224: How to Algorithm-Proof Your Facebook Marketing
If you follow a decent number of social media content creators and influencers, you’ll notice a type of post that regularly makes the rounds. The brand or personality will ask you to do some sort of action “to make sure you see these posts.” They’ll bemoan “the algorithm” and Facebook or Instagram for grabbing more of their organic reach. What they won’t admit is that “organic” means “free.”
So, their complaint is that their advertising is growing less and less free.
I’ve seen auctioneers complain about this, too—that throwing auction notices up on their business Facebook pages doesn’t get the free reach it used to get. This expectation feels weird to me. We don’t have this entitlement in regard to any other medium. We don’t expect sign shops to produce our outdoor advertising for free. We don’t demand newspapers give us their readership without charge. We certainly know better than to expect the post office to deliver our postcards at no cost—let alone the print shop that printed them.
For those (like me) who’ve pushed back against this entitlement, we hear a rebuttal that social media should be free, that it’s one of the few places left where individuals can build a voice and a platform in a market dominated by multi-national corporations. The auction companies I serve can’t buy Super Bowl ads. We small business folks can’t fill airport networks or Time Square with our branding. Our sellers’ budgets aren’t big enough for noticeable—let alone prominent—ads in the Wall Street Journal or USA Today.
With that said, of all industries, the auction profession should be the most agreeable to a pay-to-play model of social media reach.
First, we understand how #auctionswork. Every ad on the Facebook platform is sold via automated auction. Millions of times per day, advertisers bid for the limited ad spaces available (approximately every fourth item in your feed). Unlike our auctions, though, these auctions run on two currencies at the same time. The first is actual dollars—what we’re paying to outbid other advertisers. The second is consumer attention. If people are engaging with our content, Facebook lets us win the auction early. The currency of their clicks gets added to what gets charged to our credit card to let ads sell below the reserve. So, if we photograph our assets well, write our ads well, and target those ads well, we can still take down Fortune 500 advertisers. An auction might be the most democratic way to buy or sell anything, and auctions make social media the most democratic advertising on the planet.
Second, auctioneers gather tons of data on their bidders and buyers. The more data an advertiser has, the more advantage we have in winning those auctions. The vast majority of social media advertising is actually purchased by small businesses—not big name brands. Against that field of competitors, auctioneers come to the table not only with more data but more sortable data. We can export customers out of our auction software according to the type of auction or even the kind of asset they pursued in a past auction. We can dial in our demographics in a way that restaurants, service contractors, and offline retailers could only dream about.
Third, most auctions I advertise occur in rural areas, even if they’re not farm related. Why is this an advantage? Big advertisers and bulk media buyers don’t waste their time or money on rural buyers. So, there are fewer businesses bidding against us for the ad inventory. When we do go into cities for business liquidations or commercial equipment or rental properties, we’re often targeting demographics that others don’t. Part of my clients’ success with their Facebook ads has been the fact that we target the scavenger community, flea market enthusiasts, and people looking to buy used items. It makes sense that companies selling new items aren’t lifting their digital paddles to outbid us.
Once we pay for advertising, the algorithms work in our favor.
As long as advertising is sold by auction, the algorithms can always work for us. Facebook wants ads to align with user interests so much that they don’t annoy people off their feeds. They want happy advertisers and give us as much reach as market value will allow. It doesn’t take a lot of money to benefit from this system. We can buy as little or as much as our budget will allow.
So, the next time you see someone complain online about a changing algorithm, you can smile. As an auctioneer, you know better than anyone how to spot deals and bring home bargains from someone else’s auctions—especially from the millions of auctions that happen every day on Facebook.