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Paid advertising on Facebook doesn't work

As a community manager, I am a firm believer in organic reach and growth. I am not against paying for social media ads, but I believe that better content will lead to bigger, more participative communities. Like all community managers, I have experienced publishing posts that quickly climb past 100 likes, comments, and shares, but are throttled by "Reach". I have complained about it a few times on Twitter. Simply put, the Newsfeed algorithms are letting down marketers. In fact, Facebook only shows posts to 16% of a pages' audience.

Now, if this was a case of Facebook not understanding how content spreads or how fans interact with the pages they follow, these happenings may be forgiveable. But as more research comes to light about how effective paid content is on the world's largest social network, it looks like these inconsistencies are not oversights, but rather are designed to increase Facebook's revenue at the expense of businesses. Facebook does this to encourage community managers to "Boost" their posts and pages, which is an optimistic way of saying "pay". By limiting who sees the content and controlling the reach, audiences on Facebook is decided how brands, businesses, and other pages connect with their communities.

To make matters worse, it is becoming apparent that paying for likes isn't bringing the intended results. The attached video is a simple and elegant description of how "boosting" a page is not only a waste of money, but that it actually DECREASES engagement and organic reach. This comes on the heels of a Forrester study that shows marketing executives believe that Facebook "creates less value than other digital marketing channels". The evidence is mounting to show that paid advertising on Facebook doesn't work.

So what should you do?

First off, let me say that I believe that Facebook is still an effective channel for digital marketers. My pages consistently have high engagement and click-through rates, and individual posts that are newsworthy or valuable are received very well. That said, you should NOT pay to boost pages or posts on Facebook. The current model is designed to benefit the site without creating any value for the customers. It is a waste of money and perpetuates a shady revenue model while discouraging content-based marketing.

Hopefully Facebook will take some accountability for this. Less fraud, more accurate targeting, and an increase meaningful followers and engagement would lead to high revenue for Facebook, as marketers will gladly pay for something that works. Until then, I would focus your paid campaigns on Twitter and LinkedIn.

- Mike Michael Holste is a Digital Marketing Manager at Microsoft. Follow him @mike_holste

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