In this (probably short-lived) series, I reflect on some of the utter rubbish I encounter on my travels that gets passed off as marketing advice by people who should know better. Here’s the first one:

“Don’t link to external sites in your Facebook marketing posts.”

This little gem grinds my gears every single time. I’ve listened to it in presentations from countless Facebook marketing “experts”. And every time, I want to scream “NO!”

So Why Are We Told This?

Facebook makes its money in two ways: by selling advertising space; and selling your data.

To harvest data and advertising cash, Facebook wants your eyeballs on their platform for as long as possible. They don’t want users navigating away somewhere else – like your website, for example.

Due to the sheer volume of content posted daily, Facebook uses an algorithm to restrict the number of posts you get to see. As part of this, the algorithm favours certain types of post over others to keep you hooked for longer.

Posts with videos or photos are viewed within the Facebook app, so that type of content gets shown more often. Conversely, posts containing links to sites away from Facebook (i.e. your website) get shown to fewer people.

And fewer views means lower “engagement”, and engagement is like catnip to Facebook marketing experts.

The Holy Grail of Digital Marketing

To social media marketers, measuring “engagement” is everything. The total numbers of likes, followers, clicks, shares and comments they can achieve are tangible evidence of the work they do on your behalf. They can point and say: “Look – this week your posts were seen by 1685 people, an increase of 8.217% on the week before”.

Perfect for justifying how valuable their services are.

If you lower their engagement numbers by posting links to your website, it makes them look bad.

So Facebook is all about engagement. And while exposure is essential to your business from a brand awareness standpoint, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of marketing.

Engagement Doesn’t Pay The Bills

At some point, companies also need to sell products or services. There are many ways to do that, and almost all of them don’t require Facebook.

What’s good for Facebook’s bottom line isn’t necessarily good for yours.

Blinded by vanity metrics like engagement, many digital marketing experts seem to miss the point: businesses need to build a list of interested punters to whom they can sell things. To do that, they must be able to access the list whenever they need to.

When someone else (i.e. Facebook) controls access to your contacts, the list you’ve invested time and money building isn’t as valuable as you think.

How Much Are Your ‘Likes’ Worth?

If you grew your Facebook page to have 100,000 likes and followers, what could you do with those people? Send everyone a special offer at Christmas? Message them all with news of an exciting product launch?

Facebook says ‘no’.

They might allow your posts to be viewed by 3-4% of your followers, if you’re lucky. Your only option to reach more of those people is to run paid Facebook advertising.

And on the day you decide to quit Facebook for good, can you take your 100,000 follower list with you?

No chance! They’re not yours – they belong to Facebook.

And what happens if your account gets hacked, or you get banned? How much value does that 100,000 list have now?

Take Back Control

It’s in your best interests to encourage your followers away from Facebook (and other platforms) and have them subscribe to your mailing list instead.

A list that you control.

Building your list should be an essential aspect of your marketing strategy. A list of contacts you can email, send a letter to, or pick up the phone and talk to – on your terms and at a minimal cost.

Does this mean we should give up on using Facebook for marketing? No, some aspects, like Groups, are highly beneficial for businesses. But Facebook is just one marketing channel among many.

If the advice of your digital marketing consultant places Facebook’s best interests over your own, it might be time to change consultant.

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