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Here’s What Happens When Facebook Advertising Fails

So by now, you’ve probably heard the news: Eat24, a food delivery company, has officially broken up with Facebook.

“Big deal.” You say, “It’s just one company. Why should I care?”

Because, dear reader – it only takes a single spark to start a fire.

Just last year, Facebook announced a change to its news feed that put some advertisers on edge. It had to delicately juggle relevant news and updates with all available news and updates, and independently judge (using a variety of signals given by you, the user) which were most important.

That unfortunately meant that not every post was deemed a “winner”, which meant that outright advertising (from a page you may have liked long ago) got relegated to the bottom of the heap.

bacon sriracha unicorn diaries

That means even something as phenomenal as bacon sriracha unicorn diaries
may never see the light of day…

If you wanted to make your post more important – and therefore rank higher in a user’s feed, you had to pay for it.

Even Then, There Was No Guarantee…

In fact, you could pay $600,000 to promote yourself, and be rewarded with thousands of new likes and follows from bots, spammers and scammers – and no ROI to show for it.

“Too bad.” Facebook says, “We’re a social network, not an ad platform.”

Fair enough. So what if you’re a brand with a pretty enviable following – say, 500,000 likes or more, and you don’t want to advertise, but rather show up in news feeds organically?

That sounds like a sound strategy – except studies have shown that the results are disastrous.

average organic reach of content published on brand facebook pages

Organic reach is dead. Long live organic reach.

For you, enviably-liked brand on Facebook, your organic listings will only reach, on average, 2% of your fan base. And the number is dropping.

Don’t Be Boring – Or Else

Facebook’s strategy does have a point, much to the hand-wringing of advertisers.

The only way that posts can redeem themselves organically is by not being boring. Something they should have been striving for anyway.

The truth is, not everyone is going to care that Bud Light in sponsoring the latest UFC match – even if they regularly follow one brand or the other. The brand wants the viewers’ eyeballs, the viewer wants the brand to give them something more relevant.

So what can be done to please both sides? Here are a few ideas.

Post Self-Explanatory Photos

Rather than just posting a text status update or just a photo – combine the two into a photo that can easily be understood at a glance.

These types of photos often get shared (see the “This is what 200 calories looks like” example below), and the more likes and shares an update has, the more likely it will appear in the news feed, even if it’s older than something more recent that happens to have less engagement.

200 calories

When people see numbers translated into the impact they have on everyday life – things become much more clearer to them, and they’re more likely to pass the a-ha moment on to others.

Gauge Attentiveness with a Quote

It may seem old fashioned, but it still works. A good quote, whether one of your own or one of your favorites, has the ability to generate quite a reaction, as Joe Gascoigne at Buffer discovered. He posts quotes and then notes the reaction he gets:

joel fb

If he gets enough traction, he turns that quote into a blog post. If you liked this quote, how likely would you be to read an accompanying article about “How to Be More Transparent in Your Business”?

Link Posts Improve Visibility in News Feed

If one bright spot can be gleaned from the harsh reality of Facebook advertising, it’s that link-based posts’ status in the news feed seems to have improved quite a bit since before the December shift. ShopIgnite did a little digging into this phenomenon, and learned that, of posts made by fifteen different major brands, text-based updates dropped 65%, video and photo-based updates stayed about the same, and link-based posts jumped 30% —

facebook link posts

ShopIgniter found that link-based posts on Facebook showed an increase of 30%
since the December News Feed update

Does that mean you should immediately scrub your campaigns of everything but link-based posts? Not necessarily. But it does stand to reason that by directing more traffic to your site, rather than using Facebook as your social campfire setting, you’re potentially building a more direct consumer-to-company relationship – and you don’t have to pay a dime for it.

Is This the Beginning of the End?

It shouldn’t be surprising to note that many advertisers are abandoning the Facebook ship, feeling like their marketing dollars could be better spent on more targeted advertising methods or better content outreach. There’s a noticeable push toward letting the social network remain social while courting new ad networks looking for a decent ROI.

What Are Your Thoughts on Facebook Advertising?

Do you think Facebook has run its course? Have they spent too much of your money trying to “find themselves” with nothing to show you for it? Or are you still enjoying considerable success with Facebook ads? Share your stories with us below in the comments!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

  1. Excellent article, very constructive and interesting, I am a big fan of the web. Greetings.

    • It is on and off for us. Building our audience is still mostly affordable. Lead generation cost have at least doubled from 2014 to 2015. ROI is up and down. Some days we crush it with 5x to 10x returns but lately those days are fewer and further between. I used to never lose money. Now I’ll go a week making great returns then go two weeks wondering where the results went. We also are more reliant on retargetting ads outside of Facebook. I think thise help make Facebook work. We used to advertise exclusively on FB. Now we would not survive on FB alone.

      • I think that competition plays a big role in that. There are a lot more companies competing for a slice of the social pie on Facebook now than there were a year ago. Lots of people are looking to alternatives like Instagram and Tumblr too.

  2. I think Facebook ads can still be used effectively but I find now that I have better luck by growing my audience organically and then paying to promote posts to my current fan base.

    This is typically less expensive and it means I’m promoting to people who already know and like my brand.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Michael Higgins Apr 03, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I still Facebook advertising has relevancy. You can still put an ad up and send traffic to your site from that ad.

  4. Interesting article. People are surely fining the new alternative as many people are quitting FB.

  5. Arpita Shukla Apr 04, 2014 at 3:35 am

    Yeah Rosa, Absolutely,Excellent and more interesting article, I think none of us can reach up to this level..Amazing,totally impressed.

  6. David Gadarian Apr 04, 2014 at 6:23 am

    The first issue is a mistake FB made years ago with the term “FB Page Owner” as technically Facebook owns the space…. In 2010 it seemed like a brilliant move and businesses bought into it, but fast forward to reality of today and perhaps that is one move FB could have planned out a little better. The truth is just like KissMetrics has to pay for things like office space and server space, which it does without question, so too is the idea of paying rent to Facebook for their real estate not so preposterous.

    I do think businesses do need to consider shifting their FB ads to point not to their FB Page but rather to specific pages landing pages elsewhere…. The ROI seems to be pretty strong as FB is aggressively trying to develop this market.

  7. Personally I’ve experienced substantial success with advertising on Facebook however this may be because we have a highly targeted audience that we are trying to reach. We do pay for the posts rather than relying on organic reach but it seems to work for us – not sure how long this will last!

  8. I think they’re fairly effective, but you’d be much better served stick with Google. The thing with Facebook is you’re stuck to your niche.

    Whilst I’d keep at the Facebook stuff for now, a shift towards Twitter and Google+ would be a good idea. Promoted Tweets are proving consistently successful there, whilst G+ is growing all the time.

  9. Hi Sherice!

    FB is actually a great site to advertise products, websites, posts and etc. in considering the population of FB users. But it is not a site where people would really search for what they are looking for, unless it’s a page or a person I guess. I’m sure there are plenty more other sites that you have a better shot in advertising with.

  10. I’d be interested in seeing comparisons between Average Organic Reach for Brand Pages, Friend Pages/Updates, and Friends of Friends Updates. Facebook’s change in their news feed algorithm didn’t just affect brand pages reach… it affected all content. I think seeing some of these comparisons would help put this “issue” into better perspective.

    IE. I’ve been seeing more “friend of friends” content lately. Did these type of posts get a % of visibility from brand page’s visibility?

  11. Filip Galetic Apr 04, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Not sure if this is intentional to increase click through, but Facebook “advertising” is a more narrow activity of using the Facebook Ad platform to reach amd engage fans and new audiences. What you described is simply social media marketing and community management.

  12. Dennis Ingwersen Apr 05, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Do you think with less advertisers that those that remain will have a greater chance of getting their posts in the newsfeed ?

  13. Chris Marienthal Apr 05, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    We have seen a number of cases recently where content discovery campaigns (on Taboola, Disqus) performed 30%-60% better than Facebook… Facebook need to come up with something if they don’t want to lose a boatload of advertisers in a snap…

    – Chris.

  14. Melayna Lokosky Apr 06, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Sherice-this is a great article that really highlights the fundamental problems with Facebook advertising.The market is too unforgiving and there is too much competition to allow corporate arrogance to negate legitimate concerns. (Not recognizing the rights of others is a characteristic of The Sociopathic Business Model™). The projections will be unrealistic and reps selling the advertising will unfairly be blamed for loss of advertisers. The fact is Facebook was set up for advertising failure from the beginning. Selling on smoke and mirrors is not a sustainable business model, as they are now finding out.

  15. I run the site and fb page about running in Serbia/ Balkans and actually, our numbers risen since the change. We get more and more fans organically every day (1000 per week more or less) and reach is around 50 -150.

    We do post original, own content and have a community that is very active, so maybe that is the way to go. Post everyday unique content, that fuels discussion and just try not to be boring and/or overwhelming.

    • I agree with anything you said. But the problem in some European countries, people don’t get engaged with some kinds of businesses. Our business provides IT support and services. Here in the UK we struggle to have followers unless we pay for ads. I saw users following businesses which sell cards or such stuff like these.

  16. I’ve seen my organic reach drop to under 100%.

    Facebook pushed hard to drive small business owners like me to create fan Pages and use it to interact with my audience. Now they have closed the gate.

    To reach my audience on Facebook – i have to pay.

    Large Brands may do it, but I don’t have the marketing dollars in my small business for this platform.

    If Facebook could figure out how to charge for product placement vs. conversation items, I think they would do a better service.

  17. Facebook and Facebook ads are still highly effective, but you must use them correctly and not expect results that you got in 2012…

  18. Michael Gorman Apr 07, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    The thing is, nobody really knows what Facebook actually ‘IS’ called it a social network is not defining it, it is describing what kinda happens-the move towards advertising has been more of an awkward bolt-on, with the participants being a bit annoyed at all the adverts seeking to exploit the fact that they are there. I mean who really wants to hang out on a local spa’s fan page, or discuss the merits of an Idaho Plumber’s services?
    To be seen as joining in the social vibe business has sought to become all hip and interesting, but it does not quite work. Facebook is undergoing a major change with younger people leaving in droves-no one really knows what Facebook is, or will become-advertising on FB will always be semi-successful.

  19. I’m sure the ability to have the link import an image helped with the linked post increase.

    The “promote post” feature seems kind of silly. I tried it a few times, with a decent budget just to see how it panned out. Zero ROI on any Facebook related ads.

    To me, this is just a fancy way of buying likes. If you sell services, I think it’s pointless. Perhaps it would work a bit better for products, idk. I like the targeting features they have available. But honestly, I think Facebook is and will always will be a place for friends and family, not business.

  20. Fernando Cuscuela Apr 08, 2014 at 8:49 am

    I would argue that Facebook’s slashing of organic reach could do one of two things: either it will improve the content brands publish because they will be forced to generate higher quality posts and materials in order to actually earn the attention of the Facebook audience; or it will skew Facebook advertising completely in the direction of large brands with bigger media spend.

  21. Facebook will give us high traffic., Marketing in Facebook is highly effective, But comparing to last year Facebook has changed a lot, they are showing paid marketing gateway as most effective way to get high traffic.

  22. No doubt “new” ideas often seem better than old but more often than not most “new ideas” fall out of favor. I’m waiting for Facebook to return to its primary function of happily network friends and family and leave the advertising and information to the basic web structure. Keep it simple, stupid. I.e. FB is a an unnecessary overlay that hinders interconnectivity and delivers little or no benefit to users when plying them with advertising – like Google Ads blocking the map on Waze now that they own that. A great GPS married to the wrong platform owner.

  23. My initial test run and website pre-launch ads in Facebook is disappointing, I get “likes” from 99% non potentials, not even from the designated geo-loaction, some repeated “likes” I don’t know how that could happen.

    The audience seems to be fake pages with meaningless selfie taken at rural village in poor living condition and why would someone “like” a promoted post that hand out free gift but no one claim for it?

    I guess there isn’t enough affordable consumer to feed the enormous amount of ads and get some “likes” instead.

  24. Ricardo Alcaide Jun 05, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Im a facebook user, I cannot describe how frustrated and angry I feel everytime I see an advertising appear on my wall news feed! I hate every single of it…as most of us do! We are there to share experiences with friends and stay tuned with them…not with advertisers!!!! They are finishing with Facebook and Instagram!!!

  25. Facebook ads are crap.

    I haven’t blown the farm on them but the metrics speak for themselves. for 5000 impressions I haven’t gotten even an email or facebook message or telephone call. I’ve gotten some likes (whopee) but seeing as I have over 2000 friends without spending a dime on facebook that isn’t saying much.

    I love the granularity of data on Facebook; I can search by age range, marital status, etc. The problem is the way they present the ads. The memes take front and centre to your (paying) advertisement and people just click and share stupid memes. It’s degenerated into a place where people just click on crap and dont really care other than to private message.

    IMO, Facebook is going to die. Their revenue model absolutely sucks. They sell data that they can mine, but you can’t monetize what you buy. It will dry up and become one of those companies with a burn rate trying to find out how to be profitable.

    Because if advertisers do no see ROI, they will stop paying. If they stop paying, what are they going to do, charge people $15 a month to give them data to mine?

    Zuckerberg has lost his mind. Needs some serious meds if he calls his a business like Google.

  26. The problema with fb adds is that their Costumer Service is terrible. No matter how much Money you spend on fb adds you never get a human account manager to work with. Stupid litle issues became huge and last in time because Fb AI is not so Inteligent yet and Boots cant solve everything.

    Likes are buyable and pages are dying, For me FB is somehow colapsing to its own real dimention: just another way to reach midle age clientes.

  27. Thanks for sharing. Wanted to help out if I may.

    These days for digital ads, every brand on Facebook seems to be a lifestyle brand. It’s the way the culture is going. That’s why ads win.

    Therefore, expand your creative reach. If you want your creative strategy to scale nationwide, you have to add new lifestyle themes into your creative to capture as many target segments as possible.

    In your lifestyle photos, explicitly highlight features helps build a picture of your value propositions. This is especially potent when you’re marketing a non-tech product with tech features.

    Hope that helps! We blogged about this earlier this week, if you want more:

    See ya!


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