A food blog about food blogging.

Facebook Not Showing Updates to Fans? It’s Time to Take Control.


Flickr/rishibando

By now, it’s clear to anyone that markets their food blog on Facebook that their organic “reach” (that is, the percentage of your page’s fans that actually see your updates) has dropped to near-uselessness. While two years ago, pages could expect about 15-20% of their “fans” to see a given update, that number is now approaching an officially-stated target of around 1-2%.


Infographic courtesy of Valleywag.

It’s one of the biggest fast ones I can remember in internet history: Facebook convinced thousands of brands, celebrities, bands, and yes, small websites like yours, that their network was the single best way to keep in touch with the people who wanted to see your message. Then they abruptly shifted gears, holding the entire system hostage in an effort to squeeze a few dollars out of you for promoted posts.

Sure, it may not matter to brands like Coca-Cola, who have functionally limitless advertising resources, and who can afford to spend as much money as they’d like to reach only 820,000 of their 82 million Facebook fans. But what about your food blog, or the pizza place down the street, or your favorite non-profit? These are all pages that simply no longer have any ability to reach their fans. Fans who, remember, have specifically asked to be kept apprised of your updates!

In the past, we’ve always advised readers to stay nimble, when it comes to marketing your food blog using social media. We’ve suggested that you not become too emotionally invested in one network, to keep your social media efforts results-focused, and to be prepared to jump ship when the newest, glossiest social network on the block starts offering you better results.

Today, however, we’re suggesting another alternative: Maybe it’s time to consider taking total control of your marketing efforts and the way you interact with fans by focusing on building your email subscriber list, instead of worrying so much about Facebook.

Building a subscriber list was never something that we focused a lot of effort on, on our own website. There’s something about the notion of having “email subscribers” that seemed kind of antiquated, kind of Web 1.0. It turns out, though, that focusing at least some of your efforts on building a list can be one of the best investments of time you can make.

Why? When you focus your efforts on growing your email list, you are 100% in control of your data and the way you interact with fans. You aren’t dependent on paying Facebook to show your message, and you’re not hoping that your tweet will get noticed in a user’s already overcrowded stream. Instead, you are getting your message in front of 100% of the people that asked to see it, and those are the people that will read and share your content with their own networks. In a way, it’s a very back-to-basics way of interacting with your readers, and your fans, without putting yourself at the mercy of the latest social network flavor of the week.

Still on the fence about cooling off your relationship with Facebook? Eat24, a prominent food delivery app, completely deleted their profile from Facebook, citing outrage over Facebook’s “organic reach” changes. The results? Absolutely none. In fact, instead of losing touch with their customers and fans, the brand saw POSITIVE results. In addition to the tremendous publicity the company received, they actually saw fans engage with their emails at an even HIGHER rate, with open rates of up to 40% for some email campaigns. Their fans responded to the closure of the Eat24 Facebook page by becoming MORE engaged with the app, rather than less.

But how do you actually manage your list and send out emails? Mailchimp offers a robust platform for growing your email subscriber list, with widgets that you can embed on your site (or yes, on Facebook, if you’re not quite willing to cut the cord) to collect information from readers. They also offer an “RSS to Email” function, that puts your email marketing on auto-pilot by taking your weekly updates, creating an email from them, and automatically sending them to subscribers. What’s more? The service is free until your list reaches 2,000 subscribers. And no, there are no affiliate links in this post; we’re just fans of the service, and use it to manage the mailing list on our own blog.

With social networks changing the rules, and new networks emerging all the time, focusing some of the marketing efforts for your food blog on email subscribers makes more sense than ever, and should be part of your overall strategy for spreading the word about your site or your product. We’re not suggesting you quit Facebook entirely, since any traffic is good traffic. It’s just that email subscriptions present an old-school approach to keeping your message in front of your readers, that can work even better than posting on fickle social networks, since you are in control of all the data.

We want to hear from you! Have you changed the way you promote your food blog on Facebook, or are you considering abandoning the network altogether? Have you had success with using an email newsletter to promote your food blog? Let us know in the comments!

About Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is one-half of the blogging team at From Away, an Alexa-ranked top 100k most trafficked website about cooking, eating, and food culture in Maine. A social media marketing strategist by day, his food writing and photography has been featured in Bon Appetit, LA Weekly, Serious Eats, and the Huffington Post.

Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how many affiliates I’ve heard complain about how poor their reach to their followers has grown. It seems like the more of a following you develop, the less of them actually get the opportunity to see your posts. I long ago stopped using Facebook in any capacity, even personally, because if I like someone’s page and I’m interested in their posts, I WANT TO SEE THEM. I don’t want Facebook deciding what I can and can’t see.

    I’d be interested to know what experiences, successes, etc you’ve had on other platforms. My personal best performer is pinterest by a long stretch, but I need to expand beyond that to instagram and other newer social media services.

  2. Jason Reding says:

    14108934

    Hi, I’m on the verge of starting my own food blog and just needed a few pointers. I’ve recently been commenting on other food blogs to gain advice on what to do but no-one has replied and I feel ignored. I just need to know why bloggers these days don’t reply as much as they use to as I thought this was a way to get involved and interact with those who follow your blog or whether those days are over and people these days just look to gain as much followers as possible to say they run a interesting blog? I myself would love to interact with any people who comment on my future blog.

    • Jason, it may be that some bloggers don’t want to help the competition, but more likely, they may be confusing your posts with spam. A lot of bloggers get “comments” on a regular basis that have been left by spambots. These comments are generally very complimentary, and ask how the blog owner created such a nice template, or what they do to get traffic, or solicit some such advice. If you didn’t add something in there that specifically addressed the site or the page you posted on, if your questions were vague and could have been posted on any site, they may have simply assumed that yours was an illegitimate spam comment and consequently ignored it.

      And you’re right, engaging anyone who takes the trouble to comment on your site is always a good idea. Only a small fraction of a percent of the folks who visit any site will ever post a comment or question, its always a good idea to answer their questions, thank them for commenting, and encourage them to return. They are also doing you a favor, letting you know what’s on their mind, what topics they are interested in, if you didn’t explain something well enough, and on a purely practical level, they are helping you provide content which the search engines will index and incorporate into their search results, so answering question is also a good idea on a purely practical level.

    • I’ll add, if Jason wants some help, and he’s an Amazon affiliate, there’s an Amazon affiliate board he can access through Associates Central (there are a number of useful threads, topics, and other experienced affiliates who can help answer questions); I believe there are also several non-affiliated general affiliate forums out there as well.

    • Jason, do you normally leave numbers at the top of your comments? I see that there are numbers in your comment on this post, and have pasted them here: “14108934″. What are they for? They definitely make your post look spammy. Maybe try leaving those out? Also, I am a blogger who responds to all my comments, so feel free to ask me if you’d like some beginner tips–I’ve only been blogging for a little over a year so I’m no expert, but I also get a manageable number of comments, which is why I can respond to all of them.

  3. Great advice, thank you. Facebook is useless. I’ve paid and paid to get 10.000 users and now I have to pay every time I want to say something to them. I think this policy is ridiculous and greedy.

    • You’re right, it is ridiculous and greedy, and it will ultimately be counter-productive, because instead of paying to play, which is what Facebook wants, most of the website owners simply can’t afford that, or won’t pay it, or both, and instead of wasting their time on Facebook, they’ll go somewhere else, like proprietary mailing lists or other social media platforms. (Especially those with recipe sites, we have more options than those in other categories.) And if enough bloggers leave Facebook, and go somewhere else, those interested in following them will also go somewhere else. And those site owners won’t be on Facebook checking and responding to their messages, and getting targeted ads shown at them, so FB will lose revenue that way as well.

  4. Great post! Any tips for ways to gain more email subscribers? I get a few through my HelloBar, but I often run out of clicks, and don’t want to pay to upgrade to HelloBar pro. I’d love to focus on my email list, but am not sure exactly where to start.

  5. I’d love to see a blog post from you abotu growing an email list for food bloggers! Any tips and ideas you have woudl be great!

  6. I think this is great advice… for right now. But to be honest, I do not think that email will necessarily continue to give you more control over your reader relationships long term. Similar things are starting to happen with email as have happened to social media networks.

    Most significantly, Gmail is now putting mass newsletters in separate “promotions” tabs away from the main inbox. Will other email providers follow suit with filtering and hierarchy initiatives? I imagine they will. The more businesses are focused on signing people up to email newsletters, the more overwhelmed people are getting with their email accounts, and the more the platforms are going to want to solve this problem for them.

    This pretty much mirrors what happened with Facebook and while email providers will never NOT show people all their emails, you are still at the mercy of how they display the inbox and you are still operating in an environment that could eventually reach saturation point.

    I don’t say this to discourage anyone, because I do agree with you that it is the right move right now and bloggers should be taking steps to get ahead of the curve. I just don’t think it’s all that different to if it were a new social media platform. While your article is fair and measured, many others have presented email as the holy grail, a permanent solution where we can put all our eggs in this basket forevermore… and that makes me a little nervous.

    BTW, I am answering this less as a blogger and more as someone who works in online marketing. (I realize I sound a little too opinionated for a blogger with such a teeny social media following and no newsletter to speak of!)

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