The Pros and Cons of Facebook for Small Businesses

  •    Meredith Wood is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans.

No matter what individual feelings we have about social media, one thing is true: there’s no escaping its influence.

Most adults are active on at least one social media platform, incorporating it as a daily part of their lives. In fact, 72% of adult internet users have a Facebook account.

And, of course, advertisers have taken notice — Facebook is a simple way to directly reach and potentially engage with an audience. Business owners are urged to actively use Facebook as a marketing tool, because why shouldn’t they? If everyone is on Facebook, they should be, too—right?

And while it’s true that Facebook can be an effective way to drive brand awareness (either through growing your company’s direct page or a thorough marketing campaign), it’s also been known to cause more than a few headaches. Some business owners swear by Facebook, but others are deciding to ditch it and focus their efforts elsewhere.

Before you devote all of your time and effort to growing your business’ Facebook presence, it’s important to know when it will and won’t be worth it. Below are the biggest pros and cons of using Facebook to help you grow your small business.

Pro: It can be affordable

No matter how big or small your business is, using Facebook can be affordable. For instance, setting up and posting to your small business’ company page is completely free.

Facebook ads are also relatively inexpensive, no matter which industry you’re in. You can choose to simply boost a post to reach more people for as little as $5, or launch a full ad campaign starting at $5 per day. The cost of your campaign will depend on how many people you’re looking to reach, so you can start small and decide to ramp up your marketing spend along the way.

However, it’s important to note that Facebook ad placement is based on a bidding system—and any number of business owners could be bidding on the same space you are. Facebook advertising works best if you have a healthy budget in terms of both money and time.

Con: It’s time-consuming

If you’re going to start getting serious about Facebook, you’re going to need to spend time developing an effective strategy.

Facebook is not the place to share hard numbers and generate direct sales. On the contrary, you’re likely to put off customers by making your Facebook page too “sales-y”—Facebook users are looking for a social experience, not a sales pitch, after all. And if you want to generate authentic engagement on your company page, you’re going to have to log on and post essentially every day.

Beyond the company page, a lot of business owners have had negative experiences with Facebook advertising, too. For Facebook ad campaigns to work, they need to include a lot of different parts: great copy and graphics, clear marketing objectives and optimized audience settings, and high engagement. If you can’t make time for every aspect of an effective ad campaign, it’s not going to be worth it.

Pro: It can help you engage with your current customers and reach new ones

If your core audience is made up of consumers in your local community, Facebook can be a great way to reach them—and utilize them as ambassadors for your brand.

Say you own a bagel shop, and you release a new cream cheese flavor of the week every Thursday. Facebook is a great platform for announcing each week’s flavor, which will invite engagement from your followers—they may like the post if they’re excited about that particular flavor, or even tag a friend and make plans to come into your shop and try it out.

In an instance like this, Facebook works the spread awareness of your brand the same way word-of-mouth does offline. Your current customers like your product, and therefore are more excited to share it in their own social circles.

Con: Generating engagement can be difficult

However, especially when you’re just starting out and your business (or even just your Facebook page) is brand new, it can be hard to generate a following. You have to work to get the word out to your customers that you have a page in the first place.

Your Facebook page also has to provide customers with information that resonates with them, as well as positive, feel-good content. And, because very little of your organic Facebook page posts should be sales-oriented, the brand awareness that comes from growing your engagement doesn’t always lead to conversions.

Pro: It’s not going anywhere

More online adults are using Facebook than any other social media platform — and those numbers keep growing. Much of this is because Facebook is several years older than other popular social media platforms, like Instagram and Twitter. Even older, not-so-tech-oriented adults can be found on Facebook.

Con: It’s not getting any younger

However, just because it’s here to stay doesn’t mean it’s going to remain popular in all circles. Facebook is maintaining its place as an online institution, but it’s no longer the go-to place for millennials.

In fact, Gen Xers are spending more time on Facebook than their younger counterparts: those in the 35-49 age bracket are spending nearly 40 more minutes per week on Facebook and Instagram than those aged 18-34. If your core customer base skews younger, Facebook may not be worth too much of your time.

Pro: You can easily measure results

The Facebook Page insights tool is extremely valuable for business owners. You can easily see analytics, such as the number of generated clicks or shares, that help you gauge which content is or isn’t working on your page.

Of course, these insights are only available once you’ve established your business as an active presence on the platform, based on Facebook’s own standards. That means you’ll likely have to be posting for quite a while before you can actually start measuring data.

Con: It’s not as effective for B2B businesses

Finally, people typically use Facebook to engage with others on a social level. Some brands do manage to generate an active Facebook following, but others spend more time treading water than actually gaining an audience.

This is often because their customers just simply aren’t looking to engage with them on Facebook—especially if the business deals directly with other businesses. If you’re in a B2B sector, it’s best to stick to LinkedIn, or another site dedicated specifically to your industry.

In the end, it’s up to you. Depending on your time, resources, and business goals—Facebook might be a great fit for your business, or it might fall flat.