The Perils of Platforms

Brian Lipscomb
Jan 26, 2021 12:16 PM ET

If you have a small business, one of the worst decisions you can make is to post on Facebook or other social media exclusively. Why? Because of that pesky little thing called the algorithm. The algorithm is the code that decides what you see and what you don’t see. The algorithm is designed to maximize viewing and interacting with content, but it is skewed toward things that will help Facebook make money.

A good example: Let’s say that you start a simple business. You do what most people do and create a business page and invite your friends to like it. Before long, you hit 100 likes, most of which are your friends and supporters. You make what you think is a great post and sit back and wait for the sales to roll in. Then nothing happens. Why? Because the algorithm initially only shows your posts to about six to ten percent of your audience. Think about that for a moment. 100 people liked your page, so they actually want to see your content and are interested in your product or service. But the Facebook algorithm has decided that only a small portion of those people will actually see what you posted.

If some of those people like or comment on your post, the algorithm will see that and may decide to now show it to more of your audience. That’s great but presents another problem: it may now be a day or more after you originally posted it, and if it was time sensitive, it’s really of no use to your fans anymore. This explains why sometimes you will see a friend’s post days after they posted it.

I’m saying all this because one of the biggest mistakes we make as business owners is to rely on someone else’s platform for our success. Facebook makes it easy to create a business page. I know because I manage several of them. But they make it hard for you to actually reach your own audience without paying them. And even when you pay them you are bidding against others, which means that your posts still may not reach the number of people you want.

So what have I started telling people to do? First, get a website with a blog. I design websites of course, but I know that not everyone has hundreds of dollars for a designer. There are lots of free and paid options out there. Get your business a proper site, and then set up a blog on that site. Instead of making a post on social media, first make a post to your blog. Then, you post on social media using a link to that post on your blog. Why do this? Because having a blog means there is a single place for people to see all of your content. It also means that you are your own platform, and if you decide to advertise on Facebook, your site gets the traffic, not Facebook. If you decide to advertise on Google, your site gets the traffic. No matter where you take your content, it resides on a platform that you control. This way, you can decide where your limited advertising budget is best spent.

Think about your website as a destination, then market the hell out of it. Utilize every avenue you have including word of mouth and advertising, in addition to social media to help drive people to that destination. The algorithms on social media platforms are always changing so you can’t depend on them alone to reach the audience you want. Certainly advertising is the best way to get people to see what you are offering but having a central place for those offerings is much better than being at the whims of a piece of code.