For the first several years from the advent of social media, businesses could take advantage of a HUGE audience to peddle their wares and promote their offerings FOR FREE. Could it be too good to be true?!?!
In short: yes.
I would never suggest that Facebook used shady crack dealer tactics to get people hooked and then start charging. However, at some point, someone (besides venture capitalists who--surprise, surprise--actually wanted to turn a profit someday) had to start paying the salaries of the smart, hardworking people of Facebook if we all wanted to keep using it to connect with friends, family, communities and to reach wide audiences as businesses.
Think Facebook employees live a cushy Silicon Valley life of unlimited vacation and nap pods? Check out this article about what happened when one company (Google) gave Zuck and crew a run for their money.
So what does a free platform like Facebook do to keep their platform free for a billion+ users but still be a profitable company for investors and shareholders? Well, it does what every other medium has done since the beginning of time: fund it through advertising.
Let's apply some old-school perspective here. For decades, phone books were delivered to residences and business, for free, as a useful resource to find people and businesses in the days before the internet and social media. So who footed the bill for the time and materials to make these sometimes multi-volume books? Advertisers. The same business that could get its copy for free, funded the creation and production of the book by paying for advertising. That doesn't seem so crazy right?
Yet when Facebook changed their algorithms so business or "fan pages" no longer had an unlimited pass into their followers' newsfeeds, people got fussy.
Facebook has invested YEARS and MILLIONS of dollars into creating the most widely used social media platform in all the land. Not only have they built you an audience of more than one billion users...
...but they also have SO MUCH INFORMATION about those users. Now, you don't have to spend your marketing budgets blindly sending out mailers, throwing up billboards, and buying radio and television ads and hope really, really hard that your messaging reaches your intended audience--or the people most likely to buy from you. You can now target your ads by location, age, interest, industry, relationship status or basically anything people put in their profiles. You have access to an already segmented audience. That's huge.
Doesn't that seem like something worth investing a few bucks in?
There are many advertising avenues that Facebook uses to generate revenue. For instance, ever see that item you were just looking at on Amazon in the sidebar of your newsfeed? That is retargeting or remarketing, and that is another topic for another day, but know that is important.
The most common and easiest type of advertising for businesses to do on Facebook come in the form of "Sponsored Posts" that are created by using that "Boost" option Facebook gives you on your page and individual posts.
There are many ways to increase your visibility on Facebook. With as little as $5.00 you can:
Recently, Tribute Media promoted an offer for just $5.00 for only one day and reached 100 times as many people with that five-spot than we did organically.
I know. Pictures or it didn't happen:
You'd never expect to plaster a message on a billboard for free. You'd never convince a television network to let you air a commercial without paying for it. It's only the fact that so recently businesses were able to promote themselves for free that has people balking at the idea of paying.
And the great thing is that there are still a ton of FREE ways to use Facebook! For example, it costs you nothing to:
The list goes on.
If you remember the good ol' days of being able to get your business in front of a huge audience on Facebook for free, just be happy you got to take advantage of that wonderful time. But don't let it sour your opinion of the social network now. It has only grown, which means it has built your potential audience to a greater size. And with the amount of data people willingly give Facebook, you can now dial into a more refined audience that is more likely to purchase from you. Facebook is still a more valuable resource than businesses have ever had access to, so if you haven't budgeted marketing dollars for this platform, now is a great time to start!