A lesson from nine weeks in Facebook jail: diversify your digital marketing mix

Are you one of those business owners who rely on Facebook for all of your digital marketing? You have a Facebook page, an Instagram account (owned by Facebook) and you engage with your clients only via Facebook. What would happen if one day you found yourself locked out of Facebook, sent to so-called Facebook jail? Indefinitely.

Can’t happen to me, you say.

Well, it can. It happened to me, for no apparent reason that I’ve been able to fathom then, or in the two and a half years since.

I don’t know why I was banned from Facebook

When I’m not working for Flax Digital, I run my own business and I also have a personal blog. So, of course, I have Facebook pages and Instagram accounts for them. I didn’t realise how dependent I was on these for sharing my content and talking with my clients until that fateful May in 2017.

I woke up one Friday morning to a message from Facebook that my account was showing signs of suspicious activity and that I had to upload a photo of my face to verify my identity.

I did as I was told, but the next message made my blood run cold “Your account has been disabled due to suspicious activity”.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. I kept trying to log in – nothing. Same message. I checked my emails constantly for some sort of answer – also nothing.

And thus my Facebook “jail” time began.

Facebook jail

I tried to set up a second account, but after a couple of hours, that too got shut down.

Then finally, on Saturday afternoon, as I tried once again to log in – Allelujah! I was in! My Facebook ban was lifted and I felt alive again. My headache disappeared and all was well with the world.

Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived, as after a day or so the same thing happened again and this time I was in Facebook jail for 9 weeks.

How did I survive? And more importantly, what did I learn from it for me and my business?

Facebook is addictive

As far as addictions go, it is a pretty benign one. I am yet to rob petrol stations and convenience stores to get my “fix”. My children don’t go hungry and I can still pay my rent.

Why am I addicted? Is it for the validation of others’ attention? No. Most significantly, my Facebook addiction is a soothing mechanism for my anxiety and depression. I check it constantly so that I don’t have to think about the myriad things I’m anxious about or to feel any pesky feelings.

Also, connection is a huge priority and value in my life. I need to feel connected to the rest of the world, or I feel adrift in time and space. And Facebook is such an effortless way to feel connected. According to Zuckerberg himself, “There is a huge need and a huge opportunity to get everyone in the world connected, to give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future.”

Don’t get me wrong. I connect with people in other ways than just social media. I go to a lot of networking events and I try to catch up for coffee with a friend at least once a week. I am in regular communication via email and Facebook Messenger with a number of people for both business and friendship. But being without Facebook, or Messenger, for 9 weeks made me feel alone and disconnected, although I was grateful for the few friends who queried my disappearance via email.

Don’t rely on social media for all your digital marketing

I have to admit that back in 2017 I had become very dependent on Facebook for all my online marketing. My work on search engine optimisation (SEO) had fallen by the wayside, blog posts were rare and I did very little on my other social media channels. I convinced myself that I didn’t need any of that, as all my clients had been finding me via my Facebook or word of mouth, ie: friends of friends.

Spending 9 weeks in Facebook jail taught me real quick that I needed to change my ways and I immediately got to writing emails and blog posts.

Sure, social media has a place in my (and yours) digital marketing mix, but it’s the stalwart old faithfuls like our websites, SEO and email marketing that are really going to deliver the goods.

Why? Because we are completely in charge of them and we own our content. We don’t rely on a third party, like the social media platform to distribute our message, except perhaps our email marketing provider. But because email is an open standard, if we’re not happy with one platform, we can always download our list of email subscribers and switch to something different. (Here at Flax Digital, we love Mailchimp.)

Let’s look at each of the components one by one.

Email marketing

Imagine if you only ever communicated with your clients through Facebook Messenger. What happens when you or your client are sent to Facebook “jail”? Or what happens if Facebook disappears one day? All your communication is lost. There is no record of what has been said throughout your relationship. Email is a much safer option for communicating with your clients.

Email marketing

In addition, when you communicate with your clients via email you have instant access to their inboxes. Whether they read your email or not depends on the quality of your headline, but at least you’re not reliant on the Facebook algorithm. The average organic Facebook page reach is 5.5% according to Hootsuite, while the average email open rate is 22.7% based on Mailchimp data.

And of course, there is direct mail – the kind of emails that you exchange on a daily basis with your clients. Smart business owners have a system for keeping track of these emails, so they have a record of the business relationship with each of their clients. Client relationship management (CRM) software can be a great solution for this. Here at Flax Digital we like Pipedrive, which we integrate with our WordPress websites.

Your digital shopfront – your website

We meet many people who tell us that they don’t need a website because they get all their clients from Facebook and Instagram.

What happens when Facebook disappears, or you lose access to it? So do all your clients.

A website provides you with a permanent online shopfront where your clients can find you and do business with you. You own the content and it is always there to be found, rather than only popping up when the Facebook algorithm decides to show it. Even when you’re not happy with your website host, you can always move your website to another one, usually without much fuss, because the website is all yours.

Your digital shopfront

I also see a huge number of business owners using Facebook Groups, either free or paid, to deliver training programs and, as a user, I love it. But imagine what would happen if this was no longer an option? Or what about those clients who just don’t use Facebook? Facebook is a “walled garden” only accessible to people with accounts, whereas the wider Internet is available to all.

We must find other ways to deliver our programs and not have all our digital marketing eggs in the one basket. We can use email, other online community platforms, or video. Here at Flax Digital, we can help you discover other options, not reliant on social media.

Getting your business found – SEO

The third part of digital marketing that I’ve learnt to spend more time on in my business and something I spend a lot of time on here at Flax Digital is SEO. Learning and implementing ways to get our websites found by the right clients has helped me and our clients a lot more than trying to figure out the Facebook algorithm. Results from Google Analytics also consistently show us that organic search is, in most cases, the biggest source of visitors to our clients’ sites. SEO can drive customers directly to your website – not just to your homepage, but straight to specific pages detailing your products and services, or to your online store, which means more conversions/sales.

So how do you Facebook-proof your online presence?

  1. Invest in a real website that runs on open-source software and standards and doesn’t lock you into one platform.
  2. Set up an email marketing system and make sure you have records of your audiences email addresses somewhere you can’t lose access to (back up those lists!).
  3. Build SEO friendly content on your website, to bring customers directly to the information/products/service that they need.
  4. Consider implementing a CRM system.
  5. Diversify your social media, creating accounts on multiple platforms – LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.
  6. Set up automatic social media sharing of your content from your website, so-called “POSSE” (Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere)

For me, relying on Facebook for most of my digital marketing was a decision based on addiction and laziness. Luckily, I had already invested in a website, an email list and had other social media previously set up. I was also an experienced blogger. I could still reach my customers during those 9 long weeks in Facebook jail and did not lose any business. And, really, you shouldn’t expect anything less from a digital marketing expert.

If you’re not a digital marketing expert and would like some help Facebook-proofing your online presence, get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation.

Dorothy Krajewski

Dorothy works at Flax Digital part-time, managing website maintenance and hosting, building websites, writing content and marketing events. She is also responsible for the day to day running of Ballarat Buzz. Dorothy has been creating online content for over 10 years and geeking out over websites since the 90s.

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