Friday, March 18, 2016

A Social (Media) Experiment

by Sherri Stokey

Of all the struggles we face as independent artisans and small business owners (if you can even call us that - teeny tiny business owners?), one of the most daunting is figuring out how to be seen.  You can make the most amazing stuff ever, but unless you figure out a way to connect with the people who want to buy it, you're probably not going to stay in business long.

Some folks have good luck with doing craft shows and in-person events, but many rely on online sales, especially those of us who live in rural areas.  I have to tell you, it's really, really hard on a person's ego to be outsold by corncobs in Nebraska Cornhusker hats (and that's a true story) in the next booth over.  That and the made-in-China jewelry being sold at a fraction of the price a couple more booths down.

I made the decision years ago to go with online sales and it's really an amazing thing that we have the capability of doing that now.  Not to date myself or anything, but I grew up without the internet and without having all these choices available at our fingertips.  We spent a lot of time going from store to store or pouring over the pages of catalogs looking for just the right thing.  Now I can find almost anything I want, from anywhere in the world, and have it sent right to my front door and I can do it in my jammies.  It works the other way around, too: I can put the micro macrame jewelry I make by hand online and people all around the world can purchase it.  IF... (oh, the dreaded "if") they can find me.

When I really started trying to make my hobby work as a business (or at least a self-sustaining hobby), Facebook was just getting big and was the place to be as far as social media.  I set up a page for my business and started gathering a small following.  Life was good.  People who "liked" my page saw the pieces I posted.  Then somewhere along the line, Facebook started deciding which posts people would see and which ones they would not.  They started charging to have your posts seen and I started to feel like the invisible man.  Let me give you some statistics from my own experience (disclaimer:  I cannot tell you if these are typical numbers or not, they are simply from my personal experience).

My page Knot Just Macrame has 42K followers.  That's over 42,000 nice people who have taken the time to say they like what I make and they want to see more of it.  Those aren't bought and paid for "likes", either (I think we've established I'm too cheap for that).  I posted a photo a couple of days ago and it was shown to 414 people.  Less than 1% of the followers of my page.  Seriously, Facebook?

And just when I thought I'd reached the bottom of the "reach" barrel (that's what Facebook calls how many people your post reaches), Facebook decided to show me just how low I could really go:

Yes, that's actually a negative number!  It's not like the photo I posted was offensive or anything:

How do you even show it to a negative number of people, anyway?  UN-show it to them?  On this particular day I was almost desperate enough to give in to the Facebook strong-arming and pay to "boost" my post.  Right up until I actually clicked on the button and looked at the figures.  For a mere $20, they would show this post (and only this post) to an estimated 700-1900 of my followers.  Yes, to the people who had already said they like my stuff and want to see it.  That number is still less than 5% of the fans I already worked to get, and they'll do me the honor of showing my post to those people for $20.  *sigh*

Now I'm sure there are those of you out there who are saying, shut up and pay up, but I honestly feel like I'm being extorted.  Extort:  obtain something by force, threats, or other unfair means.  It's not that I'm against paying for advertising, but not like this.  It just goes against every fiber of my being.  You might also think it's just a matter of what I'm posting because we all know a post with a link to the item on Etsy won't be shown to anyone, etc.  I shared a video of a puppy playing with a doorstop and that got over 6.6K views, though... 

In the midst of all this unrest, I came across a post on Facebook saying that posts about Facebook will be shown to many more people.  So being the rebel that I am, I decided to conduct a little experiment.  I posted this on my page:

It mentions Facebook no less than 15 times, and guess what?  In slightly over 24 hours, it's been shown to almost 10,000 people!  That's more than my previous eight posts combined.

Well ain't that a kick in the teeth?  What's interesting is that a lot of the folks who saw this post took the time to reply to it, and what I heard from a lot of them was some variation of "I like your posts but I haven't been seeing them on Facebook in a while."  

So what have I learned from this experiment (besides the fact that Facebook is apparently very narcissistic)?  For starters, I've learned that not everyone is as easily amused as I am.  In fact, 20 people decided to unlike my page when I posted this.  Another 15 people decided to hide all my posts (can someone explain why you'd do this rather than just unlike the page?).  Another two folks decided to report the post as spam!  Aside from that, I've learned that I'm going to have to find another way to connect with people.

I'm too old, too crabby and quite frankly, too disinterested to learn the social media game over again and try to keep up with the ever changing rules.  I'd rather spend my time creating beautiful pieces than learning the proper uses of a hashtag.  And I won't give in to the pressure to pay for posts.  I just need to find a new place to hang out with my friends.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Meanwhile, if you enjoy seeing posts from your favorite Facebook pages, here are some suggestions for you:  try "liking" and commenting regularly on posts from those pages and you should (theoretically) be shown more of their posts.  If that's not working for you, go to the page and hover over the "liked" button at the top, then choose "see first" in your newsfeed and/or turn on notifications.  It's a pain to have to do it for every page you want to see, but the other option is to have Facebook choose what you will see and what you will not.  One last option is to create an Interest List (instructions can be found here) and add the pages you want to see to it.  This option requires that you click on that list to see them, but at least you can find them that way, and see all the posts.

If you have any better suggestions, I'd love to hear them!  Oh, and in case you missed them, these are some of my posts in the last week:

And the puppy playing with the doorstop?  It's here.  You're welcome.


Ann Schroeder said...

I've taken to turning on notifications. I wish social media sites would just let posts into my feed as they are posted. I can manage on my own, thanks. I see that now twitter and instagram are also going to "help" me see the most "important" posts as well. We shouldn't be surprised as traditional media decided what was important long before social media even existed.

Donna Geurin said...

Sherri, this is really interesting. Who would have thought the results would be such an eye opener. And then to put it bluntly, there is the "other crap" that gets posted and it is my saying this. I am sick of it. Quite an eyeopener. I am always here learning from you.

Michelle said...

Great post Sherri. I hear you about the craft shows. I got outsold by a woman who painted (not well) on sand dollars. So, I've taken a break and weighing my options. Good luck to you and I'm going to like your page.


P.S. Yes, I went to the puppy page. How can you not?

Karen Z said...

LOVE your sense of humor--as well as this blog! I have absolutely chosen to create a list of my fav artistes on FB and check it daily... That, and following your blog, keeps me 'on the list'!

Gale said...

I appreciate your candor and actual numbers--confirms what I thought I knew about FB. I wouldn't take personally if former subscribers "undo" their notifications; I've taken to unfollowing folks I really do like because of the awful way FB inserts their posts where I least expect (or want) them. I never wanted FB to be a place to shop, to be honest, and I really do not want to scroll through endless plugs from various vendors to get to two photos of my nephews. I just want to know where the vendors are when I want to find them, and all this moving around from venue to venue is quite a nuisance. So as both a seller and a buyer, I feel your pain!

substitutionqueen said...

I found your post very informative and very down-to-earth.
I, too, refuse to pay FB for basically extortion. I'll continue to struggle along and post to my heart's content.

Patricia Quinn said...

I share your mindset. I am a newbie trying to learn the lay of the land and working with social media. It takes time away from my creative pursuits, but it is a necessary evil. I do like Google+ and have been spending my time hanging out there. I know it does not reach as many people as Facebook, but I am meeting some very nice people and artisans.

Maybe I will have to start throwing the word Facebook into my post. Thank you for conducting such a good, informative social media experiment and sharing it. You rock!

Pamela Kulju said...

Well said.
Thank you for your info.

Sharyl said...

So very, very interesting! Thank you for sharing your research, Sherri. I may have to insert the word "Facebook" in a message or two to see if I can get some of my former viewers to be able to see my page again. It seems so pitiful that only a tiny fraction ever see what we send. And in reverse, I get upset to realize that I've been missing posts from my favorite folks!

Megan Wallace said...

I resisted having a FB account till I felt like I was the only person in the world who didn't. Now I have one, and in two short years it has become useless to me for all the reasons you mention.
It might not all be FB's fault though. Consider the amount of information (and new FB user accounts) that is being poured into cyberspace every day. There are millions of times more of it now than a few years ago. People who use the internet to market their products will find it harder and harder to be seen amidst the flood.
I've always been a great believer in blogs. Blogging is harder work than posting on FB. Also fewer people might bother to visit your page to read a blog, but I have a feeling that you will get better quality viewers that way.
In an SEO workshop I attended recently we were made aware again that on the internet quality content is still king. Nothing will let your blog or web pages show up in Google searches so well as quality text and good descriptions for your images. This is something to keep working on.
Bloglovin is also really working well for me. So far every blog I follow is faithfully showing up in my posts feed. I never miss a thing, and my email inbox is no longer clogged with mail from blogs I subscribe to and then never read because the notification came at a moment when I was busy.
I think the thing to do is good quality blogs. And Etsy and Pinterest. Etsy and Pinterest are moving in interesting directions, I hope that they will not lose their effectiveness. Let's hold thumbs, and let's leave FB to the puppy lovers and other time wasting no brainers.
I love your micro macrame bracelets!

Cory Tompkins said...

Thanks for making me laugh this morning!! How did I miss that FB post?? We pay $5-$15 to boost posts at my 9-5 and it works pretty well but it's a much bigger business too so they can afford it!

Anonymous said...

I cannot help but want to scream WAKE UP in your face to all who keep trying to use a CIA op to do business THEY who run the control system do not want you to be happy, do not want you to be successful and especially do not want you to be the absolute CREATOR that emerges when you are creating art! This article puts in so in the face that it just cannot be ignored. It is not conspiracy, it is the reality that is designed to keep frustruation high. I know. You will promptly label this as 'conspiracy' and ignore it...or can you? Can you see that FB is just another controlled media like all the other aspects? Isn't it time to bew a witness to the system and decide NOT to participate anymore?? Names to look up...DAvid Wilcock, Gaia tv, Corey Goode, Michael Tellinger, UBUNTU....seriously, the matrix is designed for you not to get what you have to start living beyond the system....take your creativity to a new level! Blessings. End of Rant.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya. I am going to do a rant for everyone because I am done with is a CIA operation, and controlled by the Cabal. Who are they? The control system. No, I am not a conspiracy nut. I am in touch with REALITY and not the one that is designed and controlled by FB or any other mainstream media. It is time to WAKE UP. The only type of thing like FB ont he planet is SEEN.IS which is out of Iceland, where they left the control system, decided to bankrupt the Fed Reserve notes and debts and start over. They are now free. It is time to see things for what they are ladies...Time to start spending your time investigation why and how our wold works..and how it can be changed, most significantly with CREATIVITY. Step outside of the box and into your freedom. Start checking out people like David Wilcock,, Corey Goode, Michael Tellinger and the UBUNTU Party in south Africa. The system NEEDS your frustruation, your compliance and your energy to keep it working. If you don't like how it is, find out about those who are changing it and get on the change. There is not going to be some hero to save you, you have to save yourselves. Sorry, but I cannot bear to read another article with tender bemusement over why it is not working for you. Note it is not working for anyone anymore except the Powers at Large. Keep struggling in their reality or Make your own. ....End of Rant....

Karin said...

Your post mirrors my experience in many different ways. I have actually paid facebook for advertising - money I could ill afford, but I figured I had to spend money to make money. And it essentially amounted to nothing. I still post to facebook on a fairly regular basis, because it's the best way to connect to friends who love and have purchased my jewelry in the past, but new business from "strangers"? Nada. Same so far for paid ads on Etsy. I agree with Megan above that quality content on blogs is where it's at.
Currently working hard on improving both my blog and my Etsy shop as well as trying to gain some traction on Pinterest and Instagram. I, too, grew up before the days of the internet and it is definitely a challenge to catch up on all of that on the backend, when you are surrounded by people who have never known a day without social media. I am so grateful for your blog, because it allows me to take a peek into other jewelry artist's lives and keeps me from feeling like a hermit with jewels in the basement;)

Terri Del Signore said...

Wow I had no idea! Kind of funny I read this post today because was all excited I finally got my budiness Facebook page up today!! That's a real bummer though to hear how it works! I'm amazed at 42k followers!! I don't even have one yet lol.

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