Serious Problems With Facebook Promotion

Writers, if you are using Facebook to promote your work—especially paid promotion— invest 30 minutes of your time to watch these two videos, and read the article.  It will probably change the way you think about Facebook and save you some time, energy, and money.’s Last 3 Million Visitors

As a content publisher, marketing is part of the job.  As an independent publisher, with limited resources, it is critical I use my resources wisely.  My website’s analytics is an important tool for me. Below is a Google Analytics report which shows the source of’s last 3 million visitors.   last-3000000-visitors

Organic Search Brings 75% of Our Visitors

Ranking high on Google and Bing’s search engine results contributed to bringing more than 75% of our last 3 million visitors.

Creating high quality content, results in higher rankings in search engine results¹. The creation of high quality content is perfectly aligned with’s goal.  No writer or content producer could reasonably argue against a system where the creation of higher quality content results in more visitors.  Visitors, of course, are a primary driver of revenue for a website.

Direct Traffic is Not Too Shabby Either at 13%

The source of our direct traffic is trickier to nail down precisely, but it does result from visitors who come to, by clicking a link on my emailed newsletter, through a bookmarked page, typing an page directly into the browser, and any instance where referral data is not passed².

With all the hype surrounding social media, and Facebook in particular, many writers are ignoring time tested marketing techniques, like a solid mailing list.  Our mailing list has just under 11,000 subscribers, and 100% of them have opened an email within the last 6 months (we actively remove subscribers who haven’t).  Open rates for a typical mailing is at least 20%. This means every mailing will be opened by at least 2,000 readers.  In addition, many of our subscribers are generous enough to be paid subscribers. We also send a mailing, once a month, that is sponsored.  Not only is our eNewsletter an effective way to reach our audience, it is a revenue generator.

Approximately 90% of our traffic is generated directly and through organic search.  The remaining 10% comes from other websites including social media.

Facebook Brings 1% of Our Visitors

It is interesting to note that Wikipedia and Rottentomatoes (RT, a film review aggregator website) sends us just about as many visitors as Facebook.

Publishers have the ability to post links back to their websites on related Wikipedia articles. In general this practice is considered “promotion” and is purportedly against Wikipedia’s guidelines.  Despite that, I’ve followed the lead of major corporations and posted links back to related content.  As the report shows the tactic works as well as engaging on Facebook, but with a fraction of the effort.

Side Bar: I actually stopped posting on Wikipedia over a year ago; the last straw was a battle I had with one of Wikipedia’s editors who seemed hell bent on promoting Zane’s tax liabilities and marginalizing her numerous achievements.

I post interesting content on Facebook almost every day (I’ve shared this article on Facebook too). Again, Wikipedia, where I have not posted a thing in over a year and is free, drives as much traffic as Facebook where I post almost every day and have paid for promotion.

If I add Facebook mobile, Facebook made up just 1.3% of my overall traffic (40K of 3M+ visitors). Of course it is better to have those visitors than not, right?  Well that depends on the effort it takes to get those visitors, and what those visitors do when they visit

Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach³
Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach

One major problem with Facebook is that the quality of your content is of little significance. Facebook controls who sees your content. Search engines control who sees your content too, but search engines are motivated, and rewarded, by giving visitors quality search results.  Facebook, on the other hand, is motivated by maximizing their revenue and engagement on their website.

I have watched’s Facebook page “likes” quadruple over the last couple of years, while organic (free) post engagement has dropped substantially.  This is Facebook’s way to create an incentive for marketers to pay for post promotion.  I have experimented with paying for post promotion, but I have yet to reach the level of engagement I enjoyed organically, a few years ago, with far fewer fans.

facebook-boosted-post Last (and Final) Promoted Post Statistics

Despite having more than 20,000 fans and almost 5,000 friends, I reach less than 300 people organically with a typical post.  If I spend $7, I can increase this to 2,000.  But still, this is less than 10% of my fan base and I have to pay to reach them.

Keep in mind this is an audience that I built through my efforts of actively engaging with people on Facebook.

Again, I used to achieve this level of reach without having to pay for it. But those days are over as Facebook has made it clear that organic reach is a thing of the past³ .

And of course all of this assumes you can trust the data the information being provided to you from Facebook.  As the videos above assert there is a lot of click fraud occurring on Facebook.  Are the 2,310 people I paid to see my ad real?  Are the 19 who clicked the link real?  If you ask me, I’d say, “no.”

Take a look at a report (below) which shows the “people” who clicked on my Facebook advertisement. The ad ran for 7 days, from October 1 to October 7, 2015. You will see that the Avg. Session Duration is 00:00:00—this means that none of the visitors to the site looked at a second page, they all left immediately4.session-refferal

Sadly, there is no shortage of social media marketing “experts” who promise to help you maximize the effectiveness your advertising campaigns on Facebook.

Few of us are sophisticated enough to evaluate the effectiveness of these experts or the effectiveness of a Facebook advertising, particularly when the data supplied by Facebook is suspect.  Indeed, many social media marketers would claim, “We got you 2,310 views for only $7.” When in reality, what I got, in this case, was ripped off.

Someone looking at this report may notice that all of the Facebook referrals came from mobile users ( and claim, well Troy your website,, is not optimized for mobile displays.  That is true, but the page I was advertising is optimized for mobile displays.  In fact the link is to a newly redesigned version of which will be officially rolled out in early 2016.

For writers and other content producers managing their own websites, with limited resources, adding the additional effort of maintaining a Facebook page comes at the expense of maintaining and publishing content on your own website.  A compromise that few of us can really afford to make.  That $7, I wasted with Facebook, could have gone toward paying a writer for content that a reader visiting my website would enjoy, and that another website link to.

Why would I continue to take precious resources away from the production of quality content on, which is responsible for 90% of our visitors, and generates revenue, and redirect those resources to Facebook, who we have to pay, to bring of 1% of our visitors, many of whom are probably fraudulent?

On top of that, by promoting posts (a form of advertising on Facebook), I’m literally paying Facebook to provide them with free content.  Continuing to do this defies all reason and logic, so I have stopped.

As mentioned in the first video above, the YouTube social network pays content producers for publishing videos on their platform.  This is the way it is supposed to work. Facebook should be paying us for publishing content on their websites.

Independent Websites Send More Visitors to Than All of Social Media

otherwebsites-linking-to-aalbcIf you were able to scan further down the list of the sources of last 3 million visitors, you would to see the impact of other websites.  If all of the visitors, from hundreds of others sites, that link to were added together they easily exceed all of social media referrals—not just Facebook!  Here is a google search showing other sites with links to, excluding Facebook and Twitter.

Individually, none of these sites (see a short sample listing on the right) are sending as much traffic to, as Facebook, but collectively they send much more—and therein lies our potential.  We just need to recognize the power we have and use it.

Often, the only effort on my part, to get another website to link to, is to publish content that the website’s owner feels is valuable enough to link to. links to thousands of other websites; rarely do we publish a document that does not link to another website.  Sites linking to each other naturally (organically) is the true nature of the World Wide Web.

Another strategy get referral traffic from other websites is to engage on their discussion forums or comment on their articles.  To be clear, I’m not saying spam the comments section of websites with unrelated promotional material. What I am saying is look for articles related to what you may have written and comment in a meaningful or helpful way. A properly curated and managed site, welcomes this type of interaction.

There are websites however that don’t recognize our collective strength and actively avoid linking to other websites. Once I ran into a problem with Ebony Magazine, posting in their comments, and got my feeling hurt 😉  But websites that react the way Ebony are exceptions and definitely not the rule. has operated a discussion forum for over 15 years. Authors are encouraged to post information about their books  and engage with readers. However, author have turned to my Facebook page instead of using my website.  I’m seriously considering removing the Facebook page as it is cannibalizing visitors to

Posting information about one’s books on related Facebook pages or another user’s wall is a strategy many use.  This has resulted in many groups degenerating into a places where writers make “drive by posts,” sharing content from their own pages without even visiting the groups that they are posting to.

Even if many people engage with your content on Facebook, this serves to highlight Facebook’s site, not yours.  A very small fraction of people will actually leave Facebook—and why should they if you are constantly posting on Facebook.

Unfortunately, a Facebook page is becoming the ONLY web presence for many writers and even businesses—they don’t maintain a website at all.  Even a simple website is far more feature rich than a Facebook page can be.  If we factored in Facebook’s invasion of our privacy, selling our personal data, and controlling access to updates; the choice between a Facebook page and a website should be a no-brainer.

If this trend continues the world wide web will be a far less rich place as folks migrate from maintaining websites to creating Facebook pages. Profits generated on the web will be concentrated at the top, greatly reducing the potential for independent websites to grow and for new ones to get started.

For a content producer having a Facebook page as your only web presence is a mistake. Because you are limiting your audience, not just to Facebook users, but to the Facebook users (real or otherwise) you pay Facebook to show it to.

Many writers will tell readers to “follow me on Facebook” and fail to mention their own website, or blog.  Some writers even put the Facebook logo on their business card and marketing material.  Even has Facebook icons on virtually every page.  We give no other entity, save Twitter, as much free promotion as we give Facebook.

All of this attention paid to Facebook reduces attention paid to websites.  In fact many excellent writers, have just given up blogging, or their blogs languish in obscurity, because they not getting enough visitors to make it worth the effort to maintain.  Engaging more aggressively on Facebook, to increase blog readership, is not helping.

The Facebook Game is Rigged

Some might suggest that if you are only getting 1% of your traffic from Facebook, then you must be doing something wrong.  Well you are not.  The game is simply rigged against you as I hope my reports, these videos, and perhaps your personal experience has demonstrated.

Now if Facebook was sending thousands of visitors, who spent time on the website, this article would not have been written.  If there were countless stories of bloggers, magazines, newspapers and writers who realized tremendous success and an increase of readership through their efforts on Facebook, this article would not be necessary.

Instead what I’m experiencing, witnessing and learning in my research is a very different story. It is also a story that is not being told, especially in the Black community.

There is Hope’s time, energy and money will continue to be directed to two primary activities moving forward;

  1. Producing Quality Content
    I first started exactly 18 years ago today (October 10, 1997).  Providing a platform to connecting readers with books about Black culture is what attracts people to this website. Our planned website upgrade will allow us to share information on books in a way that no other website is currently doing.
  2. Advocating, Sharing , and Collaborating with Other Independent Websites
    Spread the word about websites you enjoy.  Figure out ways to collaborate with other websites.  Post comments in the comments section of those websites. If we don’t have an network of strong, independent websites working together, none of us will survive, and our only option will be a Facebook page (or a page on whatever platform has the most power at the time).Despite all the caution described about Facebook, we can, for now at least, make Facebook work for us, rather than the other way around, without spending a penny, by simply sharing content on the platform.

If you found this message helpful (or not), please comment below and share it with others.


¹ Of course this is a simplification.  There are other strategies one can employ to rank higher in organic search engine results, without producing high quality content.  Search engines are engaged in a constant effort to defeat those that “game” the system, to rank higher in search results, with lower quality content.  Search engines don’t always get it right, but it is a very difficult task.

² I really should take advantage of tagging URLs.  This will help me identify of the “Direct” traffic in my analytics reports. In fact, I’m also contemplating paying writers by the traffic they help generate to the website, through the use of tracked URLs.

³ In 2012, Facebook famously restricted organic reach of content published from brand pages to about 16 percent. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced it even more.  By February 2014, according to a Social@Ogilvy analysis of more than 100 brand pages, organic reach hovered at 6 percent, a decline of 49 percent from peak levels in October. (All of the detailed data, analysis and practical recommendations are in their white paper.)

An earlier version of this article indicated that the time spend on the site was zero seconds. Google says that they assign a value of 0 seconds to all visitors who only visit one page because they had no way of determining how long the visit lasted unless the visitor goes to a second page.



Troy D. Johnson is the President, founder and webmaster of, LLC (The African American Literature Book Club). Launched in March of 1998, has grown to become the largest and most frequently visited website dedicated to books and films by and about people of African descent.

16 thoughts on “Serious Problems With Facebook Promotion

  • October 13, 2015 at 11:59 am

    This easily one of the most comprehensive posts about Facebook marketing I’ve seen. Much more detailed than my own posts about this exact same subject. Consider this shared both on my site and in social media (which still is the only way to reach some people, lol).

    • October 13, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      @archceo:disqus, please post the link to your article. This issue really should be getting much more attention that it is, at least in our community. Obviously sharing an article like on Facebook will get zero traction.

      I did send Face an email an email asking for an explanation for what I’ve observed here. I’ll share the response as an addendum. Regardless of what Facebook’s response is, we can not thrive online without supporting each other. The good thing is that it is easy and free.

      • May 14, 2016 at 10:48 am

        Hi Troy. I strongly agree. Any additional information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. I’m going to the FTC with my issues.

  • October 14, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I posted a link to this article on Facebook, and it was the least “People Reached” (whatever that means), of anything I can reach ever posting. This is about 1/2 what I normally get nowadays and far less than what I used to get.

  • October 23, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Great observation!

  • November 18, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Troy, what an eye-opening post! Thank you for putting the work in, shedding light on a subject that needed to be broken down to those of us who are trying to do it all by WRITING, MARKETING, and PROMOTING our books. The fact is that it can be overwhelming; social media is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to expand your customer reach, but mastering how to get access through these channels can be disheartening and exhausting for most. I’ll definitely be reading and commenting on the AALBC Blog again.

    • November 27, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      @disqus_vUpAao9G1e:disqus Agreeded. Basically we have to use Facebook and not let it use us. We have to share information–many of us are making costly mistakes or having to reinvent the wheel. I look forward to your comments. I’m also upgrading the website I think you will like the improvement. I plan to make it the place to discover Black literature; the Google of Black Literature.

  • December 8, 2015 at 12:15 am

    the problem with facebook is that I CAN’T SHOVE THE THUMBS UP YOUR ASS, TROY

  • December 8, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Troy twists his titties

  • December 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

    Great article Troy. It definitely makes me think twice about advertising on FB and where I should focus to distribute my content.

  • May 14, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I am a victim too with a huge amount of screenshots of who “liked” but no views. My problems go beyond promoting. Mine are when I turned it off and they still charged me. I wrote to them and never got an answer. I had explained I did not have everything listed yet. Then I did promote at $5.00 a day for 5 days, but turned it off when I saw who was “liking” my page. I got charged over $100. My math says at best it should have been $25.00. Then I closed the store and they kept promoting. I was using the Shopify deal where you go to FB and the rest. I am exhausted with trying to work it out with them. I don’t see a way to post the over 100 screenshots I have. They sent me a screenshot where it was on. I have one that says it was off! I had to close my Shopify store and FB, but I was still getting likes? I’m going to the FTC with this and preparing same for Monday. I would hope that we can all get together and end this extortion (my opinion).

    • May 14, 2016 at 11:58 am

      I sorry to read about your experience with Facebook @mendywest:disqus I’m glad I never went so far down that road with Facebook. As I’m sure you know there is no shortage of users complaining about their experiences with Facebook and the apparent fraud that is taking place. The Veritasium videos that opened this blog post really speak for themselves. Facebook has too much money and is too smart for the toothless FTC to do anything to slow them down

      The FTC has really has no clue what is going on; if they do they are obviously not inclined to do anything about it. The only thing that will make a difference is for businesses, large and small, to stop using their services.

      • May 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

        Hi Troy. Thank you for writing to me. I’m sure FTC will not have an interest, but I’m going to do it anyway.
        I also posted on my FB page why I had to close my page. If I can help in any way other than getting the word out, please let me know.
        Mendy West

        Sent from my iPad

        • May 14, 2016 at 2:12 pm

          No problem Mendy, if you come across additional, more recent, insights from others I would appreciate you sharing them here.

          • May 15, 2016 at 7:52 am

            I definitely will for their sake. Later on this morning I am going to chat with Shopify. They are the ones that want you to use FB. They were as helpful as they could be and not even them could understand WHY FB would have continued on when I closed my store since it was all connected. I had to miss out on my own platform because FB kept sucking the money out of my credit card. Even when I wrote them and said you do not have my permission to use my credit card it was ignored. Unfortunately to keep them out of my wallet I had to talk to my CC company. They have it marked and they had to issue me a new credit card, which goes on your credit report. I have ID alert and it showed up. I’ve got damages here. I work for two attorneys doing exhibits for hearings. I’m going to run all of this by them. I also have a friend who used to be an attorney who is now a federal judge. We were friends growing up. He may be able to give insight and then newbies.

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