Is Setting up a Facebook 'Fan Page' a Waste of your Time?

Facebook Fan Page waste of time

I now have over 1000 'Likes' for my Facebook Fan Page - Yay!

Cue fist pump, celebrations and fireworks! 

While I'm being slightly sarcastic in my jubilation, I should pause for a moment to reflect on this minor achievement. 

I remember when I started; getting 100 Likes seemed an impossibly huge number. Now (after a considerable amount of time), the page seems to be growing without putting too much effort in. (I intended to write this article as soon as I reached 1000 but in the elapsed time, I've gained an additional 253 'Likes' for my page).

But what does it all mean?  

A boost for my ego?
A legitimate method of driving traffic to my website? 
A chance to positively impact people's lives?
A means to impress potential publishers with my reach/following?

What's the value of a Facebook Fan Page?

In this brutally honest article I will share my experiences of going from 30 to 1000 'Likes' and how this has (or hasn't) impacted my business.

My hope is that I might inform those of you who are considering setting up a Fan Page and putting a considerable amount of time into growing it. It will also provide a useful resource for those struggling with 100 or 200 'Likes' and wondering whether it's worth continuing. Finally, if you have an interest in internet marketing, you may also find it useful.  

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin my story and subsequent analysis, I want to make something clear. I am NOT an expert or authority on internet marketing. My fields are personal development, writing and coaching. However, much to my chagrin, I have had to learn something about marketing in order to promote my work. It's these hard earned lessons that I will now impart. 

The Backstory

I set up my Facebook Fan Page back in December 2012. I'd been active on Facebook (of sorts, I really had no clue how to promote myself or business when I first started) with a Profile Page since December 2011. With the 150 or so friends I acquired during that time, I launched my Fan Page by asking all of them to 'Like'. 

To my surprise, 30 of them did and since then it's been up and running and I've been updating it consistently (although not manically) with an average of 2 to 4 posts per week.

I post on personal development (with a rebellious twist) and occasionally promote my book, blog and videos. The page is called Escape the System (hint hint, please add to my 'likes' ; ), although I initially launched it under the name of my website which is Screw the System. (I changed the name before it got to 200 'Likes' which was Facebook's cut off point at the time - after that number it was locked). 

It's taken me an astounding 3 years and 5 months to grow it to 1000 'Likes'.

I'll now share with you the key moments and how I've reached this exalted number. 

Key Moments 

Let's start with content.

Although I say so myself, my content has always been dynamite! Straight from the get-go I was posting useful, inspiring and thought provoking snippets of information. Hours were spent scouring Facebook or the internet for the perfect image and quote. I'd then add my own 2 cents with carefully thought out prose elaborating on the image. 

I wanted to be original, you see. It wasn't enough to just post an image or write some self-help cliche like a lot of the other popular pages did. I had to go the extra mile and write a paragraph or two.

W.A.S.T.E. O.F. T.I.M.E.

What I didn't realise was that I was a 'nobody'. Not in the sense that I didn't have any value, but in the sense that nobody knew or trusted my name or brand. It could have been the Dalai Lama posting for me and it wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference. All people saw (if they saw anything at all because my reach was so small) was a page with 100 or so 'Likes' and thought I was insignificant. 

I could have put my precious time into far more productive methods of building an audience. Instead, I spent hours and hours updating my status and getting frustrated over how poorly some genuinely valuable content was being received.

Having said all that, my Fan Page did slowly grow. As the months passed, a trickle of 'Likes' and a modicum of engagement began to build.

Then, in about October 2013, Facebook slashed its organic reach.

When I first started my page, roughly 16% of the people who 'Liked' it would see my updates. By October 2013, it was estimated to be 12%, and by February 2014, it was down to a pathetic 6%.

As a result, I noticed a significant decline in both the rate at which people 'liked' my page and the engagement that my posts were getting (likes, shares and comments). My page was stalling at around 200 'Likes' and I didn't know what to do.

Then, out of the blue, a big hearted dude called Joe Cusimano stepped in and gave the page a massive boost.

Joe is a rapper, singer and activist from the UK who runs a variety of cool Facebook pages - The Lovelution, Global Freedom MovementUnofficial David Icke. We got in contact through the comments section of another page and struck up a friendship. 

I was amazed and truly grateful for what he did. With no ulterior motive, he invited many of the friends and followers from his multitude of pages to 'Like' Escape the System.

In the space of about a month, I was close to 500 'Likes' and the engagement rates were higher than ever. This boost gave me back my pre Oct'13 momentum and I continued in the same vein until the 15th October 2015. 

At this point, I had my first truly viral post. 

Previously, I'd managed to get some of my posts to reach between 2000 and 4000 people despite only having 700 'Likes'. My 'George Carlin' post, however, reached a whopping 181,224 people. 

George Carlin

 

I can't really claim to know how I did this. George Carlin videos typically do well on my page (as do most short videos, with relevant content, that have had an impact on similar pages). I didn't write too long a comment (as opposed to my early mistake of crafting paragraphs). I only shared it on my Profile Page and the rest of its reach came through other people sharing from Escape the System.

The impact of this post was over 150 'Likes' for my page (in the space of a couple of weeks), bringing me within reach of the Holy Grail of 1000 'Likes'.

The Supporters of David Icke and his Work got me over the finish line. Joe informed me about this closed group, telling me he'd had some great results by simply sharing his posts on the platform. I found this hard to believe because, typically, closed groups had proved as fruitful as a desert in dry season. 

However, for reasons unbeknownst to me, this one was different. I shared posts as myself (Joe Barnes) from my Escape The System page and sat back and watched as 30 to 40 'Likes' were added to my page per post. I didn't want to push my luck so I limited it to about 1 share a week and this saw me cross the finish line of 1000 'Likes' by the end of April 2016.    

The Impact

Now that you've read about my epic journey from 30 to 1000 'Likes', you're probably keen to know the impact this has had on my work.

If you're new to this blog then you might not be aware that I run a website and sell a book aimed at helping people to break free from a life of conformity and find (and pursue) their dreams.

How has my Facebook Fan Page helped my promotion?    

The quick answer is, not much. 

I want you to look at the picture below 

Escape the System - Facebook

Check the stats in the column on the right. They reveal the activity on my page for the last week and display a post reach of 16,639. This, for me, is very high (in the past it wasn't uncommon to barely see 3 digits), yet if you look 2 rows down you'll see something shocking. 

Yep, you read it right, of those 16,639 people that my posts have reached, ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THEM have signed up or even clicked on my website to discover more. 

Nothing. Nada. Nobody is interested. 

And this isn't uncommon. Remember that 'George Carlin' viral post I told you about in the previous section? The one with the 181,224 reach.

How many subscribers do you think that got me for my website? 

Even if we're talking 0.1% of the total then that's a fair few sign ups, right? 

Well, you guessed it, a big fat zero.

You see I've noticed something about various social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) over the years - they are, largely, worlds existing unto themselves. Or, in other words, I don't see much referral traffic coming from any of these sites, to my website, no matter how well a post, tweet or video of mine does.  

Now you may think I'm an isolated case - An independent, one man team operating without any great marketing skill (especially at the start). And, to some extent, you'd be right. However, in September 2014 I read an article on Jon Morrow's SmartBlogger website (11 Traffic Techniques that are a Waste of Time for Beginners) that had a huge impact on my thinking and marketing strategy.

It confirms my statement about social media sites being pretty crap at generating traffic for your website. In fact, it goes even further, stating that unless you already have 1000 subscribers to your website then there's little point having a social media presence at all (as a traffic generating method).  

Now, I don't know why great engagement on my Facebook Fan Page equates to little engagement on my website, or sales of my book, but the evidence is undeniable. All those hours I spent trying to come up with something inspiring and thought provoking to engage people with were, largely, a waste of time (if we're analysing it purely from the perspective of promoting my business).

That being said, I wouldn't be giving you an accurate account if I claimed that my Facebook Fan Page didn't generate any interest in my wider work.  Here's a quick summary of the positives. 

1. It is, by far, the best social media site (compared to Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn) for driving traffic to my website, with an impressive 82% of social media visits coming from Facebook. However, I must add that I can't distinguish whether these visits are from my Profile or Fan Page. 

2. People visiting my website from social media (which, in my case, equates to Facebook!) are more engaged with my work, tending to spend treble the amount of time scouring through the pages than they do if they came from an organic or direct search. 

3. I'll sometimes notice a new users name, who's liked my Escape the System page, then appear on my subscriber list when I make my weekly check. 

4. Social media sources typically account for 15% of the total traffic to my site so it would be inaccurate to claim they drive no traffic at all. 

Final Assessment  

If you're just starting out with a website or business and wondering whether it's worth setting up a Facebook Fan Page to promote your work, you'll probably want to know whether, if I could go back and do it all again, I would bother creating one.

My answer to this is no!  

When it comes to promoting your work, Facebook Fan Pages take up too much time for too little reward. 

Just stick with your Facebook Profile Page. The visibility of your work among your friends and followers is far greater, and if you do reach the point where you're getting popular, and reaching the Facebook limit of permitted friends (around 5000 people), then you can always create a Fan Page. 

Don't, whatever you do, spend hours creating great, engaging content and then wonder why nobody seems interested. It's not that your page is rubbish; it's just that the odds are massively stacked against it ever reaching a substantial amount of people since Facebook slashed their organic reach.

Of course, you could pay for Facebook Ads (the whole reason why Facebook slashed organic reach) but why would you want to spend your money on promoting a page that doesn't drive a lot of traffic to your website? Surely it would be far better spending the money promoting your website or a product you're launching? (I can't give you a detailed breakdown of the effectiveness of Facebook Ads and I have yet to use them). 

After reading that, you're probably wondering why the hell I persist with my Fan Page. Shouldn't I just follow my own advice and stop wasting my time with it?

My answer to that is that I have an entirely different approach to my Fan Page now. Instead of hours being spent on it each week, it gets a total of about half an hour. I find a video with a great message, or an image with an inspiring/controversial quote, add my own quick opinion and post.

I consider half an hour, for the small interest that it does generate in my wider work, worthwhile. 

Plus, having a Facebook Fan Page with 1253 'Likes' looks a lot more impressive than having one with 500 or 200 'Likes'. While I'm under no illusion that gaining 1000 'Likes' for your Facebook Fan Page makes you a player in your industry, I can't deny that, in general, people are fooled by the illusion of numbers. 

See something with mass support and it must be good, right? See something with only 100 people interested and it must be of little value.

I hate that I've written these lines but I would be lying if I said I'd never fallen victim to this type of thinking and that, from my observations, most of the world seems to think this way.

So, my advice, dear reader, if you already have a Fan Page and it's growing and providing you with a modicum of traffic for your website, and people are enjoying the content (the importance of this shouldn't be overlooked), is that you should keep going but don't invest too much time. There are far more effective ways to generate interest in your work. Unfortunately, this article is not the forum to discuss them. However, if you click on the subscribe button below, then it won't be long until you receive my next marketing piece on 'How to get your first 1000 Subscribers to your Website' where I will go into great detail about the secret to growing your readership.

Thanks for reading and please share this with anyone you think will benefit. 

(image taken from Esther Vargas photostream on flickr.com)

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