The Sad Truth About Facebook

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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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?

Dan Thompson's picture

Dani, you are dead on. I learned this the hard way also. Stopped giving them my money 6 months ago. Its a bottomless pit they drive you to.

Tor Ivan Boine's picture

how do you feel about 500px?

Anonymous's picture

500px has also become a joke for me... for example how on earth can a post like this onehttps://500px.com/photo/117237155/buck-by-kimberly-hicks?from=popular get such a high rating? And you never get sales anyway...

Scott S's picture

As a social media researcher, I would like to offer a few counterpoints to this article. You're taking an apples to oranges approach and looking at only one specific metric, albeit an important one. We all know the engagementThe industry average is about 1-2%. However, Facebook, so far, allows some things that Instagram doesn't, and that's the ability for two-way symmetrical communication that helps go from developing brand awareness to more enthusiastic brand advocates. You did mention this though :) For a good book, check out KD Paine's "Measure what Matters."

Yes, they have changed their algorithm (what we used to call Edge rank), but GOOD content is still king. While I get the most "likes" on Instagram, Facebook is still king, especially in the 30+ women demographic. I've been able to get my reaches to about 15,000 - 100,000 on just about every post organically. I know that's peanuts all of you out there, but we all have to start somewhere. Then I use advertising to specifically target demographics that I want to start building relationships with.

We are seeing lower reach numbers, but reach is really a vanity metric. What are those followers doing? Are we tracking the consumer pathway of those followers once they engage in a post? What's the perceived relationship of those followers?

I think some of the animosity is with the advent of paid advertising...we got used to "drinking the Koolaid" for free. Most of the people I interview shared similar beliefs. It was like their favorite trade magazine with a huge reach and hold on their target market was allowing free print advertising for years. Soon, they decided they had to monetize the magazine to make money, started charging for ad placement, and people no longer liked it.

Facebook won't be around forever, but it's still the 800lb gorilla in the social media living room. I'm focusing a lot more on Instagram and YouTube to try and get ready for when the millenials will become my primary source of income. Their analytics are also pretty darn useful, especially if you use their export to Excel option.

In the end though, there will always be a place for good, relevant, entertaining content that speaks to a target audience.

Just my two cents, but you have some good points :)

Savi You's picture

Let's all go back to Myspace. Who want's to be in my top 10?

Tomash Masojc's picture

Just a little bit about 500px - i know that a lot of photographers use it like a portfolio, bcoz of good quality photos. Another thing, i saw a lot of bad/poor photographers having a lot of followers on facebook, but i never have seen then to have a lot of followers on 500px. So i think 500px can be like an real quality metering place.

About boosting, i with ~4k followers on facebook got 200 and more likes, but never boosted any post. I think as you boosted it ones, you should to do it all the time then.

Scott S's picture

My personal thoughts on that. I don't boost while my content is gaining organic reach. I wait till the organic reach stagnates and then I boost my post. It seems to have been working so far.

Tomash Masojc's picture

interesting idea :) but you gain organic reach like always?

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