The Sad Truth About Facebook

Everything in life comes and goes. Sadly, photographers using Facebook to promote their work is coming to an end. It wasn’t that long ago when newsfeeds were sorted by the things most recently posted and not by what Facebook thought we’d be interested in. There was a time when followers of any given Facebook Page would scroll through their newsfeed and they saw every photo or status posted. The good old days are behind us. Facebook’s algorithm is a bottomless, money hungry pit. After making some huge mistakes on Facebook, I now realize that Instagram is the only platform that provides photographers with the greatest reach. 

Almost every photographer using Facebook has spent months and years building a following on Facebook, only to be disappointed. Personally, I cannot count the amount of marketing books and articles I have read to gain knowledge on the best way to use it. From experience, I learned to always provide a link to my page on all other social media platforms. On Facebook itself, I tagged my page shamelessly on other photography groups and on the FStoppers articles I have written. After four years, I finally reached  over 50,000 followers. As excited as I was, I also felt heavy-hearted. Knowing that people are trying to follow your work, but will never see it is nothing short of bittersweet. 

MY BIGGEST MISTAKE WHILE USING FACEBOOK

Two months ago, PRO EDU asked me to boost a few of my posts for the upcoming release for my tutorial. We wanted the extra reach, but nonetheless, I had a bad feeling about it. I did it anyways. We spent over $2,000 from our budget to boost posts for a week, advertising the tutorial. Now, while the reach was tremendous, every post after that tanked. I have strong reasons to believe that Facebook notices if you're willing to spend money to boost posts and automatically cuts your organic reach to get you to boost posts again. Facebook is not what it used to be. Before they went public, Facebook was a way to connect humanity. After becoming public, Facebook became a business and like any business, the company needed to find ways to generate profit. Ever since then, Facebook’s algorithm has been constantly changing and evolving with ways to help bring in cash. Giving Facebook my money was a mistake I made that crushed my page and now it is nothing but useless. Do not under any circumstances even dare give them your money; not only do they take it and barely give anything in return but they will try to suck you dry.

Before I started boosting posts I was getting solid engagement.

It’s possible to argue that Facebook, like any business, needs to make money. But honestly, how far are they willing to push the limits before people leave them behind for another platform? Just look at MySpace. Seeing my posts reach 1/10th of my followers these past few months has me running for the hills. I’m running from Facebook into the loving arms of the newer, hotter model: Instagram. My feedback on Instagram has me convinced to put all my time and effort there. With only half the fans on Instagram, I’ve been getting double and even triple the feedback. 

Here are some side by side comparisons between my Facebook page and Instagram after I had started boosting posts on Facebook:

53,000 vs 27,000

For those who still find this hard to believe check out this video that explains the issue in depth.

Let me conclude by saying that while Facebook has it’s issues, it is also an excellent form of communication. There is no question that it’s difficult to connect one on one with friends and followers on Instagram. With that being said, I still use it to converse privately with other photographers. However, when it comes to promoting my work, Facebook is no longer the place I do it. It is nothing but a disheartening experience. 

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102 Comments

Casey Berner's picture

Wow so will you delete your Facebook page? Stop posting from your Facebook page? Or just use it less?

Thorsten Merz's picture

Have you considered using IFTTT automation to cross post from IG to FB?

Chris Nigul's picture

I heard that about FB long loong time ago. And yes Instagram is the way to go. John Schell is all about instagram and if I remember correctly he emphasized how IG has played an huge part in his following. (Cheers John). Thrive for greatness Dani, don't let this ish get to you!

jeremyslayterphotography's picture

My issue with IG is that it is difficult to post photos from your computer to your feed. I don't want to be resizing for print/web and then now for IG. Is there any way around this?

Tor Ivan Boine's picture

I just export a 1024px version to dropbox, and share from there. easy peasy. (whatever cloud storage will do)I crop in instagram, or use an instasquare-app of some kind on images that don't look good cropped.

Duk Maniquis's picture

Hi Tor, so 1024px is the best quality for IG?

Tor Ivan Boine's picture

yep. Instagram just upped the res from 640px to 1024px.

John Schell's picture

Thanks so much for the mention. I've been a proponent for IG's reach for several years now (have written a few articles similar to this one it for Fstoppers last year). While most of my clients find me on IG, I am pulling in clients from elsewhere...point is, spread it out.

Chris Nigul's picture

It doesn't matter, you're John f'n Schell!

Brent Thale's picture

Pshew! I'm sure glad Facebook doesn't own Instagram!

Brian Reed's picture

Not yet. I am sure Zuckerberg is trying to find a way to do just that. Either Facebook or Microsoft. Maybe even Google. Who knows what is going on "Behind the Scenes"?

It is like the Borg ... Resistance Is Futile. You will succumb to our will. You will pay us what we demand or else. ;-)

Eric Mazzone's picture

Brent's point is that Facebook DOES own IG. They just haven't yet screwed up IG the same way they've screwed up Facebook. They tried a couple of years ago and the immediate uproar put a stop to it. They're trying again, with their promoted and paid ads. So hopefully something newer will come up. Looks like it might be snapchat. In fact I'm probably going to open one today, since my target demographic is on there more than anything else now.

Brian Reed's picture

Oh. I wasn't aware that Facebook already owned Instagram. Apologies.

Well, like Dani indicated, if Facebook does end up screwing it up, we'll just find another Social Media outlet that will work. :-D (Huge Grin)

Duk Maniquis's picture

Have you guys tried Ello?

Eric Mazzone's picture

I'm on Ello and don't use it. Only creatives are on it, so it's not an avenue to reach potential clients.

A J's picture

You do realise that Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012... Its a matter of time before FB starts changing Instagram as well.

Austin Burke's picture

This statement right here. So many people just seem to forget that business is a constantly changing field and you have to be willing to evolve with it.

I jumped on the facebook game just as the changes for their business pages where being made and it's really killed it for me. Getting views was so hard unless I spent money and I have had much better luck with Instagram and that is what I am going to stick with.

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Dani - I fail to see how asking for something while offering nothing in return has any merit. Promoting one's work is a commercial exercise. We're not expecting to get a free lunch here, are we? Can't help but to think that there's a strong sense of entitlement with a good doze of irony that's clouding the whole argument.

And I can't imagine seeing every single photo or status update showing up on my feed from a handful people/pages that I follow. And I'm extremely selective on who I follow and the number of friends I actually "friend" on FB to begin with. The shier number of individuals and entities wanting me to see their content because THEY think it's the most important and awesome thing ever has made FB feed quite irrelevant to me. Newsfeed just doesn't scale, it's simple math as far as I see it.

Nowadays I barely have the patience for a just a quick glance and a few scrolls through the feed before I either move on from FB or quickly click on pages which I actually care about.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Facebook wanting us to pay to boost posts is one thing, but to reduce the organic reach of posts after one boosts a post or three is beyond the pale. If anything the boosted posts should reach more people, as intended, and the non-boosted posts should reach the normal amount after the boosts run out. But the fact of the matter is, after boosting a post the organic reach of non-boosted posts is less than half of the pre-boost numbers.

So yes Facebook is ripping people off.

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Do explain how you are "getting ripped off" ... you haven't paid anything for it, have you? Yes, one can put in their heart and soul and countless hours into creating content and posting it on FB and everywhere else. But, um... that's on you. No?

Preferential treatment or whatever one wants to label it... sure. Money making machine? Sure. After all... Dani and RGG, for instance, didn't work their rears off for a song, did they? They've put all the effort in hopes for a successful sale of the tutorial... read: PROFIT.

So again - how not getting as much fee marketing press as one could want is getting ripped off is beyond me.

Mark Davidson's picture

I deleted my FB account as I found it was not reaching my clients. As a commercial photographer my clients are not my "friends" nor do they cruise FB looking for photographers. Yes it is/was free but you get what you pay for.
Every person has a unique business and a different approach to their marketing efforts.
The free aspect of FB died a while back and I am quite sure that the free model of any platform only lasts till critical mass is achieved. But will the bulk of people move? Maybe. But if you are portrait/wedding photographer I think FB is where the retail clients are.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Hey, dense guy who refuses to UNDERSTAND! If I reach 1000 people with EVERY post I make today, and I pay to reach an additional 1000 for ONE post, then EVERY post after only reaches 500, THAT IS A RIPOFF! Because Facebook is throttling my reach since I already PAID once to reach more, they're attempting to force me to pay to reach again.

TLDR
1000 pre-boost posts
2000 boosted post
500 post-boost posts
is a reduction of 500 reach for non-boosted posts. So YES I expect to reach 1000 EACH post organic, anything less is suspect for fraud!

If you can't understand this don't bother replying.

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Resorting to name calling isn't helping your point and your little example is irrelevant.

Last I checked, FB, along with majority of social media platforms, is free. As in... you don't have to pay a dime to use it. Nada. Zilch. You can, and apparently do, choose to use it in attempt to market yourself for free. But, don't go crying when the handout is not as generous as it used to be. Or when the rules change on how, when, or if you continue to get the benefits you've been taking for granted.

Especially when you've been milking this cow for free. For years. Especially after it helped so many people (including Dani Diamond, here) reach people they would have never, ever, been able to otherwise.

If FB ceases to post any of your junk to peoples' newsfeeds tomorrow unless you pony up some $$ for every single post, you don't have a claim to it. Your page content isn't "social media" - it's "business media". It might come as a surprise, but in business $$ usually exchange hands.

So, if somehow you continue to feel as if you're being "ripped off" please Google the definition of [en·ti·tle·ment]. It pretty much sums up my view on this article in less than a dozen words.

Additionally, I suggest you brush up on some basic business concepts. Reading up on "Freemium Model" is a good place to start.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Again you refuse to see the POINT! I wish we could block people here like on Facebook. THAT is truly their best feature.

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Here's an idea: stop thinking people don't understand your point. They do - you weren't describing the quantum theory. They just see your "point" for what it is: irrelevant and invalid rant about how you think you've been wronged. As to blocking... why don't you go ahead and churn off your alerts on FS. Done!

JeanLuc LaBarre's picture

FYI: Resorting to name calling in a forum is an automatic LOSE, regardless of the purported merit of the argument.

Anonymous's picture

As much as I bitch about FB's practices (and it's a lot), you are 100% correct Alexander. There is nothing but fact here.

I still get most of my business from facebook (which is essentially word of mouth) and have spent nothing but time on it. So It's nice to keep that perspective.

Scott S's picture

Very true. Paid advertising is paid advertising. I like how Facebook at least breaks it down for you. I've spend thousands on traditional media and all I heard was the circulation amount they bragged about. At least Facebook ads will break the cost per impression down to you and provide you with data related to how your ad stacked up against the average. It looks like, in general, a new "like" will cost you about a dollar and for highly relevant ads you will look at between 8 to 12 cents per engagement. That's pretty cheap to me.

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

Facebook for photographers and other small businesses was dead couple years agp. The only reason to stay on Facebook is that people are lazy and everyone is there by default. Like anyone else I also hate Facebook but now it's not easy to delete an account there. People only want to communicate via Facebook messengers. It is rather annoying but what can you do?

Mark Davidson's picture

I deleted my account so the people who live by FB messaging don't contact me. OTOH they were the most trouble and had zero interest in clear, professional communication.

J D's picture

Love Instagram and Twitter for this. It's certainly not perfect but works far better than FB for me. Not once have I ever had a photo of mine stolen until I recently started posting on FB.

Prefers Film's picture

Interesting article. My FB page for a non-photo site I own still reaches about 2/3 of our followers. But I noticed my traffic from FB has dropped about 2% over the last 30 days, compared to YTD. I don't even track my photo page, since I stopped posting to it.

Moral of the story? We all better learn to roll with the punches, and follow whatever gets us the best referrals.

Chris Adval's picture

Dani thanks for sharing your thoughts as it is very much appreciated! As myself, I agree, just wanted to point out what everyone should know facebook owning instagram and the chance of the same or similar formula on facebook will happen sooner or later. I've been spending more time on instagram too, to save cash and get more reach. But as well knowing the day will come when each post will only be sent to 1/10th of all your followers for all users or if you appear to be a brand/company on instagram so they can separate you from the regular users to ensure you pay for reach.

I still boost posts to reach very specific target demos though, but if I was going for a broader audiences like you Dani, which I assume you target portrait photographers geographic either in the US and/or Canada, or even world, then that is different I wouldn't either.

For me, for spending my advertising dollars on my local photography business, its only facebook and thumbtack as my only 2 most affordable options as I do not have the typical resources as other photogs. And I can invest around $5-$50 a month which isn't much but its something. Without Thumbtack and facebook my only option is $100-$300 per month advertising channels, I cant afford this so I would get no advertising if that were the case. Just saying from my experience, and where I stand in business now (part time business), of course it would be different if I had much more cash flow and resources to source capital from and invest more into advertising but sadly this is not an option right now. But gotta start somewhere, even if I am stuck in this stage for years its a part time business for me and mainly to help pay for upgrades on my equipment.

Scott S's picture

Good points Chris. One thing I have noticed is that the higher the number of followers, the much lower rate of engagement. Is anyone else noticing this? I'm sure that's come about by their new algorithm. Ten out of 100 liking a post might carry much more weight than 5,000 out of 50,000?

I like how you talked about the local aspect of Facebook. I think where Dani is coming from (international audience) he's competing against other companies with an international audience which can definitely outspend him. On the local level (at least out here in Kansas), I think it's a little more even.

Anonymous's picture

Instagram is were it's at. At least for now. :-)

Brad Barton's picture

I don't care for Instagram's draconian "follow our vague rules or we may delete your account with no explanation or recourse" policy. I had poured weeks into a new account... Did not violate any rules I know of... And had my account deleted. No warning. No explanation. No chance of recovery. No way to find out what rule I violated so I won't do it again.

No thank you.

#bannedbyinstagram

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I'm kind of relieved FB is on the way out. I could write a book on why I'm not a fan. I've always felt that too many people put a lot of emphasis on number of followers but unless those followers convert into business, is it really worth your time?

But I've had a lot more success with IG. Just on vacation I gained a following on an account I created for a garden gnome.

Scott S's picture

So true. But I don't think a lot of people have a way to track those engaged users along the consumer pathway. Most of us are creatives, not analytics experts :) I'm enjoying Instagram a lot more, personally. Personally, and from the available literature, Facebook can still definitely be worth your time. It just takes a whole lot of strategy and planning.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I agree. I worked as a business consultant for a while and part of that was tracking how the client found the company. It's a valid concern, one company was spending $3,000 a month on advertising through traditional methods but paying people $600 cash under the table for referrals that converted to a job. Not a single job came from the traditional advertising, it was all referrals. Facebook is a little harder to pinpoint IMO. It can be worth your time, but it also really depends on your client base too. I've always said social media should be a supplement for the majority, not an entire marketing strategy.

Scott S's picture

So true. And you can track online sales that were referred from social media, but it takes a ton of training to go through. We've even been able to track the bounce rates on website pages based upon social media input and the type of devices that user was using. It just takes a ton of strategy. it's not just a "you post it, you get sales" type of thing.

Ariel Martini's picture

FB works yes, my mom always like my posts

Daniel Jeavons's picture

True true. but instagram is owned by facebook. Iv noticed that some peoples stuff does not come up on my feed on instagram some times. Instagram will soon be the exact same.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Instagram.. Is that where people praise duckface selfies, bikinis and food?

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Sure.

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