New Facebook rules will sting small business owners

July 15, 2024

We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But in web marketing, a lot of small business owners like to think there is.

Search engine optimisation used to be regarded as “free” traffic. But today there’s so much work involved in optimising a site to rank on Google, it’s anything but free.

But what about social media – particularly Facebook? Several smart entrepreneurs have built six-figure businesses almost entirely by sharing information about their products on Facebook. That’s about as close to a “free lunch” as you can get.

But it won’t last much longer. Facebook has announced that from mid-January it will “intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.”

Furthermore, businesses that post free marketing pitches will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook has warned.

Exactly what this means, we’ll have to wait and see. But the intention clearly is to make it more difficult for businesses to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

So if you’ve been collecting “likes” on Facebook and posting promotions for your business to all those likers, well you’re going to be out of luck from mid-January. If you want your posts to be seen, you’re going to have to pay first.

Facebook has been improving its advertising options in recent years. As a paid advertising medium it is less expensive than Google AdWords and can be more effective in many markets. That’s certainly the message Facebook wants to communicate to small business owners.

The bottom line is, you can’t rely on any source of free traffic. Every business needs at least one source of paid traffic to their website. Don’t rely on a free lunch because it will inevitably get swept off the table and leave you looking for scraps.

So, Facebook’s move to filter out “unpaid promotional material” is no surprise. This is business and ultimately you need to exchange dollars for what you need.

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