Exposed – Organic Facebook Marketing Is Dead – Plus Helpful Solutions
Are you promoting your property or properties on Facebook?
Maybe you have your own Facebook page showcasing your rental/s.
Maybe you post information about your rental/s to other groups that are destination-specific.
If you spend part of your busy week, creating posts, posting updates, and striving to generate FB engagement and direct bookings then this article is for you.
But, I hate to be the bearer of bad news because you are wasting your time and energy. And it’s far worse than you imagine.
In this article, I’ll show you that even the biggest companies in the travel sector are now only getting 0.001% engagement on Facebook.
I’ll also show you that other travel giants have abandoned the platform altogether.
But stay with me because I will share some alternative solutions that are easy to implement.
What’s gone wrong with Facebook?
Back in 2008 Facebook started Facebook Pages so that businesses like ours could create a page and tell the world about what we had to offer.
Unfortunately, because marketers are what they are, that just meant that the platform became flooded with ‘Here’s my stuff’, ‘Buy my stuff’ mini adverts.
Or in our case – ‘Here’s my property’, ‘Book my property’, mini ads.
Here’s an example that I just took at random but there are 100’s of thousands of these, if not millions, plastered all across Facebook.
The fact is, most marketers forget that this is a SOCIAL media platform and what they post has no social aspect to it whatsoever.
These types of posts draw little to no engagement and in the same way that we tune out the adverts during the commercial breaks while watching TV (we take a toilet break, or check our smartphones for updates) we tune out these ‘Buy my stuff’ micro ads.
Facebook is fully aware of every single aspect of what happens on their platform and they aren’t short of things to put into our feeds. Quite the opposite in fact.
The average person on FB has around 350 friend contacts and then, on top of that, there are the pages that they follow and groups that they have joined.
These people, pages, and groups are posting throughout the day and Facebook has to make decisions on what to show and what not to show in our feeds because they simply can’t show it all.
The numbers on this are staggering.
Here’s what Facebook has to say about this…
“There is now far more content being made than there is time to absorb it.
On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook.
For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.”
Brian Boland, of Facebook, said in a blog post
So, some time ago, Facebook decided to show us more posts from friends and family and fewer posts from businesses – Because there’s no point in showing us posts that we tune out and don’t engage with.
Let’s look at what’s actually happening right now
Booking is the second largest online travel agency (OTA) on the internet.
They are a MASSIVE company.
Of course, they have a Facebook page and that page has over 15 million followers.
I went over to their page facebook.com/bookingcom and looked at their latest posts.
Here’s the latest post at the time of writing this article
This post has managed 127 likes, 38 comments, and 4 shares.
THAT’S 169 TOUCHPOINTS – OUT OF 15,310,243 FOLLOWERS
That’s an engagement rate of 0.0011 percent.
If that isn’t bad enough, it doesn’t stop there because Facebook likes are worthless.
They are just a digital hat tip, a nod, a fleeting glance and they really don’t amount to anything of value for a brand.
You can read more on this here Facebook likes are worthless
So the actual value of this post by Booking boils down to 38 comments and 4 shares.
Just 42 meaningful interactions from a fan base of over 15 million people
That’s a 0.00027 percent engagement rate.
Bear in mind that Booking isn’t like us, the individual property owner or small to medium property manager.
Booking (.com) has a huge social media marketing budget and a large team of super-smart professional marketers – but that’s the best engagement that they can get under the current Facebook constraints.
A measly 0.00027 percent engagement.
As a side note, if you read the comments on that post, they are pretty much all complaining about the company’s client service (or lack of it).
This is a problem for all brands on Facebook
Feel free to search Facebook for brands in this or any other sector and the results are the same.
Here are a few that I looked at…
I thought that I’d start with one of the biggest brands in the world – Coca-Cola
Their Facebook page has just shy of 110 Million followers but the most engaging post they’ve posted this year had just 21 comments and 4 shares.
Now, I should explain that Facebook sometimes serves up country-specific versions of a page and in this case, it’s showing the Danish version. The US version of this page will no doubt have more engagement but I’ll bet it’s still poor considering the 110 million following this page
Thet’s go back to the holiday/vacation rental sector
This post has only managed 1 comment and 2 shares in all of that time.
That’s 3 meaningful interactions in 6 weeks
That’s a 0.0024% engagement rate
Even the Tripadvisor page shows the same sorry story
They have over 7.5 MILLION followers on their FB page but the pinned post that has been at the top of their page for over a week has only 15 comments and 18 shares.
That’s 33 engagements from 7.5 Million followers. That equates to 0.0004%
So, is Facebook worth the effort?
Well, apparently not.
When researching this article I discovered that Expedia had abandoned using their Facebook page as far back as 2018 (they’d only posted once since 2016).
And they had over 7 MILLION followers.
Here’s the last post they made before throwing in the towel
AirbnbUK stopped posting in the middle of last year and they had a whopping 16 MILLION followers.
Here’s their last post. This post had 251 comments and most of them are giving the company grief.
We know that these two companies are at the top of the travel tree and that they have huge marketing budgets so we can only guess that they have left the platform because it doesn’t perform for them.
Someone sat down and said,
If A Tree Falls In The Forest And Nobody Is There To Engage with It On Social Media…
…Does It Still Make A Sound?
Expedia and Airbnb marketing directors decided that “This is a waste of time, money, and effort”.
They decided to spend that time, money, and effort somewhere else.
Are Facebook groups any better?
Next off. I had a look at some groups as I expected them to get more engagement.
I searched Fb for the term Vacation Rentals
I found a public group called Vacation Rentals that has 6,300 members
Around 10 people post to this group every day but pretty much every post has no likes, no comments, and no shares.
This could be for a number of reasons.
1. The group could consist of 100% property owners and therefore none of them are looking to book a vacation.
2. Because the group gets no engagement the FB algorithm has given up showing these posts in anyone’s feed.
3. It could be both of these things.
One person posted a very vague…
The 60 comments were all from owners, quite a lot of whom were just sharing their links to Airbnb, Vrbo, and Vacasa.
Rita didn’t reply to anyone.
The largest group that I found was Vacation Rentals From Owners with 66,100 members.
This group mainly has posts like the following one
As an owner or manager, you would need to be checking this feed very regularly in the vague hope that someone posts a request for a property of your type and size, and location, and that’s it’s available for those dates.
Various owners then post links to properties in the hope of snagging a booking.
Once again, (strangely enough) a lot of these replies are links to listings on major OTA sites, so the person searching for a property will be presented with more properties to choose from.
This whole scenario is very hit and miss and I can’t believe it’s very effective.
I didn’t come across any groups that looked to be doing particularly well by way of meaningful engagement.
If anyone is getting bookings on a regular basis using FB groups I’d love to know, so please let me know in the comments.
Is Organic Facebook Marketing Dead or are any brands rocking it on Facebook?
Well, sort of…
VRBO is doing better than most.
This post received 1,100 likes, 35 comments, and 372 shares
That sounds better but they were giving away $5,000 and they still only received 407 meaningful engagements. From 6,126,255 followers.
That’s still only 0.0066% So, even though that’s better than the other examples, it’s still woeful considering that over 6 million people have gone to the trouble of following their page.
Before we move on and look at your options it’s worth talking briefly about the lifespan of social media posts.
Social media posts don’t live for very long. A Tweet only has a lifespan of 17 minutes. Then it’s dead and buried, never to be seen again.
Facebook posts aren’t a whole lot better
A Facebook post has an average life span of 6 hours, but 75% of the impressions happen in the first 2 hours and 30 minutes
As the owner of a FB page you can, of course, see your posts sitting in your page feed but your latest post is gasping for air after just two and a half hours and it’s face down in the stream at the six-hour mark.
To put this into context, a Youtube video has a lifespan of around a month, a Pinterest post (or pin) will be healthy for around 4 months and a well-crafted blog post will last forever (well, maybe not forever but for a good number of years).
If you are going to spend your time creating content, bear these metrics in mind.
It’s aslo worth mentioning that Youtube and Pinterest are search engines so if your content is optimized it will be discoverable in the long term.
Google indexes Youtube videos, Pinterest boards and blog posts so, once again, if these are properly optimized your content can be found in search in the long run.
Google doesn’t index Facebook posts so when they are gone, they are gone.
So what can you do?
You have a number of options but before we get onto them let’s talk ROI and real data.
Return on investment (ROI)
Social media marketing is notorious for being next to impossible to calculate the return on investment but it’s not so difficult to calculate the investment itself.
Maybe you already have an idea of how much time you spend on promoting your property on FB and building engagement each week. If not, try and measure the amount of time that you spend on this area of your marketing each week for the next 4 weeks.
Being in control of your business is paramount and if you analyze time and costs you can make informed decisions and boost profits (or at least spend your time in a more useful manner).
Next, head over to your Facebook page and take a long hard look at the numbers.
Look at comments and shares on your posts in particular.
Then head over and look at the insights, engagements section and take a look at the graphs for the last 28 and 60 days.
Then head over to your website analytics and look to see how much traffic those posts have actually brought to your website.
Ask yourself, is this worth the time, money, and effort?
But posting to my Facebook page doesn’t cost me any money!
If you are a small business and you are doing all of this marketing yourself you may be of the opinion that this Facebook work has only cost you time and it hasn’t cost you anything in terms of money.
But time is money.
The minimum wage in the US is $7.25, so if you spend just 1 hour a week posting to your Facebook page, monitoring pages and groups, Etc, that’s worth $29 a month to even the lowest-paid people in the country.
Seriously consider spending that $29 a month using different platforms or methods.
It won’t take as long each week, you should see better returns and you won’t be wasting your time like you are now.
Do you stay calm and carry on posting? That is the question
I started writing this post because I was super frustrated that I was posting great content to my Facebook page and group and next to no one was seeing or engaging with my content.
When I started to dig deeper I found that I was actually doing quite well compared to the big brands but that doesn’t change the fact that the results are still awful (and frustrating).
My post reach is between 10 and 15 percent but meaningful engagement is only around 1% and that’s on a good post.
The reach figures that Facebook provides are misleading just because there is so much content appearing in people’s newsfeeds every time they log in.
Even though your posts are reaching people’s streams they’re competing in an endless scrolling environment with other posts, all vying for attention.
If your post happens to be sandwiched between a kitten video and an update from a mum or a good friend you have very little chance of getting that all-important click-through.
So, what am I going to do and what do I recommend that you do?
Well, it will come as no great shock that I have decided to quit using my FB page and groups. At least how I currently use them.
I could probably send out postcards to clients and have more impact than I’m having on FB right now.
Saying that, I’m not going to delete the page and groups.
I’ll put up a pinned post that explains how people can get to my website and explain that they can find detailed information there. People searching FB for my company will still be able to find my page and contact me through messenger or via the website.
I’ll auto-share my blog posts to my groups and pages because that doesn’t take any time and any engagement will be a bonus.
Here’s what else I’m going to do and you may want to do the same
I’m going to reinvest the time that I would have spent marketing via Facebook into other methods that work better and have much more longevity.
First off, I’m going to go back to email and email marketing.
I have quite a big list of emails from property owners and managers that have bought my books or taken my courses. I’ve neglected this list of past and present customers and I’m going to go back to keeping in touch with them via email.
I know that when I send out an email, that mail will land in everyone’s inbox. There’ll be no algorithm getting in the way. Not everyone will open my mail but I will know who did and who didn’t.
The point is – Everyone will receive those emails.
For those of you that haven’t started email marketing or started and neglected it this isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
Email marketing is overlooked by most owners and small property managers but it remains a powerful marketing tool.
You can easily get started with email marketing for free.
The free versions of these platforms have some limitations but that shouldn’t be a problem in order to get you going.
Personally, I would opt for Mailerlite as it’s free, easy to use, and allows for automation.
The idea here is to collect email addresses from guests and potential guests (site visitors) and then develop relationships with them via emails, offers, and newsletters.
Whatever you do, do everything that you can to collect guest emails. Keep in touch with this group, send them information on special offers, discounts, and last-minute deals. Past guests know you and your property and are more likely to book than anyone else on your list.
Collecting emails from website visitors
Create what’s called a ‘Lead Magnet’ that you give away for free, in return for their email address.
A lead magnet, in our case, can be a PDF that highlights insider tips for your location.
It doesn’t take long to put together a top ten list of things that you recommend to people visiting the area.
These could be things to see or things to do at your destination. It could be a list of places to eat and drink. It could be a list of bars and nightclubs.
It will depend on your destination and city centre locations will differ from rural locations.
If you are looking to build a top ten list, aim to write one section a day. You only need to write 100 – 200 words for each place. Add a photo, a map, opening times, admission fees, and any other useful information.
This doesn’t take long each day (do it over a coffee or glass of wine) and ten days later you’ll have a top ten list.
You can do this in Google Docs, Word, or any other writing app.
Save it as a PDF
You can then create a ‘Lead Form’ in the email service app (Mailchimp, Mailerlite, or Sendinblue)
This lead form will say something like – Looking for the best places to eat in XYZ?
Download our free guide here.
They enter their name and email address and the email service will add their details to your list and email them the guide.
Here’s an example of a lead form. No doubt you’ve seen loads of these whilst browsing the web
Here’s one of my lead magnets. You enter your email address and you receive a 45 page Ebook on how to get more direct bookings. Enter your details and you’ll see how it works.
There’s a lot to this subject so I suggest that you head over to Youtube and search for ‘Getting started with email marketing’.
Once you start collecting emails you can automate email sequences that go out to your contacts or you can send one-off emails offering deals, last minute bargains, Chrismas greetings, and so on.
As an example, in January or February, you could put together a list of events happening in your location throughout the year and mail this to your list.
This could trigger bookings if, for example, there is a Jazz festival happening in June and someone on your list is a Jazz lover.
Secondly, I will spend more time posting to Youtube because Youtube is the second most popular search engine and those videos will be far more discoverable and have far more longevity than if they were shared on Facebook.
To put this into perspective, a 5 minute YouTube video has a minimum of 120 times the longevity of a Facebook post.
Pinterest isn’t particularly suitable for my website creation business but I would recommend posting to Pinterest as those pins have 480 times the longevity of a Facebook post. That’s a huge difference.
Let that sink in for a minute .
In theory, 3 YouTube Videos could have the same reach as 365 FB posts. A single Pinterest pin could get more eyes on it than a years worth of Facebook posting.
It’s free and easy to set up a YouTube Channel
If you don’t have a YouTube channel you can set one up in just 15 minutes by following this video
Once that’s done you can start to create and post videos that will help to get your property found via Youtube.
I’ll discuss creating and optimizing videos in an upcoming article but don’t worry, you don’t need to be Stephen Spielberg and you don’t need any expensive equipment.
Back to running my own business on my own land
Lastly, and most importantly, I will post everything that I create on my website. Once again, it will become the main hub for all of my content.
I will spend my time and energy adding great content to it and driving traffic to that content.
If you opened a shop on the high street but you didn’t go there often, didn’t change the window display’s regularly and didn’t apply proper business basics, the business won’t perform to its potential, it would fail and you would go bust.
If you have a web presence but you don’t go there often, don’t maintain and upgrade it, and you don’t apply proper business basics then the website won’t be performing to its potential, it won’t bring in the bookings that it could and you will remain dependant on the OTA’s.
There is no magic bullet here. Facebook, Instagram, and the like, are no replacement for an optimal website that drives traffic, offers a great user experience, and delivers direct bookings.
It’s time that owners and managers took their websites far more seriously.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be showing owners and managers how to build and maintain a kickass website that does just that.
Just sign up for our newsletter to see how you could be getting far more traffic and direct bookings than you are right now.
I will be following up with more detailed articles about how to drive more traffic to your site, how to leverage email marketing, and the best techniques for improving the discoverability of your site in the coming weeks and months.
If you would like to be kept up to date with those articles just fill in the form below
My long-lasting, on-off affair with Facebook is over. There were good times but it’s been quite one-sided for too long now. I understand why they don’t show my content to people that have shown an interest in seeing it but the fact is there to see – People aren’t seeing what I post and even if they do, they are being bombarded with other distractions alongside it.
At the end of the day, it’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s my fault for not looking at all of the reasoning and metrics before now.
I’m sure that if you take a long hard honest look at your Facebook workload verses the return, you too will come to the same conclusion.
That conclusion is that Organic Facebook Marketing Is Dead