Facebook business pages are a wonderful marketing tool for equestrian business of all shapes and sizes, but since the start of the year, you may have noticed your page posts are reaching far fewer fans than before.

This is a result of a change Facebook implemented in early January 2015 to reduce the amount of ‘promotional content’ being served up in individual’s news feeds.

This change was announced in November 2014 on the Facebook for business blog. In summary, Facebook said a recent survey had shown people on Facebook “wanted to see more stories from friends and [business] pages they care about, and less promotional content.”

What is ‘promotional content’ in this context? Facebook describes it as:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

If any of your posts fit the descriptions above, you can expect them to reach far fewer fans than before. In addition, Facebook warned: “Pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.” So it’s not just these specific posts that are in danger, the reach of your non-promotional posts could be negatively affected, too.

In the statement, Facebook goes on to explain that if businesses want to target promotional messages to specific audiences, “Facebook advertising offers ways to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or app downloads”. And that is the crux of the matter. Facebook is no longer prepared to allow businesses to advertise their products or services for free via their business pages.

What should you do now?

Whether you’ve noticed a significant drop in the reach of your posts or not, you need to think carefully about the type of content you post going forwards. Pages on Facebook are still a great way to drive awareness of your equestrian business and interact with both existing and potential customers. But if you want to use them in a directly promotional manner you need to be much cleverer about how you do it — or pay to use Facebook advertising.

Looking at the analytics of the Horse & Hound facebook page, we can see that the reach of our content posts remains as high as ever (typically in the 10s of thousands in our case). These links still push high levels of traffic back to our website to read our most popular content. Because of this, our ‘native advertising’ solutions remain a great way to access our +375,000 facebook fans in a way that doesn’t fall foul of the Facebook regulations. (NB: I’ll be explaining what native advertising is and how it can help your business in our next newsletter, but in the meantime do call your H&H sales rep if this is something you’d like to find out more about.)

What should you post?

Whether your business has a website or blog, or your online presence exists only on Facebook, there are things you can post to reach your customers.

1). Videos have more chance of popping up in an individual’s news feed than any other types of content, so if you have any videos related to your business, it’s definitely worth sharing them on Facebook. If not, find either funny or factual (how-to) online videos that are relevant to your customers’ interests and share those via your page. If the videos don’t belong to you, ask permission from the original publisher. Always say where you found the original and who it belongs to, rather than passing it off as your own as that’s breach of copyright.

2). Photos are another good option for both driving page likes and achieving good reach of your Facebook posts. Encourage customers to send in pictures of themselves and their horses for this purpose and get them to tag themselves. This way you can build up a gallery of testimonials. You could also take pictures of your business. Behind-the-scenes photos can prove popular as they offer rare insight into your business. Don’t copy pictures from other websites/social media without permission as this is also breach of copyright.

3). Use your expertise. Most businesses have expertise in a particular area, which you could write about on your website or blog, then share the link on your Facebook page. This has the added benefit of bringing fans back to your own website, where you can promote your business/sell product to your heart’s content. So if you’re a saddler, it could be ‘5 ways to tell if your saddle fits’, with a promotion at the bottom to save 10% on a saddle fit during February. Equally a freelance riding instructor might like to share their favourite flatwork exercises, with an offer for new customers: book five lessons, get one free. Or if you’re a retailer, perhaps a round-up of the latest fashion trends with the chance to save 10% on any of the items mentioned in the article with a special discount code.

4). The important thing with point three is, when you post it to Facebook, DON’T mention the promotion. Let the content bring your customers to your website or blog, and then do the selling on your own platform.

I hope that’s proved helpful, as Facebook remains a great way to promote your business. We just all have to be a bit cleverer about how we go about using it.