A couple of weeks ago I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed. Lots of pictures of my family and friends, horses, dogs. Many shared articles and memes.
And then one post caught my eye. A woman I met through a group was expressing her concern over the “new” ban on animal sales, especially the impact it might have on breeders and animal rescues.
This is why many marketers tell you not to build your platform on “rented land,” as John Battelle called it.
The Truth Behind the Ban
Entire Facebook groups are dedicated to sales, trades, or adoptions of animals. Organizations rely on posts and ads to draw in prospects. Many business owners and rescue groups gave up their websites in favor of Facebook pages.
And now they’re stuck.
This isn’t a “new” ban. It’s just that Facebook suddenly started enforcing it in larger numbers than before.
Rescue groups don’t seem to be as affected by the ban. (You would think not since they offer adoptions instead of sales. But I was worried when this mess first started.)
Breeders, though? And private parties who want to sell for whatever their reason might be? Many have had ads or posts removed. Others have complained to Facebook. There are even new groups dedicated to trying to force Facebook to remove the policy.
These people need to remember something, though: Facebook owns the platform. They can do what they want with it. Including implementing and enforcing even more strict policies.
It’s the same for any social media channel. If you’re thinking, “That’s okay – most of my business comes from Instagram,” you’re going to be in for a nasty surprise soon. We already have Instagram for Business and Instagram ads. The platform will probably evolve in a way very similar to Facebook.
The Evolution of Facebook Pages
I’m a bit amazed there are still so many people who rely on Facebook for their businesses. While I have a personal and business presence on Facebook, I spend little time on my Facebook page. I’m usually in groups getting to know people.
The reason I’ve pulled back from Facebook is simple. I manage several pages for clients. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed drastic changes in reach and engagement from our posts. I’m not the only one.
Even if the animal sales ban isn’t affecting your business, you need to consider diversifying your marketing strategy. Facebook is just going to become more difficult and expensive to run a business on.
How You Can Protect Your Organization
But there are other ways you can market your business online. They may even be less expensive than relying on Facebook and other social media channels.
Buy Your Own Land
First of all, you need a website. A GOOD website. If you can’t afford to work with an experienced web designer, go with the highest quality drag-and-drop website builder you can afford.
And buy a domain name. There aren’t many people who trust sitebuilder.com/your-business-name or your-business-name.sitebuilder.com. It just looks unprofessional, okay?
Bring People to You
Yes, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to sell. People don’t mind sales emails IF those emails interest them.
Meet Your People Where They Are
Go out and meet people. Find out where your customers like to hang out (both online and off) and make those places where you hang out, too. It could be the local dog park or the weekly farmer’s market.
Offline meetups are still how I meet many people for my own business. And I’m planning on attending at least two conferences this year.
Prepare to Speak or Give a Presentation
I don’t want to do it, either.
However, speaking engagements are one of the best ways to build authority. (The other best way? Writing a book.)
You’re featured on someone else’s website, which helps your SEO. But it also exposes you to many potential customers – however many people are in the audience that day. The more presentations you do, the more you get invited to do. Which means more audiences full of potential customers.
Use Social – Just Don’t Rely On It
Social media is a great tool. But it’s just that: a tool.
Use social media to share any blog posts or other content you create. Use it to build relationships with potential and current customers. Use it to show the fun side of your business.
But social media should not be integral to how your business operates.
How to Make Social Media Work for Your Pet Business
Here’s an example. You breed pet rats. You pride yourself on how you take care of your pets. You spend time vetting and educating buyers before they purchase from you. So you’re insulted that Facebook has banned you from finding these prospective homes.
Facebook doesn’t say you can’t show off your rats, though. Just that you can’t actively sell them through the Facebook platform.
Instead of spending money on Facebook ads, you post pictures and videos detailing how you care for your rats. You have avid discussions in groups about bloodlines. You share brief tips on caring for rats. You proudly display testimonials from happy customers.
And while you’re doing that, you’re encouraging people to visit your website. On your website, you have a checklist on preparing to bring a rat home. They have to opt into your email list to get it.
Once they’re on the email list, you send them emails informing them of when rats will be available for purchase. But you also send informative articles. Maybe you make yourself available to offer advice (not veterinary advice, of course), such as how to choose food or find a veterinarian. If you have a blog, you let them know when new posts are available.
And then one day you get an email asking to purchase a rat. The more you do this, the more of those emails you’ll get.
Start Building on Your Own Land
Relying on Facebook is easy. But it’s not effective.
It’s not the job of the social media channels to grow your business. Their job is to grow their own.
So spend some time this week creating a web presence that belongs to you. Then drive your social media fans to the land you own. You’ll see a healthier business in the end.