Expert Strategies to Make Facebook Worth Your Time

Facebook “pages” -- which are for organizations, as opposed to “profiles” for people -- can be confusing for entrepreneurs. That’s understandable: You’ve spent years building a following, panning for likes and creating posts to entice your customers, but you don’t actually own any of it. Facebook does. And Facebook is a bit of a black box. In 2013, it began to drive down the natural reach of pages, forcing businesses to pay to “boost” posts to the fans they had previously been hitting for free. Such moves create, as Rich knows well, misinformation and micro-panics on the internet.

So let’s look at the pages problem in two ways.

First, the easy one: Rich, you heard wrong. “It should be pretty easy to change your business name without losing anything,” a Facebook spokesman tells me. The only restriction is you can’t change your page name more than once every seven days. On the left side of your page, click “About,” then “Page Info,” hover over “Name” and click “Edit.” It can take up to three days for Facebook to review the request, largely to ensure you’re not stealing someone else’s name. (To test this, I changed the name of a disused fan page. Within a half hour, it took effect, with nary a like lost.)

Now, the bigger question: Is Facebook even worth your time? Yes, says Andrea Vahl, author of Facebook All-in-One for Dummies. But you need an actual plan for what to post and whom to target. “Focus on content that does really well for you,” Vahl says. Maybe it’s humor or useful tips or a certain tone. A Facebook feed is a party, not a sales pitch, so do some trial and error to see what people like. (Do try video; for now, at least, Facebook gives it a greater reach than other kinds of posts.) And beware of boosting indiscriminately. “You’re just throwing away money if you’re boosting something nobody likes already,” says Stacie Grissom, head of content at the Facebook savvy e-commerce site BarkBox. Boost only the stuff you see working well.

Of course, you’re also on Facebook to sell -- and ads, not boosted posts, are for sales. Which means you’re going to need to learn the (painful) art of Facebook Ads Manager. “Facebook ads are the goose that laid the golden egg,” says Kim Garst, cofounder and CEO of Boom! Social, a digital media firm. “They’re hugely impactful for every business we’ve ever worked with. It puts so much data at our fingertips that we’ve never had access to before.” Unfortunately for newbies, it involves a lot of targeting and testing before you find an approach that works. But, Garst says, it’s not optional.

I know none of this addresses your core anxiety about using Facebook, Rich. The lack of ownership, of control, of power. The gnawing fear that someday all your work could just blink out of existence, forcing you to start over again. For this, experts suggest a surprisingly old-school fix: Drive people to your e-mail list. That way, you’ll retain those hard-earned contacts, regardless of what the fickle Facebook gods have in store.

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Joe Keohane

Joe Keohane is a writer in Brooklyn.

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