Over the past few months and years, we have seen first hand how Facebook, the necessity of Social Media, has slowly crushed small business in return for profits to shareholders and the owner Mark Zuckerburg.
In 2011, when we first opened our doors, Facebook and Instagram were a godsend. It allowed us to become popular, giving us much needed exposure, in an overly saturated tactical gear market. I can say, without a doubt, that without Facebook and Instagram my company wouldn’t be here today. However, today Facebook remains one of the worst things to happen to small businesses in the 21st century.
When we first got onto Facebook, our posts would be shown to a very larger percentage of our followers, usually 20-30%. That means of the people who liked our page, 20-30% off them would see our posts! That was huge. If we put up a product, it sold. We received thousands of likes and comments on every post and we grew thousands of new followers every week. This was all done without paying a dime to Facebook. Then one day Facebook became a monetized platform. Almost immediately our exposure and customer interaction dramatically dropped. So I called Facebook. Back then when you called Facebook you could get a real-life person on the phone, who cared, who wanted to see you succeed… Why? Because if you succeeded, Facebook succeeded. When I talked to the kind lady I asked her how I could get more exposure and customer interaction. The lady responded by telling me that Facebook would show my content to a certain percentage of my followers, so it would be in my best interest to pay Facebook to get new followers to my page. So I did. And it worked! I was soon spending $200-300/day on Facebook to get new followers. Our following would grow as much as 1500 new followers in one day! We were back in business. Soon our posts were getting great interaction and sales came pouring in.
Then one day, Facebook needed more. Again, our interaction plummeted. The number of followers we would get in one day went from 1500 to 10. Our posts now get shown to less than .01% of our followers. So back to Facebook, I went asking how I could navigate this new algorithm change. This time I didn’t get a dedicated person, instead, I was sent links on how to create ads for Facebook and I was told that if I wanted to get a personal account manager I would have to pay $10,000/month. That’s right, in order for me to get someone who would talk to me on the phone I had to pay Facebook $120,000/year. Now to date, we have spent over $200,000 on Facebook for various marketing (this includes marketing on Instagram)… Let’s think about that for a second. If I spent $200,000 on any other marketing firm, imagine the support I would get. I would get someone on 24/7 standby that I could call for anything I might need. But with Facebook, I am a number, a ticket number, an annoyance… I digress.
After the new algorithm change, we had to learn Facebook’s complex advertising system. If properly navigated I had the chance to make a ton of money, if not I would lose out… Lose out we did. Again I spent thousands as I tried to learn how to properly manage and navigate Facebook’s new ever-changing system, putting up one failed ad after another. Once I figure out the algorithm it would quickly change. When we did hit an ad with a good conversion rate (meaning the amount of money it would take to get someone to come to our store and buy something) we would pump money into it. Facebook would see our success and want more of it, they would slowly squeeze us until the cost per conversion became so high that it was no longer profitable. Our company’s customer sales began to fall, our Instagram and Facebook account no longer grew (we now get 5-10 new followers a day, if we are lucky) and there was nothing we could do about it.
Now I will admit that I made a mistake. I saw the success of Facebook and Instagram and I put all of our eggs in those two baskets. Meanwhile, I neglected other social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat and whatever other new cool hip platform is out there. Why? Because they didn’t have the success that Facebook showed. I couldn’t believe that my 30,000 followers on Tumblr could product better traffic that my 200,000 Instagram followers or 347,000 Facebook followers. So I pressed on with Facebook and Instagram, trying to take better photos (as one of their articles suggested) or spend thousands on “viral” videos (that one of their articles suggested we make), but nothing worked, the damage was done.
Luckily our company has an ace in the hole, our government sales. Because our industry sells to the US government we are able to maintain growth. However, most small businesses don’t have the same distribution channels and rely entirely on social media to make a footprint in the business world. The problem is that Facebook and Instagram are so suppressive, greedy and complex that anyone who can’t navigate their ads matrix risks losing their entire business. Facebook and Instagram have become such a monopoly that if you don’t have a successful Instagram/Facebook account you will find yourself way behind the sales curve and becoming a successful business is next to impossible.
The reality is that Facebook created necessity then became a publicly traded IPO. With public IPOs comes investors, with investors, comes pressure for a big profit and with big profit comes bad business practices. It began as a social media platform and has since transformed into one of the largest money making ventures in history.
In addition to Facebook, Instagram has taken the same path of entrepreneurial oppression. Posts that used to get 4,000-5,000 likes now get 500-600. We have been at 200,000 followers now for almost three months. For every new follower we gain, we somehow lose one. This is despite being tagged daily by huge accounts and following all of the pro’s “posting rules.” But Facebook and Instagram have once again informed us that we can build our social media following… As long as we pay! At the recent rate, one new customer costs about $1. So if I want to boost my profile up to 210,000 followers I have to pay $10,000. Once I get those new followers I won’t be able to have them see my content unless… you guessed it, I pay! But even if I do pay my ad is likely to be declined because our company has something to do with guns and tactical gear. Even though we don’t sell guns, we still get oppressed and denied marketing because there might be a picture of a gun in our photo. Meanwhile, Facebook can allow Russia to influence public elections through their advertising but somehow what I am doing is too severe for society.
I recently reached out to Facebook with the subject line “you’re losing a customer.” In the email, I addressed a number of concerns that I list above. In addition, I discussed getting “verified” on Instagram. A verified profile is when you get a blue checkmark next to your name that shows you are an authentic company. This important when you have profiles they may try to imitate you, which we do. Even though I have 200,000 followers Instagram won’t verify my profile, nor will they even allow me to ask to get it verified. Meanwhile, if some attractive woman with 10,000 followers posts revealing photos she will get a verified account as well as tens of thousands of new followers. In addition, Instagram will push her photo to get thousands of likes and exposure. Don’t believe me? Go to your Instagram account and see who’s getting put into your search function, it’s most likely not a company that has paid a lot of money to Instagram, they wouldn’t dare reward them, but instead it’s probably some Instagram superstar or photography account that gets thousands of followers by stealing other people’s photos, posting them and tell them congratulations for being selected.
After reaching out to Facebook, with a full spectrum of concerns, I received the following response:
>>> Thank you for contacting Facebook Ad Support. My name is Andrew and I
>>> would be happy to help you. I do understand XXXXX you were trying to get
>>> verified on Instagram and you were unable to get verified.
>>> Here is a link that I will provide you on how to get verified on
>>> Instagram, here it is as follows: https://stockroom.shopify.com/
>>> you can go through this link here. Any questions you can let us know.
>>> Okay XXXX you take care and have a good day!”
Again, a company that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars writes and says they are unhappy and this is the response they get. So of all the concerns I address, my response was a link that basically tells me I can’t get a verified account. They didn’t address all of the other concerns about complex ad systems, no customer support, post and account suppression or anything else. Instead, I got a link. This very brevity is what causes a small business to struggle to be able to navigate FB’s and Instagram’s complex system.
In short, I say shame on Facebook and shame on Instagram. You willfully take the money of thousands of small business owners, promising the world, then return with crushed marketing budgets and a system that can’t be navigated even by the savviest of marketing managers. Small businesses are the backbone of America. Your business practices are destroying those who put their trust into you and your empty promises. If you want a successful business you have to maintain a strong social media presence, but if you want to have a strong social media presence you have to spend thousands of dollars. Anyone who has ever started a small business knows that liquid capital is precious and if incorrectly spent, on say a complex marketing platform, can literally crush your entire business. There are now thousands of businesses with amazing ideas that could be huge additions to society, providing much-needed product and jobs, that will never see the light of day because they can’t get someone from Facebook to help them be successful.
So Facebook, this is for you. Take the time to support the very men and women who made your company successful, because without small businesses you and your IPO will crumble.
For more reading be sure to check out the Chive’s recent post http://thechive.com/2017/10/25/how-facebook-became-the-grinch-who-stole-christmas-10-photos/