Promote on Facebook: A Big Rip Off?

So now you are paying to promote your content on Facebook (or you are giving Facebook the bird from the sidelines). Was it worth it? I tested a few scenarios with surprising results.

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the recent changes to Facebook that have sent brand pages views and engagement plummeting.  It’s given publishers pause to consider how, when and where they are spending their time on Facebook. I receive Facebook Insights for about 15 brand pages ranging from online properties to local businesses.  Here’s what their insights looked like last week:

Weekly Total Reach

  • - 30%
  • - 58.6%
  • - 15.2%
  • - 43.5%Facebook Promote Tanking Stats
  • - 92.5%
  • - 23.9%
  • - 87.4%
  • - 64.2%
  • - 63%
  • - 47.9%
  • - 67.4%
  • - 73.9%

Now the part that I really love about Facebook Insights emails is that they send you your report with plummeting, alarming statistics, coupled with the message “Get More Our of Your Facebook Page” which of course leads you to the “Promoted Posts” information.  Like you might read your insights and say to yourself  “Gee, I really suck. What am I doing wrong? Oh look, Facebook sent me some tips!  I’m in a panic to save my sinking brand page! Here Facebook! Take my money! Take it fast!”

There are still many businesses and content creators that are just discovering that Facebook cut their reach down, and that if they want it back they are going to have to pay for it. The concept of having to pay to reach the audience they’ve all ready invested in building on Facebook is unsettling, especially for smaller content creators and companies. But Facebook has a bottom line and the free ride is over. They need to take their revenue per user up to stop the bleeding and this seems to be the core strategy.

The Experiment

I decided to give Facebook promoted posts  try to see what the upside or fall out would be. I was curious to see if by investing in promoted posts, if there would be a halol affect on my other posts, improving the cumulative reach of everything I’m posting.  I’ve always been of the opinion that in order to make a customer happy that you under-promise and over-perform. Here’s what I found:

I spent $15:

  • Facebook estimated a reach of 2.8k – 5.2k
  • This promoted post expires today and according to it’s current trending I’ll probably land at about 2.8k
  • It will most likely hit the bottom tier of their estimate
  • It hasn’t generated increased engagement or much traffic. Probably not a good investment of resources

I spent $30:

  • The promoted post wouldn’t load
  • I submitted 5 separate help requests to Facebook to fix the post that I was paying to promote. I did not receive one response.
  • When selling a service, a business typically has a customer service solution in place. Which led me to ask myself: “Is Facebook even equipped to handle commerce?” When you start taking your users money, you better have a customer service plan in place.

I spent $50:

  • I paid $50 for an estimated reach of 10.k – 19.5k
  •  5,449 people saw the post.  4,527 was the paid reach that Facebook reported.
  • The engagement for the post even with the increased reach was low compared to engagement on posts pre-Promote changes. Something is qualitatively different about the reach it provided.
  • Ultimately, the word “estimated” should not mean that you’ll get roughly 50% – 20% of what you’ll actually pay for. That feels like smoke and mirrors.

I spent $200:

  • This is where the bigger numbers for reach were.  It’s compelling to reach a large audience outside of your own fans to drive engagement and possibly new “likes” to your page.
  • If you are running a compelling, high level promotion, this could be an effective way to spread your reach.
  • I would not spend at this level to promote general content.
  • Engagement on the post is up, (check out the Canon Camera Giveaway on our Facebook page) but there are several reasons that it’s up (compelling contest, I attached a bigger photo to the post, and I promoted the post).  I’m not sure yet if it’s $200 worth up.  I’ll report back once that completes this weekend.


I won’t spend again on day to day content promotion. They over-promised and under-performed. Not a good long term business strategy.

Facebook certainly got my attention, and yes, they got some of my money.  I think in fairness, if Facebook would let brands and businesses  keep the reach that they have invested in and earned on Facebook, and still offer “Promoted Posts” to reach more users outside of their fan base or to acquire new fans it’s much more compelling.

Facebook now refers almost half the traffic to our site than they did just a month ago. And I wasn’t paying them anything a month ago. I’ve spent almost $300 and to date have not recovered the reach that I had before the slashing and burning.

The Fallout on User Experience

If smaller content creators and businesses don’t have the budgets to spend on Facebook, your feed will be filled with those who do.  Are they the ones you want to hear from? The content you’ll be served will also be even more dependent upon who you are friends with and who they like on Facebook as larger businesses make bigger spends to reach outside of their established networks.

Blogger Fall Out

Bloggers are automating their updates and looking into Google + (even though they hate the experience on Google +). Facebook needs to reconcile the fact that bloggers have been directing their site visitors to Facebook to “like” them via contests, promotions, and special perks.  Why should they continue to do that? They’ve just given smaller content creators a big flashing sign that Facebook is not the best use of their resources.


Facebook continues to show signs of desperation in their strategy to salvage their value. In addition to the changes via Facebook Promote they are fighting to give younger and younger children access to Facebook accounts.  They are launching “Pinterestesque” functions such as “Collect” and “Want”. Many users are showing burnout, logging off, and deleting accounts all together. The whole thing feels a little like we are watching the “Facebook Greek Tragedy”.

Do you think this is smart strategy? Will Facebook push users away or draw you and your checkbook closer?


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11 Responses to Promote on Facebook: A Big Rip Off?

  1. Wendy Piersall October 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Of course I’m going to agree with you on this one. But my biggest problem with this new system is that not only do I have to pay to get more exposure and Likes, then I have to pay AGAIN to show my content to people who have already opted in to receiving my content. How is that going to give publishers ANY kind of ROI incentive to continue spending $ on Facebook? Shooting themselves in the foot. :(

  2. Marie October 18, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Thanks for this, I was just about to test this out myself and now I think I’ll pass. I’ll wait it out and see what more may come of this.

    And I love this idea – I would actually pay for this: “if Facebook would let brands and businesses keep the reach that they have invested in and earned on Facebook, and still offer “Promoted Posts” to reach more users outside of their fan base or to acquire new fans it’s much more compelling.”

    • Marie October 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      Also, it does want me to spend my time/effort elsewhere – promotion on Pinterest and Google +.

  3. Gina Rau October 19, 2012 at 4:58 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this experiment! I’ve been wondering what the promoted posts would result in and it doesn’t seem worth it!

    I want to hope that Facebook will change it’s way and be kinder to bloggers and small brands but it’s not looking likely.

  4. Tauni October 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    Rachael, Interesting test. Thanks for sharing. I too have tried promotions. I have tried it on four different pages to varying results. Perhaps I will share my results online.

  5. Becky @ Utah Sweet Savings October 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    This is a wonderful and very helpful post. I appreciate your time and effort. I too am frustrated with my Facebook experience. I have a love/hate relationship with them, for sure.

  6. Mariel @ Or so she says... October 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm #


    Facebook has really been chapping my hide. I’ve done the whole paid promotion things several times, and have never felt like it was worth it (I’m a slow learner.) :) I just think about the good ole days when your followers were YOUR followers and you didn’t have to pay to only MAYBE reach them. They signed up to follow your page for a reason. Ew, now you have me all mad. It sounds like they aren’t into the customer service thing, but I think I’ll have to give them an earful.

    Pinterest is my new focus now. It’s the top referrer to my site, so I’ve shifted away from Facebook (at least, some) and onto Pinterest. I can’t bring myself to get involved with Google Plus, but it may come to that.

    Great post, glad to know I’m not alone!

    ~ Mariel

  7. Books December 19, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    I think it is insane for Facebook to start charging to promote your posts. Sites like can help you get your Facebook page or post listed in search engines for FREE for PERMANENT visibility, not just a one time jolt costing $7.

  8. Relationship Expert December 29, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    This was an excellent post. I have been extremely frustrated with the changes facebook has made. I’m hoping more people start to realize that promoted post is a waste of money. Maybe then facebook will change their strategy and things will be better for all of us. Again great post and I appreciate you sharing this information with us.


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