Reconsidering Growth Through Facebook’s Super-Sized Lens

April 24, 2014

There’s a great article on AdAge that publishers and business owners utilizing Facebook as a tool for growth should read entitled, “Why Facebook-Style Big-ism Is Bad for Digital Media.”  It provides a quality reconsideration of tall of our fascination with the promise of a huge Facebook audience. The article calls out the truth that the digital realm has come to expect quick, exponential growth once we’ve started tapping into digital and social markets. Afterall, didn’t digital products like Facebook, Buzzfeed, Business Insider and Flipboard make it big fast? Why couldn’t our digital product? It almost becomes embarrassing when the typical slow but steady growth model of the tangible world plays out.
The belief in exponential growth is actually damaging to your perspective of success. For instance, to consider Facebook’s billion+ users your audience means that to convert even 0.1% of them to your dedicated readers, you’re defining success as gaining one million readers. While anyone can agree that is unrealistic, even narrowing the field by specific demographics and interests doesn’t mean you’ll achieve astronomical reach and conversions.
Consider this point:

“But to get to its unprecedented size, Facebook had to morph from being something special and targeted (remember, it started as a network for college students) into something more akin to a generic platform or utility. And that means that even if you can round up enough of the people you wish to reach by various defining characteristics — slicing and dicing by demographics, likes, expressed interests, etc. — it’s kind of a crapshoot trying to engage with them at any given moment because who the hell knows why anybody is on Facebook at any given moment?” — (Dumenco, AdAge)

So where do we go from here?
First, take a moment to evaluate how you are defining success. It seems obvious, but in today’s digital media days, you might have gotten caught up in aspiring to the Facebook model of being everything to everyone. So define success for yourself, both in terms of social media and for your publication. Does it mean rustling together 1,000 new readers? 100? 1? Does your goal match actual audience potential? (For instance, if you’re a highly specialized publication on slugs, do your goals match the number of people out there who are interested in slugs?) Even consider what a “share” is worth, or a “like” or a comment.
Second, make sure any circulation campaign – be it on social media, via email, QR codes, advertising or any other method – is targeted for your specific audience based on where conversations and conversions are happening.
Once you and your team has refocused, make sure you’re selling on your newly defined rates of success. It’s just as tempting for digital media buyers to get sucked into the belief of Facebook’s big-ism. Instead, remind them of the quality of the reader who is choosing to set aside other distractions to engage with your digital publication. You can use real tracking metrics to support your argument, rather than worrying about how many followers your social page finds.


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