Business owners always are juggling incredible amounts of responsibility. They wear a lot of hats, as we like to say. When you are the owner of a small, local business, you have to wear even more hats than the owner of a giant company, which hardly seems fair. While a Fortune 500 CEO has a marketing department, an accounting department, a maintenance team, and so on, local business owners have to take care of all of those things on their own. Handling marketing on top of everything else can seem particularly hard to weave in. You know marketing is important, but it also often seems less important than other things on the to-do list, which might include getting the rent paid or stocking inventory.
Business owners in the MOV do an excellent job of marketing their products and services, but two different obstacles have thrown a little bit of a wrench into how local retailers have been marketing themselves up to this point. The first issue is the change in the Facebook algorithm and the second change involves Google and its Google Maps/Places property.
The Facebook Algorithm
Many local businesses have really begun to put all of their marketing eggs into the Facebook basket, and Facebook has certainly made that seem like a good decision in recent years. Companies can now set up shop options on their page, there are special kinds of boosted posts that encourage people to call or message the company, and, of course, setting up a page on Facebook is free and fast. Many companies rely so heavily on Facebook pages that they never even set up their own websites. They figured the Facebook page was enough information, and setting up a website can be a hefty investment for retailers.
The problem is that over the last few weeks, Facebook has made some significant changes in how people see posts in their newsfeeds. Now, company pages have been reporting drops in page views for a couple of years now, but there were some ways around that. Asking people to add the page to “favorites” is a common tactic, and encouraging people to “like” and “share” also worked. This change is a little bit different, however.
Early in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was going to be updating how Facebook works for users. He said he wanted people to engage in more meaningful ways with people, which means he wants people to see posts from friends that will encourage them to leave comments instead of just doing the “like and scroll.” He later said he also will be giving more weight to local newspapers and local organizations, again because people truly care about what is going on around them. What’s the problem with all of this? Well, if your company has a page on Facebook, it means your posts are going to have a far reduced chance of being seen now. On January 12, 2018, Bloomberg reported:
The big glaring losers — besides investor & delicate stomach linings — are the millions of companies that sought to build a business on Facebook. The company warned that its computer systems are likely to circulate less information from Facebook accounts of businesses and more from personal accounts. That’s bad for news organizations, entertainment companies, Main Street coffee shops and giant corporations trying to reach existing and prospective customers on Facebook. Those businesses need to adjust to the billionth version of Facebook’s rule book. And they don’t even have a copy of the rules. Only Facebook does.
The other thing you need to monitor is that Google is fighting for your customers’ attention as well. You might notice that when you do Google searches now, the first results you get are ads, and then you might get Google maps results. Google is pretty happy with that set-up. Your prospects and customers can glean a lot of information from Google Maps/Places, too. They can learn where you are, what your hours are, they can leave a review, and more. All of that means that they might not feel the need to go to your Facebook page or your website. Everything they want to know is right there.
Don’t Panic, Just Learn New Tricks
The intent of this article is not to create widespread panic. However, these are changes that local retailers and business owners do need to be aware of and monitor. Digital marketing, as it has existed over the last five years, approximately, is going to have to change in order for it to be effective. Indeed, it might be time to even think about some “old school” marketing tactics for this modern era. Face-to-face marketing can happen at events put together by Marietta Main Street and Downtown PKB, not to mention the local Chambers of Commerce. Television, radio, and billboard advertising are viable alternatives, and so is email marketing, AdWords programs, and more. You can also emphasize Instagram a little more, which as of now is still running the same way as it has for awhile.
Do not feel like you need to abandon your Facebook pages. Especially if you have built your presence there for a long time, it would be terrible to lose those person-to- person connections with your customers and your community. However, consider supplementing those efforts with some other ideas. Facebook is still great for local retailers, it’s just not strong enough anymore to carry the whole marketing burden.