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Facebook Theme Week: Organic or Paid?

Posted By Darren Rowse 4th of August 2014 Social Media 0 Comments

At a recent team meeting at ProBlogger HQ to plan the theme for our next ‘theme week’ here on the ProBlogger blog I nervously suggested that we should create a week long series of posts on the topic of Facebook.

As the word came out of my mouth I found myself almost involuntarily shuddering because I know that there’s a lot of mixed feelings among bloggers about the network right now and I half expect that we’ll get our fair share of ‘I’ve given up on Facebook’ comments on these posts.

However… while I know many bloggers and businesses owners are feeling the pain of changes of Facebook over the last six months I still think it’s a topic we could do well to explore in more depth.

Facebook remains the biggest social media network on the planet and continues to grow its active user numbers at a steady rate. According to Statista it had 1.317 billion monthly active users in the second quarter of this year and it’s still adding tens of millions more every quarter.

Screen Shot 2014 08 01 at 1 57 10 pm

While I would never argue that every blogger must be actively engaging on Facebook (each to their own) to ignore it as a source of traffic, brand building and community engagement would be almost as risky as to ignore Google (Alexa ranks Facebook as the #2 ranked site on the web behind Google).

So – as Stacey mentioned yesterday – this week we’re looking at Facebook here on ProBlogger.

Much of what we’ll be doing is ‘case study’ based by looking at the organic and paid approach of bloggers on their Facebook pages but before we do I thought I’d write a few thoughts to keep in mind as we tackle this polarising topic.

Organic, Paid or Both

Facebook have certainly been making changes of late to push page owners towards paying for reach and results on their pages.

This change in approach has caused many of us pain and left many bloggers disillusioned.

Interestingly I’ve seen bloggers respond to this challenge in a variety of ways.

  1. For some it has meant an abandonment of Facebook
  2. Others have persisted with their previous strategies to get organic reach but have adjusted (downwards) their expectations for what can be achieved
  3. Others still have taken Facebook’s changes almost as a challenge to work harder than ever on their organic strategies
  4. And lastly some bloggers have decided to not fight Facebook and begin to pay for reach

I totally understand each of the responses and over the last 12 or so months have at least considered each option.

As longer term ProBlogger readers would know the decision I made was to go with option #3 – to work even harder on growing our organic reach on Facebook.

Our Approach to Organic Reach on Facebook

Just under a year ago here on ProBlogger I shared some of the strategies I was using to increase the Digital Photography School Facebook Page reach and engagement organically.

While things have changed a little since then I’ve continued to experiment prolifically with that Facebook page and continue to see decent organic results.

If I had to summarise my approach on the dPS Facebook page 11 months later it would be:

1. Be useful – provide those who follow your page with content that is going to enhance their lives in some way. For us this is about providing helpful ‘how to’ content as 90% of what we do.

2. Be visual – I spend a lot of time thinking about the images that we use in our status updates. This is partly because we’re a photography site but mainly because Facebook is a very visual place. A great image will lift any status update a lot!

3. Be interactive – We recently had a week long period on our page where our page slumped both in terms of how much traffic it was sending to our site, how much reach we were getting and how much engagement there were in posts. I realised that I’d not been focusing as much on ‘interaction’ and follower engagement and resolved to add a few more ‘discussion’ oriented posts into our schedule. This definitely saw us lift but up our of our slump – to some extent.

4. Be Inspirational – While the majority of our updates are ‘how to’ or ‘informational’ in nature I find that throwing in the occasional purely ‘inspirational’ or ‘aspirational’ posts works. This might be adding in a quote that is meaningful, sharing a great photo, telling a great story. These posts may drive no traffic at all to your site – but they get people engaging – which has flow on effects.

5. Experiment – I treat each status update that I do as an opportunity to learn something about what works and doesn’t work with our readership. Try different types of updates (images, text based, link posts etc). Watch what happens when you do.

Overall the organic reach of the dPS page is decent, although I’ve definitely noticed the last month has been less consistent.

We Now ‘Pay to Play’: To Some Extent

The change to our Facebook strategy that we’ve not talked much about here on ProBlogger yet is that alongside our organic strategy, we’ve begun to experiment
with small paid campaigns.

Shayne will be sharing with you some specifics of the type of campaigns that we’ve been running on our page later this week but I will say now that we’ve had some success with the paid campaigns that we’ve run.

I know not every blogger will be in a position to pay much (if anything) for a Facebook ad campaign but if it is any encouragement to you the amount of money we’ve put into Facebook advertising to this point is not exorbitant (it has been in the $200 to $500 per month range).

Our campaigns have ranged from promoting our eBooks, to campaigns to grow our ‘likes’. Some of our campaigns have worked brilliantly – others have not – but the beauty of Facebook advertising is that you can set up limits on how much you spend on each campaign and can start small and then ramp up what is working and kill of what isn’t.

The ‘return’ on our investment has well exceeded what we’ve spent. The 2-3 experiments with selling our eBooks with ads have generated over five times what we’ve spent and we’ve also benefited in other ways (more traffic to our site, more ‘likes’ on our page and a flow on improvement in our organic reach and engagement).

I’m still cautious about investing too much into advertising but it is certainly showing some great results for us so far – more on this topic later in the week.

Never Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Before we get into some case studies for the rest of the week let me finish with a simple reminder to not put all your eggs in the one basket when it comes with driving traffic to your blog.

I fell into this mistake in the early days of my own blogging by relying too much upon SEO to drive traffic from Google and have seen many instances where bloggers have obsessed about a single source of traffic (either from search, social or referral) only to find that source of traffic dried up and left them with nothing.

Facebook could well be an amazing opportunity for your blogging but the opportunity is unlikely to be an indefinite one.

Experiment, leverage what you can, ride the wave as long as it’ll last but keep your options open and always use it to build the things you have ultimate control over.

Keep in mind the ‘home base’ and ‘outpost’ model that I’ve been writing about here on ProBlogger since 2008. Don’t abandon your blog for Facebook – rather use Facebook to help you to build your blog (and email list).

Ultimately Facebook will do what is in their best interests and will change the rules of engagement there to suit them. This will at times present you with opportunity but at other times will mean you need to adapt your approach.

So this week as we talk about Facebook I encourage you to read along with an open mind – but also resisting the temptation to obsess. Doing so in this balanced fashion will hopefully lead to some great opportunities!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Hi Darren,

    I appreciate your breakdown because I too have doubled down on organic reach. I find engaging quickly opens up many doors on the Facebook. Chat, on both other Page updates and on your own updates, responding in a timely fashion.

    Facebook marketing on the organic front seems to be about staying on the radar these days. If you post helpful, how-to content, and follow up with inspirational updates you’re likely to generate engagement and also to draw in rabid fans.

    The secret is to deliberate like yourself, Darren. You think through updates patiently which no doubt spurs your Page growth. If you plaster any old update on Facebook you’ll get any old result. If however you post helpful, insightful content, more people will be drawn to your page, and of course, this can grow your brand and blog audience.

    As for paid I may dabble here and there but don’t plan to invest much. Doing the bootstrapping thing can help you learn what works, what doesn’t, and at what times you should be posting to make an impact.

    Thanks Darren, super helpful and timely study for me.

    I’ll tweet in a little bit.

    Enjoy your Monday.


  2. I too mostly indulge in promoting my brand through inspirational and helpful stuff. Every once in a while I do posts that help people solve some of their specific queries. But as for paid stuff I don’t find it useful at the moment. Can you give us more insights regarding how much results paid gigs on Facebook give as opposed to organic strategies?

  3. Hi Darren,
    You have spoken from the heart and many bloggers would thank you for sharing what to be expected in the Theme Week.

    Facebook topic is a fascinating one. Many would readily love to be tuned to any updates. I am eager to get to know about the stands of the experts on Problogger on the whys, hows, whats, and wheres of Facebook free and paid campaigns.

    Yes, it should be worth checking out for improved social media traffic. Indeed, we cannot put all our eggs in one basket when it comes to traffic.

  4. Hi Darren.

    Got to be honest. I have been tempted to abandon Facebook just recently, but I know that a vast majority of my target audience are using it – and despite our own preferences we need to meet them where they are…

    So, I’ll just have to persevere – and hopefully I’ll pick up some golden nuggets this week on Problogger.

    I have dabbled with paid Facebook ads in the past and I know they can deliver huge results. But, from my experience I found that you have to know what you’re doing.

    Even when you cap your spending budget, if you don’t get your targeting right you’ll see no ROI.

    So, again, I hope to learn a thing or two about paid ads as well throughout the remainder of this week.

    Have a wonderful day!

  5. Ciao Darren,

    I’ve chosen a different approach. It can be summarized in these three points: 1) be relevant 2) choose the right post format based on the goal you want to achieve (I perfectly agree with your suggestion to be more visual) 3) optimize publishing frequency and time. For me is working great right now ;-)

  6. It wouldn’t hurt to dabble on both sides of the fence when it comes to paid or organic. This way, marketers can compare effectiveness and focus more on what works.

  7. Organic method is the good for traffic it is a white hat seo technique. Facebook is the useful for to get traffic. Interesting posts with link website pages brings more traffic, more likes, more followers. Facebook is the power of social media marketing.

  8. The breakdowns and spotting these patterns can let me know what I’m doing right and what I need to shore up to grow my Page following steadily.

  9. Hello,

    Facebook likes and shares helps in ranking specially when it comes to local SEO. No one can underestimate facebook importance in driving traffic to website.

  10. I think it depends on your niche and your audience, but a combination of both would be good.

  11. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for a great post; you’ve made some really salient points here. Like other platforms, it’s important to share engaging content relevant and useful to your target audience across your Facebook timeline. As for the organic vs paid engagement and growth, I believe it’s important to maintain some semblance of balance between both. Some of my clients invest less than $100 a month into targeted promoted posts and targeted advertising and receive good return on their investment. When you look at Facebook advertising and promotions in comparison to other marketing platforms, it’s actually one of the more affordable options.


  12. I’ve just seen your email and clicked on pretty much ever link to open up a set of tabs to read, so Facebook seems like a good topic choice :)

    Have you noticed that post reach seems to increase massively when mentioning something that already has engagement?

    One thing we do on the curation side is use BuzzSumo each day to identify relevant media stories that are already being well shared and then post ourselves on the same topics/links.

    This single tactic has probably increased our engagement 10-fold.



  13. Hi Darren, I can definitely relate with every pain point described as someone who prior to Fall 2012 had a very engaged Facebook audience for my small business. I have had a love/hate relationship with the platform over the years, but have to take partial responsibility for the low reach I have now because I took a year off-and did absolutely nothing w/Facebook during that entire period. Now that I’m back, I’m slowly – make that s-l-o-w-l-y – beginning to rebuild, but after giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided I will pay for some campaigns–in addition to working on my organic reach–just to see how they go (and to see if I can accelerate things a bit). I will let you know how it goes for me back here if you would like reports from the trenches.

    Honestly, I would rather not have to pay for something that was so effective for me w/o paying in the past, BUT if you look at advertising as a whole, Facebook has amazing rates and targeting technologies–so I think it could end up working out well if I’m smart about it. We shall see… :)

  14. Hi Darren… another interesting article as usual… I don’t know what others may or may not be noticing with their own FB pages and campaigns… I my self am on the verge of withdrawing completely from FB.. The reasons being that it seems that I pay for a campaign to increase the “likes” on my page so that when I post articles it has an increased readership… BUT… When I post articles the people who have liked the page don’t actually see them unless I then pay again to “boost” the post.. In other words FB has us paying twice for the same thing… and then there is the issue of whether the “likes” are genuine or not…? I am in a definite quandary ! All the advice is that one has to maintain a strong presence on the social media sites if one is to survive.. for me personally it definitely feels like I’m throwing money away… I will read on however in the hope you may shed more light on the dark art of social media..!
    All the best to you and your team

  15. Nice post Darren, very informative. I have tried the tips that you have mentioned in organic reach on facebook. The thing is unless you have an active group or friend circle, posting anything on facebook makes no sense. I have gone through that. However, I tried posting in communities and other facebook fan pages which gave me much better result. But I have not tried paid reach on facebook. Will surely try it out for sake of learning. Thanks for sharing this post and your views.

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