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The Bitter Truth About Facebook Marketing In 2019

The Bitter Truth About Facebook Marketing In 2019

Three or four years ago, when vacation rental owners started to become unhappy with the major listing sites, many owners turned to Facebook to supplement their marketing and booking opportunities.

This worked… For a while

But the bad news is that since then Facebook have moved the goalposts and the platform is becoming less and less effective for the marketing of your property.

In this article I’m going to outline some of the reasons for this decline and show you a few tips that can get you back on track.

Before we get into the details I’d like to talk about pineapples…

Dunmore house can be rented through the Landmark Trust

I know, it’s a bit of a curve ball but bear with me.

Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover pineapples when he visited the island of Guadeloupe back in 1493.

However, pineapples proved difficult to transport and costly to cultivate. Even by the mid 17th century they were so expensive that only royalty and the aristocracy could afford to eat them. 

They were viewed as a true delicacy. Whole dinner parties were built around them. The rich even started to include architectural references to them on buildings (see the above image of Dunmore House).

They cost the equivalent of a whopping 5,000 pounds each in todays money and if you got to taste a tiny sliver of one it would be a social highlight of the year.

Even those that could afford them often didn’t eat them. They left them on display as a sign of wealth and social standing (until they rotted).

I read about pineapples and their history in a book called ‘Why we hate cheap things

The interesting thing is that now pineapples cost a couple of pounds each, no one eats them. 

Well maybe that’s a little unfair but certainly, no one is serving them at dinner parties or adding them to their roofline.

They are cheap and therefore have lost their value.

So, why am I harping on about pineapples?

Well, because, at the time, they were one of the main indicators of social standing and although times change we are all still swayed by signals of social standing.

Facebook is a prime example…

We are far more likely to follow a FB page that has 5,000 likes, than a page that has 2 likes.

Just like cheap pineapples, we don’t like ‘cheap’ pages with next to no followers or likes.

These social signals are often called social proof, that is, in this case, that 5,000 people can’t be wrong so the page must be worth following.

It’s very important to spend time building a following for this very reason.

Building social proof

The more followers that you get, the more followers you will get. There’s a snowball effect but you have to work hard in order to get the ball rolling.

The first 100 or so followers are the hardest of all, so start by asking friends and family to like your page (you probably already did this). 

After that you may want to try some Facebook ‘like for like’ groups. People like your page and, in return, you like their page back. This can be quite effective for gaining one or two hundred page likes. 

After that you are probably going to have to buy page likes via Facebook’s Business Ad Manager. 

If set up properly, you can obtain likes for as little as $0.01 per like so this method can be an inexpensive way of getting that all important social proof. 

There are lots of Youtube videos on how to gain FB likes and I recommend watching some of these, setting up some test ads and seeing which work and which don’t. Then kill the ads that cost too much per page like and those that don't convert.

Why Buy Likes?

Let’s not beat around the bush here. 

Facebook has changed, As far as business pages are concerned, it is now a Pay to Play platform. 

Facebook reach (the amount of your business followers that actually see your posts) is pitiful.

In the early years, if you had 100 Facebook business page followers and you posted to your page around 12% of your followers saw that post. Now for every 100 people that have liked your page, only around 2 of them see your content. 

Yep, we are down to 2% reach.

So, if you buy likes, you extend your reach. Get to 1,000 likes and 20 people see your post. 10,000 likes and 200 people see your article… And so on.

What social signals excite the social platform?

Facebook grade various types of engagement in different ways.

They see comments on posts as one of the highest forms of interaction and if people comment on a post, that post will be shown to more people.

The same goes for shares. If someone shares your post then obviously they thought it was of value and Facebook see this and chalk it up as a post of merit so more people will see it.

Clicks also have a bearing. If you have two posts and one gets no clicks and the other gets 10 clicks then Facebook picks up on that engagement and will serve more impressions of the more popular post.

Bearing these three factors in mind it pays to encourage people to comment, share and click.

Don’t ask, don’t get.

Ask people for their opinions, ask them to share, encourage them to click.

Enter reachpocalypse

I’ve read articles that suggest that Facebook are going to introduce a zero reach’ policy where the only way to get your articles, posts, graphics, etc in front of people will be to pay. As it happens we’re pretty close to that already but absolute zero will be a real body blow to most of us.

What are your options?

Stop using the platform

Image from Twitter

At the end of the day if you are spending time creating and scheduling posts and no one is seeing them then what’s the point? Maybe we’re not there yet but we are very close to that scenario so keeping an eye on the situation is very prudent.

Feed the addiction and Pay to play

In my mind this is the only realistic option for any of us that want to continue to use Facebook as a marketing channel. 

To be frank, they have us by the balls.

It’s genius in many ways. On the one hand we sit around telling ourselves that over two and a quarter billion people are using the platform (and a lot of those go on vacation) so we would be fools not to use it, on the other hand next to none of those people are seeing our business marketing efforts, no matter how compelling that material is.

From here on out you are going to have to pay for Facebook marketing to be remotely effective.

Get better at Facebook

I’ve outlined above a few methods for improving your chances of being seen by potential guests.

Pimp your page

I would also strongly recommend adding a video header to your page. That in itself sends a more professional message, is visually more appealing and can incorporate a positive call to action (like our page or visit our website for more information).

Here's one that I created for Vacation Soup

You can see how to do this for free here (it only takes 15 minutes or so)

Ramp up your posting frequency

Another method is to post more often. Quite a bit more often in fact. It was alway suggested that posting more than twice a day was detrimental to your efforts but as reach is so low why not blast more posts onto your page?

You’ll still only be reaching a low single digit percentage of your followers but if you double your posting you’ll reach twice as many people.

If nothing else, at least repost past articles on a regular basis.

Change the messenger

Facebook isn’t the only social channel by a long shot. Some owners and managers are heavily invested into Instagram but as Instagram is owned by Facebook I can’t see that strategy ending well.

Pinterest is a great alternative (or at least a side by side option). Pins last for ever and if you have a business account (which is free) your posts will contain links back to your website.As with Facebook, you will need to spend time and effort on building a following in order to create that all important social proof but Pinterest does drive traffic - And that’s all that matters.


I started out this article by saying that owners turned to Facebook because the listing sites that they had depended on started to fail them.

Facebook was seen as an alternative marketing channel but that too is now failing those same owners (unless you pay)

This is what happens when you rely on third party companies or platforms whose sole purpose is to make money.

My advice is to stop chasing other people's shiny things and start concentrating on building your own shiny thing. Your own website should be the heart of your marketing strategy. By all means, use third party platforms to enhance and promote your website but don't rely on anyone else.

History shows that to be a very bad idea.

If you came across this article on Facebook please drop back there and comment or share it with others. Thanks in advance.

What are your experiences with Facebook marketing?

Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

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Written by alan egan
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