Monday, December 01, 2014

Our fb story - a small caution to small businesses

For the last 9 months or so, I've been formulating this post in my mind.  This isn't a complaint so much as if I can help another small business through this, I want to do that.  As time passed, I thought about how this *might* have gone, had our business been less flexible.  I've gotten a lot of questions from other small business owners, and have shared when asked.  So here goes...

Last year at about this time, after working and planning carefully every day for 5 years (no exaggeration there), we had reached 11,000 fans on our page.  I was pretty proud of that number, but extremely frustrated because as the holiday season approached our posts were being seen by fewer and fewer people.  So I decided to try a few things.
I tried asking simple questions that got 100's of answers.
I did 3 or 4 giveaways over the course of a couple weeks.
I posted pictures with text including recipes and information (very sharable).

.... and then something magical happened.  Suddenly we were getting a thousand or more new likes a DAY!  It was insane and a little (okay - really, a lot) scary.  Where were they coming from?  What happened?
So I asked them, right on the page.  Turns out we were a recommended page, and people were following the link that facebook put up.  My guess is that all the recent activity on the page tripped something in an algorithm.

It continued until we were past 72,000.  That was last January.  We've barely gotten 1000 since then.  Again, not complaining, just aware.

In those 2 months or so, business went absolutely insane.  If I had not been able to pull in help from family (a lot of other sorts of businesses are not nearly so flexible), I would have been forced to hire help.  Maybe purchase equipment.  I've thought a lot about that this year, what other businesses might have been forced to do under those circumstances.  The worst thing for me was having to do a reprint of an issue of the magazine to keep up with demand - big deal :-)  I was also working on a book for a publisher with very tight deadlines that I would have renegotiated, had I know that the business was about to explode.

And then just as suddenly, the faucet was turned off.  I can't say that those additional 60,000 people aren't still a boon to our business, but they aren't the same as the 11,000 we grew organically.  At the same time, I have my doubts about the statistics shown and think they are under-reported, but that's another story.

So right now I'm seeing a lot of recommended pages again.  I suspect this might happen to other small businesses, so wanted to put out this small warning.

In the meantime, we're working on re-booting our Yahoo! group, and put more of our focus there and on our blog posts.  I can't complain because we love the fb page too - but now that Molly is working on social media we have a lot more options.


Linda Woods Taylor said...

Thank you so much for posting this; I personally really appreciate the information. The spike in "likes," and possibly, in business, would have sent me higher than a kite (Our ship has finally come in!), then to the depths of despair when I realized this number meant very little long-term. I'm glad that you have weathered all so well. <3

Tina Sams said...

Thanks Linda! It did take us up a step, and that was great. It also happened while I was working on a tight book deadline, and since it came out of nowhere, I was really up against the wall. But all in all, we survived :-)
I do worry about other types of businesses that could actually be put out of business by that kind of tsunami.

Leigh from Larrapin Garden said...

Thanks for this. FB can be very helpful and very tricky for marketing. I didn't know they could recommend your page without you paying for an ad. That's a twist! Love your magazine! Looking forward to growing lots of herbs at the new farm.

Marnie said...

I've been meaning to get back to the yahoo pages. I like that format better, I think. It is a bit more time consuming sometimes, but more personal somehow. Maybe that's just me. ?

trekdigest said...

Thanks for the information. I just started a Facebook page, so this was helpful.

Liana said...

Great info Tina. Glad you were able to weather it.
I have been deciding to actually gravitate away from FB. Mostly because I see way too much drama on there. Mine is more of a personal page. I am looking into Pinterest more lately. At least that is the direction I am being pulled. I have a couple of blogs I am working on also. Something I have been dabbling off and on just nothing serious. I am goign to pin some of your blog post to one of my boards on Pinterest. Hopefully as I get more followers they will see your pages on my boards. :)


Tina Sams said...

Molly handles our pinterest page, and I'm pretty sure she follows back our followers. I'll talk to her and be sure, though :-)

Liana said...

That would be cool Tina :)I have had your blog on my list ones I follow for a while now. I jsut need to check my email notifications settings lol Thanks :)


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