Facebook is slowly but surely adjusting its algorithm to require brands to pay for exposure to their own fans.
Recently, a blog post from Weber Shandwick mentioned that a Facebook vice president had announced that the free ride for brands is over. Frustrated by the lack of reach Facebook was allowing on the Dallas Mavericks Facebook page, owner Mark Cuban tweeted that he was looking for another alternative for the popular giant.
I’ve been hearing the rumblings of smaller brands talking about leaving the platform for a while now. Many don’t have the budget to invest in promoted posts and Facebook ads, nor do they want to take a chance on investing in something that many claim doesn’t show a measurable return.
What’s a small brand to do? If you have been thinking that Facebook is not worth your time and money, here are three ways to boost your brand without it.
1. Step up your brand advocacy strategies on and offline.
Most small brands thrive on word-of-mouth. Companies such as Zuberance are dedicated to the message that spending time finding and cultivating people who already love your brand has a much higher pay-off than broadcast or reach strategies.
Learn about advocacy strategies and implement the mindset into your marketing strategy. Data indicates that the vast majority of people never visit your Facebook page after they “like” you, as brands struggle to build effective online communities on Facebook. How proactive are you at encouraging good customers to share your content?
People can talk about you to their Facebook friends whether you’re on Facebook or not. You can embed a “like” button on your website to enable people to share your website content on their Facebook page. The protocol isn’t drag and drop, but it’s doable. Encourage loyal customers to post positive reviews about your business on third party review sites (but do not offer incentives).
2. Concentrate on making your website more advocacy- and engagement-oriented.
Your website should already have a social look and feel. If it does not, there is your first disconnect. Do you have a photo gallery of customers using your products? Do you have positive customer testimonials on your website?
Make sure you temper the promotional aspect of these elements by having customers talk about how your product solved a problem for them. Have you got a video player on your website? It doesn’t need to feature videos that you have produced. It could include how-to or informational videos that revolve around your product sector. You can run polls, contests, guest blogs, story-telling micro sites, and many other customer-oriented features on your website.
The more you can get people coming to your website and sharing it with others the less you need to worry about Facebook.
3. Experiment and engage more with other social media channels.
If you have a walk-up storefront, have you tried geo-location social media yet such as Foursquare? Have you claimed all your online business profiles? How about adding a blog to your website? If you don’t have a website, how about putting up a free “website” on a platform such as WordPress.com or Tumblr that has the interactive look and feel of Facebook?
Do some research on other social media channels such as Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, or Google Plus. Experiment and see where you get some traction. Most of all, take some time to school yourself on engagement strategies. Even though Facebook claims to have a billion users, getting the attention of the fans you need to reach is a difficult task, and now, possibly an expensive one.
Brands have alternatives. You can be successful at creating loyal brand advocates without Facebook. Maybe it’s time to consider the alternatives. Do you need Facebook to survive?
Chris Syme is principal of CKSyme.org, a real-time communications agency in Bozeman, Montana specializing in crisis communications.