't be utilizing that option. But it is so frustrating that people who have clicked "Like" on my page aren't allowed by FB to see my posts.

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  6. I see absolutely no traffic from my FB page. I keep thinking about deleting it. Thank you all for sharing your experiences.

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  7. As a consumer, I agree with your decision not to use FB promotion ads. For the most part, I do get most of your posts, and those I miss, I get to it either via twitter or my sister sharing a post. Sharing I think may be the key to getting other people onto your page. It's taken me some time to understand the purpose of sharing, and now I perhaps share too much, but I want people to take notice of a particular page that I think may hold some interest.

    Twitter is my other most common medium for social communication. I don't tweet much, other than to just get information about products, links or to tweet a review of a book. But, I do depend on it for news, more so than FB.

    Google+. I have it, but I don't completely understand it. Perhaps that is a medium where I need to delve into more deeply to understand and process. Perhaps, as some one mentioned above, is a social platform that maybe should be explored. I do know that there does seem to be a push towards Google+ (I've noticed that on twitter).

    But back to my original thoughts. I don't think you should have to "pay" to get your comments promoted on FB. There has to be better ways, and in turn...I will do a better job at sharing what you have posted and have to offer.

    Good luck with your future book sales!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you SO much for your willingness to help promote and share posts! That's SUCH an incredible help! Bless you! :-)

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  8. Jody, thanks for sharing your experiences.

    I've heard that Goodreads is a great place for writers to advertise. If you've done that, I'd love to hear how it worked or hear from someone who has used them.

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    Replies
    1. Sally, my publisher has done the small Goodreads ads that show up far down in the sidebars and look a lot like the Facebook ads. They aren't very effective, according to the stats my publisher has with them. I encouraged my publisher to consider the bigger, flashier ads that you see more toward the top of your Goodreads page. Those tend to draw my attention. But I haven't done an ad like that yet, and my publisher hasn't yet either. I'm sure they're much more costly! But probably more effective.

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  9. My experience also seemed like a waste of time - I think I got one click on my ad. What a waste, but at least I only spent a few bucks. The Goodreads giveaway I'm doing now is likely doing a lot more for me.

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  10. I didn't see your original post, but I did see this one. And I'm glad I did! I'll have to go snatch that up while the price is low.

    I do find it interesting (possibly ironic) that Facebook didn't let me see the post you paid them to promote, but they did let me see the post with the complaint about how they didn't promote it. :-)

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Jody! I'm frustrated with FB. All year my reach has declined. Plus it's just not as functional as I would like. But, everyone is there so I stay! I really enjoy Google+. It didn't make sense to me at first, but it's such a visual site, I can't help but enjoy it! :)

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  12. This isn't the first I've heard of Facebook's promoted posts system letting users down. By far, the best thing to do seems to be to advise any followers to set their own news feed to make sure they're viewing all posts you make.

    Hopefully Facebook will eventually see that their current practices are leaving people dissatisfied. In the meantime, I'm glad I still use my personal profile, rather than my author page, for promotion.

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  13. Thank you, Jody, for posting about your FB promotion experience.

    I've been considering trying the FB promotion, but haven't quite convinced myself, yet, that it's a good idea. After reading your experience, I think I'll hold off.


    Thanks and have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

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  14. Thanks Jody Hedlund for posting this and getting the conversation rolling. I've often wondered about those ads and whether or not they worked.

    Thanks everyone who commented as well. I've learned a lot from rrading today's blog, and I think I'm going to look seriously into Google+. More and more it's starting to sound like a better place than Facebook.

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  15. I ran an ad that was supposed to reach 220,000. Instead, they showed it to the same 72,000 over 21.4 each. How were you able to complain? I posted in the community, emailed Facebook through ad words, and I even promoted my complaint, lol.
    I've also been informed that they count ad blocker reaches as a reach, and bot clicks as clicks.
    Right now their practices are very deceptive.

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    Replies
    1. Lisa there was an option in the results area that allowed me to provide feedback. I sent them an email complaint, and then they sent me an email back.

      Delete
  16. I'm sorry that you had a negative experience on Facebook; you should've gotten the full experience for the money you paid. I never joined Facebook; I still don't entirely understand what it's for. But then again I'm always behind the times when it comes to stuff like that. I didn't even get an iPod until years after people were buying them.

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  17. I've wondered about the promotions and if they were really worth it. I'm sorry you had to be the one to find this out! Appreciate hearing about your experience, though.

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  18. I think it's unrealistic to expect Facebook to show all of your posts to all of your fans all of the time. That would assume they check FB everyday, and they don't. That assumes they want to see ALL of your content (some people don't click on links, some hate photos), and it assumes that all of your fans are online when you are. Of course FB can't guarantee a reach - even if all of those pieces align and your engaged fan is online when you are and interested in that type of content, FB has now way of proving whether they 'saw' it.

    That Boost Post button is the FB easy button. FB will happily take your money - just like many other businesses. It is a business. Promoting a post through the ad creator or if you're a Chrome user through Power Editor will give you much better customization and chance at success.

    I recommend following FB ad experts like Jon Loomer Digital, Amy Porterfield, or Mari Smith. They give away a ton of advice for free - easily enough to make one an intermediate FB advertiser.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thank you for your informed thoughts. Unfortunately, I think most writers are in the same position as me, we don't have the time to become intermediate FB advertisers. Facebook shouldn't require interpretation for the average user. In my opinion it should be simple enough for the smallest business owner (like myself) to use without hassle. I personally think FB has some changes to make to move into the direction.

      Delete
  19. I feel the same way about FB. One thing we've discovered is that if you have a group of friends who can like and comment on a post you want everyone to see on FB - that's seems to be very effective in making the post visible. And it costs nothing. :)

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  20. But unlike the Grinch I don't think FB's heart is going to grow three sizes....their pockets might though.

    Thanks for posting this.

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  21. Imagine how "far" your reach would have been if you'd just gone for the $5 plan . . .

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  22. (BTW, hope you don't mind that I've linked to this both on Twitter and the Musa Publishing--where I have my book--author site. Thought about posting it on FB too but I'm not sure it would last long there.)

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    Replies
    1. Oh, I don't mind at all! The more people we can reach with the news of FB's stingy practices the better! If we all start complaining, maybe they'll start to stand up and take notice! We can dream, can't we? ;-)

      Delete
  23. The only way I've found, as a consumer, that I see what I want from those less-prominent figures (than say, George Takei) is to receive notifications from any of them I care for. I have a handful of authors I follow, and for each one I check the option to receive notifications, because otherwise, I almost never see the most interesting things they post. I found out about a book giveaway through my brother recently (and received one!), but it never appeared on my news feed.

    The only way to really help that with facebook is to encourage your followers to choose to receive notifications - it might be a little spammy if you have a FB-heavy day, but those who do it will feel better for really being able to hear from you.

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  24. I've used facebook ads on two separate occasions, the first went fairly well and I boosted the likes and view of my page by quite a bit. That was over a year ago. Over the Black Friday weekend I decided to advertise a sale I was having in my etsy shop and being a cheapskate chose the $5 option, But I also picked the pay per click version, that way I would only pay per person who actually clicked on my add. What actually happened is that I paid $5 for the 1, yes 1, person who clicked on my add. So not impressed. Maybe I should have had a better ad, but at $5 a click I couldn't afford it.

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  25. I use FB to boost each of my books when they release. It nets me a few sales, but never even comes close to paying for my ad. I don't bother much w/my FB author page anymore. Why? Only a fraction of my 2500 fans ever see what I post. For what it's worth, none of the PPC ads work other than to line the pockets of businesses like Google and FB. I have a GR ad running now, which is even worse since I had to pay for it all up front. It's doing nothing and I tried to get a refund, but was told I could "roll the excess" into another ad campaign. Really? Gosh, thanks so much GR, that's now owned by FB. What makes them think a second ad campaign would work any better than the first one.
    If we all boycotted them, maybe they'd come up with something more customer friendly.

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  26. I didn't realize until yesterday that even my personal page wasn't being seen. So frustrating. Facebook's business model is awful. You offer PREMIUM services for money, but not the same services you've been offering for years. Sounds like utter greed to me. I just want to see the updates I signed up for! Thankfully, Facebook doesn't rule my world. lol

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  27. Nice post it it.I feel the same way about Facebook.you can make some group of your friend who's are like and comment to your post.That's seems to be very effective in making the post visible.Thanks to share it.Very important post.you can learn more from this site http://www.moreviews.net

    ReplyDelete
  28. On a related note, see Facebook Brand Pages Suffer 44% Decline in Reach Since December 1 published a few days ago: http://www.ignitesocialmedia.com/facebook-marketing/facebook-brand-pages-suffer-44-decline-reach-since-december-1/

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing the article, Char! Very interesting and indicative!

      Delete
  29. Jody, the bottom line for me is that Facebook Ads do not = sales. For me, the whole point of an ad is to lead to sales. Yes, I should also be building relationships as an author, but presumably I already have those relationships re: the FB page likes on my author page and friends on my profile page.

    None, zero, zilch FB ads have led to an increase in sales beyond one or two additional books sold. I can't afford to use ineffective advertising methods for my indie books. For promotion, FB is a bust.

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  30. Just wanted to let you know that I did get your paid promotion in my updates and it made me buy two of your books, which were both on sale. Just so you know that 20 bucks wasn't a complete waste of money :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for letting me know, Rachel! I'm glad it made it out to some of my followers! I just wish it had been a good portion more!

      Delete
  31. Jody, my experience with FB has been about the same. I once complained to them that I had been charged for something I did not receive. They wrote me back and threatened to cancel my account! I was stunned. So, I am not at all surprised by their response to you. If there was another alternative to FB I would take it.

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  32. I wondered about this! I appreciate that you let us know how it went. This saves me the future $20 I may have spent. Sorry you had to go through this, though. Keep doing what you're doing on your FB page. You're engaging with your readers, which is wonderful :)

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  33. Hot topic, here.

    I run a lot of Facebook ads for my day job and side business (marketing) -- and I can tell you that the more targeted your ads, the better your results. The promoted post buttons are easy to push, but if you go through the ad manager and put in the fine details to promote a post, you'll have better luck.

    I'm sorry about your response from FB! I've had similar encounters with them because even though I had once been spending $700 a month, if you don't spend a certain amount (thousands per month) you basically aren't worth their time. Sweet.

    Keep doing what you're doing though! Your organic posts are performing well compared to industry averages. ;-)

    Facebook is just a necessary evil in today's marketing world.

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    ReplyDelete
  38. thats horrible, i thought u can get atleast 100k+ reached for 20 bucks

    ReplyDelete
  39. hot topic!
    that 20 bucks wasn't a complete waste of money!

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
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