Bloggers and Businesses: Is it Time to Give Up on Facebook?
As a blogger, and especially as a sexuality blogger, I’m forever frustrated with Facebook. We all are. From their “real names” policy which wasn’t just about threatened the safety of trans folx, drag performers, and even abused spouses, to how they nerfed Pages once already and how they’re so incredibly sex-negative they’ll consistently tempt you with offers of how well your post “could” be doing if only you would give them money but tsk tsk, silly sex blogger, they won’t take your money. Your money is dirty and your site offends someone! Or, gd forbid, there is the slightest hint of something that could be breast cleavage in the photos or art you used in the fundraisers you’re running at Youcaring and because of one goddamn photo and possibly, maybe, the word “sex” they won’t even let you boost a post to fucking raise money to help someone out. But today’s post isn’t focusing on how Facebook, and social media in general, is targeting the sex ed/sex toy industry (though, they are) it’s about what Facebook is going to do to all bloggers, personas, artists, and businesses.
Once again, Facebook is tightening the reins and dictating how it’s used. They go through our photos and our names to make sure everything there would be worthy of a stamp of approval from Tipper Gore. First, they tell you that you cannot have a profile that doesn’t match the name on your government-issued ID, and they push you towards instead creating a Page. But then they throttle what Pages share and only show your stuff to a small percentage of the people who voluntarily elected to see your shit. Before we think this is just the sex industry, nay nay, even the comedic gold of The Oatmeal is throttled. At least he can buy the goddamn ads they’re tempting him with if he wanted to spend $2,000 to reach 10% of his followers. We, in the sex or sex-adjacent industry, can’t.
Where was I? Oh yes. So they throttle our Pages and instead push advertising – repeatedly and mockingly. Facebook thrives on advertising; they’re raking in money hand over fist. Suddenly, though, the Zuck had a change of heart1 and is throwing pages (“public content”) under the bus. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” he says. Then there’s a lot of flowery prose about connections and hope and love and other bullshit and finally the hard line for us: “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. “
For a moment, I sighed in frustration. I was mad. But then I decided to go look and really see just how much worse it could get for me because I already know that it’s not great in the present day.
This One’s For The Numbers Geeks
At first, I did the easiest metric I could: The percentage of my readers that come from Facebook, according to my WordPress stats. I charted the number of referrals it picked up from Facebook and my visitor numbers – now, to be clear, this doesn’t limit it to my Facebook Page posts. This is all of Facebook, including my profile and whatever anybody else links to. Here’s what I found: the best and worst percentage of referrals to visitors per month didn’t line up with the actual most and least amount of referrals sent per month2. My worst was October with the percentage at 0.86% and the best was November at 2.06%.
My best was 2 fucking percent. My yearly average was 1.39%. But remember: this doesn’t represent the work of my Page alone.
January and February gave me more referrals simply due to the sheer volume of posts I had going on. The other higher-performing months were August with the I-wanna-know-the-drama effect of telling people what the Screaming O did, accompanied by an attention-grabbing collage of middle-finger-thrusting people. And November, with its 5 paltry posts? The secret there was that while all 5 posts did indeed lead to a review on my blog, the post wasn’t seen by Facebook as a “link post”. It was seen as a “photo” because when I shared the post across social media via Hootsuite I attached a photo for it to show versus letting it choose the one designated by my SEO plug-in. Those 5 posts had whopping reach numbers. Nearly all “photo” posts did considerably better than “link” posts or simple “status” posts – at least as far as number of people reached is concerned. Link clicks? They remained the same compared to posts that reached 150 people. People simply don’t want to leave Facebook, I guess. Hell, this one claims to have reached an unheard-of 13,949 people…but only 3 of them clicked my link. It was never shared but it did force 17 people to tell Facebook to permanently hide all of my future posts from their timeline. Thanks for nothing, Facebook.
In December my posts, on average, were shown to 86 people – a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 242. But I have, as of this writing, 1750 followers on that Facebook page. My posts in December were going to, at worst, 1% of my followers and, at best, 13.8% of my followers.
Here’s the kicker though: Remember how I said that my WordPress stats don’t know where on Facebook the referrals came from? I picked February – not my absolute most in referrals, but it’s up there – 1,392. Of those, it appears that only 275 came from people clicking my Facebook Page post, according to the “insights” from Facebook. It doesn’t appear that very many of those were shared, either. For all of my efforts in February- 36 posts (link posts) which supposedly were all seen by 4,797 people cumulatively, I netted a for-sure 275 site visits. That’s 5.7% of already-paltry low percentage of my followers who’ve even seen those posts. That 4,797 across February counts the same person every time they see the post. If every follower saw every post then February’s posts would have been seen 63,000 times. I achieved only 7.6% of that.
Why in the actual fuck am I even trying? No, seriously?
We know that the throttling is going to get worse because both Zuckerberg and Mosseri (Head of News Feed) confirmed it: “Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease,” said Mosseri.
I haven’t given up on the page entirely because of the idea that somewhere out there are some fans of my site that only ever get their updates about me from my Facebook page. And because, like holding onto the myth of silicone touching silicone, it’s been hard to get the industry to realize that they need to stop obsessing over how many Facebook followers we have as a metric of how “good” or “popular” or “valuable” we are. I want to stop have businesses insist that I ask my readers to follow them on Facebook for an entry in a contest. I want ranking lists to stop looking at the metric to rank our worth and popularity.
This throttling of the pages is worse for the folx who were told by Facebook that they couldn’t have a pseudonym profile and had theirs taken away, or the ones too afraid to even try thanks to the tangled web of connections where you would have to use two separate computers and smartphones to successfully have two separate Profiles that never get recommended to each other’s friends (and zero friends in common). People who can use their real name for a “business” or “fan” profile and keep their real-life friends-and-family profile locked down a little better will simply have to double down on the Profile posts to see any value from sharing their shit on Facebook. But this means we’ll have to accept “friend” requests from literally anybody and everybody just to have our stuff seen by enough people. And still, I ask: why am I even trying?? The hustle life of a blogger, I guess?
So What Now? What Can YOU Do?
Clearly, the vast majority of my traffic from Facebook doesn’t come from my Page and it will only get worse. At this point I think I’m going to close the page and direct those followers to “follow” me (not “friend” me) on my profile – they’ll probably have a bigger chance of seeing anything I share!
This is a great time to remind you that you can always thank me for the help I give my donating to my Paypal and buying from my affiliate links. If you do follow me on any social media account, sharing my posts is a great help – and free! Thanks to the way Twitter and Facebook work, simply “liking” my posts and interacting with them will help get them seen by others. Cheer me on with comments and emails. Sign up for my weekly (ish) RSS newsfeed in your inbox!
- Is there one under there? ↩
- I had to ignore December’s numbers because one day in December someone – I don’t know who because they didn’t tag me – linked to my Hiky review and sent over 7800 views to that review alone – so I estimated the anomaly and deducted it from December’s totals to give a bit more accurate picture. ↩