Do Facebook Pages serve their intended purpose?

I love Indian food.  So, when I found a Groupon last week for an Indian cooking class I bought it, immediately called to book the soonest class and then texted my wife to tell her we were going.  Did I mention I love Indian food?

The class (put on by Bolly Bears in Cincinnati) was amazing.  The instructor (Chef Dan) was a cook in an Indian restaurant for many years and answered my barrage of questions born of twenty years of Indian food obsession.  I was a happy camper.

But at the end of the night, Dan gave us a card with their Facebook Page and asked us to post something about the class.  It got me thinking about whether Facebook Pages are an effective next step for customers that love your product and want to be an advocate?  

You probably know your next customer

Chef Dan probably knows his next customer.  It’s me.  The guy who was grilling him about developing other Indian classes and then asking about his Thai classes.  The guy that was proposing other dishes that he could teach me how to cook.

But by “Liking” Bolly Bears on Facebook (which I dutifully did), I will only receive 16% of the messages that he posts.  Let’s caveat that by saying the 16% number is misleading because it is an average.  I use Facebook less than the average user and have a larger network than the average user, so I may see one out of every ten messages that he sends.  That sucks for him because I want to promote his business, it sucks for me because I don’t get informed of the latest and greatest, and it sucks for Indian food lovers in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky who will never know the appropriate amount of asafetida powder to add to their curries.

Hubspot just published some data on email marketing statistics.  Email marketers get a 25.6% open rate and a 4.4% click-through rate.  Though there’s no Facebook data analogous to those – let’s conduct a thought experiment   16% is the average number of times that a message will be on my timeline, whereas 100% of emails will make it to my inbox (assuming no spam filters are in place).  Assuming that interest is consistent between email and social media – of the 16% of posts that are seen on Facebook: 4% would be read and less than .5% would click-through.  What’s troubling about that extrapolation is that click-through isn’t far from the truth.

Bolly Bears has an inconspicuous notebook in their front lobby asking people to sign-up for their email list.  I would argue that it would serve their interests better to stick a QR Code directed to their Facebook page there and to collect email addresses at the end of each class.  They can always ask for Facebook fans in an email.

Facebook’s conflicting interest with businesses

Facebook’s PageRank algorithm insures that Page content will not be seen unless the business decides to advertise on Facebook or a fan goes to the actual Page (which less than 10% ever do after their initial visit).  For a business like Bolly Bears that advertise Groupon, it’s unlikely that Facebook advertising is going to be a viable part of their marketing mix (Groupon insists that businesses charge half of their regular price and then keeps half of the money, meaning businesses get paid 25% of their regular price on a Groupon).  The assumption being that a product is reasonably priced to start with.

The necessity for a (non-advertising) Facebook strategy is to make it a landing page for a business. What I question about that strategy is how much control a business has to drive people to it and how much fan attention is generated when content is posted.  It seems very inefficient.

When Forrester identified email as a more effective than social media to sell to previous customers, I would imagine that some of the inefficiencies of Facebook Pages contributed to their findings.

What do you think?  Are Facebook Pages inefficient or are they a preferable strategy to email?  What are some effective strategies to leverage advocates for a business?  And who wants to come over for some chicken saag?

Photo Credit


Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.
  • Matt Churchill

    The challenge for brands is that the majority of users don’t know that if they want to receive every bit of content that is published on a Page, they need to turn on notifications for that Page. The 16% reach is a neat way for Facebook to encourage brands to spend money promoting posts, but it doesn’t really help the end user who wants to get served the content. I agree that it is inefficient and until more folks know that they’re potentially missing out on content that is unfortunately the way it’ll be!

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Matt and great point. I think the notification feature is a way for Facebook to save face with businesses, but to your point they know no one is going to turn that on. Great insight!

  • Michele Price

    Jim it is a dilemma that companies come to all of us ( in marketing) to understand how to operate and integrate their marketing efforts in ways that makes sense for their businesses.

    We have seen huge swings and shifts in how people want to be connected with in the online world we live in now. Reminds me of advice I gave to a local non-profit that serves the startup community this past week. Always focus on homebase/the-mother-ship first, your website/blog. Then ask what do people want to see from your content in each satellite area ( email & social media) online.

    By being strategic and coming up with a map of types of customers, then listening to where they interact the most, I recently helped a client uncover their own communication blue print that serves them and their customers best.

    There is no best practice or formula that delivers those silver bullet solutions here ( would be nice if it were) and we want to stop asking for those unrealistic expectations in the first place.

    • jimdougherty

      How perfect and relevant is your point, Michelle. Amen to all of it – no silver bullets and go where your customers are. why I think you’re awesome!

  • TheTysonReport

    I think it’s telling that Groupon is entirely built on email and I also think it’s telling that FB want to give you a Facebook email address. ‘Nuff said.

    And Jim – I would love some chicken saag but it’s hard to justify the air fare this close to Christmas.

    • jimdougherty

      I’ve got a killer recipe for chicken saag Tyson. shoot me an email and I’ll send it!

  • AmyMccTobin

    Yep Jim, FB’s new practice of restricting a page from its own fans was the nail in the coffin for me. Sure, I’ll still keep my clients on there as a sort of due diligence, but I have turned back even more strongly to email marketing and building communities ON their own website (blog). I don’t know about those 25% open rates – maybe for rockstars like Ben Settles. I think the average is closer to 16%.

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Amy! Great insight into the ramifications of Facebook pinching businesses for money. It feels like a broken promise.

  • Shonali Burke

    I didn’t know you loved Indian food! The next time you’re in DC, you’ll have to let me know in advance so you can come over for dinner (I make a mean butter chicken, if I do say so myself).
    I don’t think there is an “either/or” answer to this question. And I also think it differs depending on the type and size of business. But I would never, ever advise any company to make Facebook their home base and, in fact, have been saying that for years. It’s just too risky. One’s own web property is where “home” should be.

    • jimdougherty

      Amen (that was to the butter chicken). Amen to the rest too, but the butter chicken….. :) Great point – I don’t want to sound like a Facebook hater, but to your point I wouldn’t let my business live and die by it. You rock. And I’m holding you to the butter chicken!

  • Veronica Solorzano Athanasiou

    I see it as email is for work and people go to Facebook to unwind. A social platform is a completely different setting to an email inbox. The whole state of mind is different. I wouldn’t disregard the smallest chance a Facebook post has on a fan’s news feed while in the mood for reading it and clicking on a link to a blog article as opposed to an email that will be waiting in a crowded inbox while the person responds to urgent matters….

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Veronica – a very important point about context. I appreciate your comment!

  • Grey Cross Studios

    I’m learning more and more that the best marketing plan is one that doesn’t rely on just a few platforms but utilizes many. As an artist, I find that my blog is home base, but knowing what kind of information to disseminate to various networks about my art is an art form in itself. I get better results these days by posting photographs of my work on Facebook. I get better results on twitter by posting updates about the development of various pieces I am working on. Sometimes its a guessing game, other times its science, but the more times that the name Grey Cross Studios is used, the more it leads back to my work no matter where I am posting.

    • jimdougherty

      Great analysis – what I gather from your situation is that different tools work for different things. A great point – thank you for sharing!

  • Nate Goodman

    Jim, I certainly agree that Facebook has its’ pitfalls. I am a rather biased supporter of email marketing. My feeling is that although social is very hot, and can have some great results, that it would be folly to abandon email marketing. I believe that social marketing will cool off somewhat in 2013, although it will still play a sizable role. Once the cooling begins, I forsee a resurgence of email coming. They both can play very well together though.

    • jimdougherty

      Great comment, Nate! I’m not sure that social will ever be as economical and targeted as email, but email will probably never be construed as cool as social, either!

      • Nate Goodman

        I can’t argue with that one. Social media is definitely the cool kid.

  • jsncruz

    Hi Jim, excellent post. I’ve had this same problem throughout Q4 this year. It’s also very difficult to explain to clients how Edgerank has messed up their initial investments in setting up a page and acquiring the large community base they now have. The best I can do is propose their pages as landing pages (as you have mentioned) but this cannibalizes traffic from their owned assets, such as a website. It’s a big dilemma for SME clients, especially, which cannot afford to simply throw thousands of dollars Facebook’s way. Content, no matter how good, also reaches very few people. I think ‘beating’ Edgerank (for lack of a better term) will be 2013’s big challenge for digital marketers.

  • tonybianco

    Here’s my two cents. Looking at our analytics on our website… we have quite a bit of organic traffic coming from facebook but none of it converts. I mean zero hits from facebook converts. Whereas all of our other traffic from every other source converts. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon thinking Facebook was so awesome. And I have friends that do well on marketing with facebook. However, with the new thing of them coming in and telling us we can only reach x-amount unless we pay for a promoted message has really turned businesses off to using their platform. With conversion rates being low in the amount of traffic you have to drive to convert on facebook why would I want to put more money into it? Facebook from a business perspective I feel is lacking. As a user I think it’s alright. But then again, I’m burned out on the social media world. If I have to read one more stupid tweet or see another facebook picture of some person’s ugly feet on vacation I’m going to bash my computer. So maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask here… but I think facebook is lame.

    Email marketing will continue to be the best way to market once you build your list. It’s all about building the list. High value content is where it’s at. The restaurant would have been much better off having people not only like the facebook page but leave a yelp review. Again like you said, they should have collected email address and then in an email directed people to the facebook page.

    BETTER YET… They could have collected email address… sent an email that said “Hey post your experience on Yelp, take a screen shot of it and send it to us and we’ll give you a free meal!” Then they can take those screenshots of people’s reviews on Yelp and go to facebook to post that screenshot and say “Another Happy Customer!” and link to that review on Yelp. THEN they could have promoted that post on facebook targeting friends of fans. Get tripple the value from one email address.

    • jimdougherty

      Great insight Tony – thanks so much for sharing!

  • stan stewart

    My own experience suggests that a FaceBook page is more of a necessary evil than a marketing essential. I agree with other commenters that FB click-throughs don’t convert. This will probably reduce even further with the new algorithms you mention.

    Small businesses and freelancers have to pick and choose where to put their marketing focus, so while FaceBook pages may be a nice placeholder (especially if we can feed it with other sources that have more payoff), but they are not much more in my experience.

    Thanks, Jim, for another great post that pulls data and experience together.

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Stan! Appreciate your comments, and the necessary evil comment really resonates!