A few months ago I started a promotion experiment. I wanted to see if Facebook / Instagram are still worthy of that, or – as my hunches were telling me – these outlets are already so opaque that they don’t even serve their initial purpose, which is connecting people. My conclusion is at the end of the article, if you want to jump straight to it, but if you don’t, you may keep on reading, for some technical details.
The promotion consisted in a square image with text inside, featuring a small branding area on the bottom right corner, like the ones below:
The white / black ratio was about 2:1, meaning I had twice as more images on a white canvas than on a black canvas.
The branding / call to action ratio was 1:5, meaning one fifth of the images didn’t have a call to action (like the white one in the example above) and the remaining four fifths had a small preview text and a call to action link (to one of my blog posts, like the black one in the example above).
I started with one image daily, for the first month. Then, in the second month I added one more image per day, at around 8 hours difference. In total, I had around 180 images, rotated twice per day (some of them repeating) for about 3 and a half months. I still have some images to use, as you can imagine, and I still pondering if I should use them or not. Or, to be more precise, I am still pondering how could I use them in the best possible way.
At the moment of writing, on my Facebook page I have around 2,700 likes and on my Instagram account around 900 followers.
I used the new Facebook business suite to schedule the posts on both Facebook and Instagram, and I would do around 7-10 days in advance. Every once in a while, on Facebook, I would also share the post from my page to my personal profile, where I have around 4,000 followers (but I suppose less than one thousand are still active)
I had a few spikes in traffic, but nothing spectacular. None of the posts got viral, and I would have around 10-15 likes, on a good day and 2-3 shares. On Instagram, I even noticed a trend in which people were paying less attention to these posts, as opposed to my “normal” pictures, which are mainly places from the city I currently live in, Valencia. Or, as we will see at the end of the article, these blog-related posts were shown way less than the other.
The Paid Campaign
Having a spare $30 during one of these months, I decided to complete the experiment with the paid part, so I can have something to compare with. I chose one of the pictures and decided to “boost” it, and share that promotion on Instagram as well. I didn’t dabble too much into creating the audience, but tried to be as specific as I could. I split the campaign on 6 days, $5/day.
To my surprise, I had a huge – and I mean, huge – surge in exposure and in shares. I don’t have the exact results, but I was over 7,000 people reach (almost my entire audience on Facebook, page + personal account + Instagram account) and a significant number of likes and shares.
At this moment, Facebook and Instagram are completely opaque to any organic reach. In the sense that whatever organic reach you may have, this is blocked or capped by the algorithms, which are favoring 100% paid campaigns. I even sense that paid campaigns are going a bit out of their means to give good results. Not that they are falsified in any way, but this type of exposure is engineered to over-delivery. For $5/day I had results that I can safely qualify as “insane”. Because of this engineering, even the initial goal of the network, which is to genuinely connect people, is now a thing of the past. Your simple voice, without any money amplifiers, is not heard anymore.
So, if you have a decent budget, Facebook / Instagram will deliver your message in a very targeted way. But if you rely on Facebook / Instagram as organic sources of exposure, forget about it. That train has left the station and I’m pretty sure it won’t come back ever again.
If you want organic reach, you have to go elsewhere. If and when I will do another experiment, on another medium, I will share my results here,