How You Can (Still) Get Free Advertising on Facebook

As Facebook’s organic reach – the free publicity a business used to be able to get on its “fan page” – drops to near zero, a technique I wrote about a couple of years ago becomes even more powerful.

photo by vladimirfloyd/dpc

photo by vladimirfloyd/dpc


In 2013 I met with with the owner of an upscale ladies boutique in the southeast. Although the store sold all manner of women’s clothing, the largest revenue driver was shoes.

The conversation had just turned to social media, and I asked the owner how effective the store Facebook page was as a marketing tool. “It’s okay, I guess,” he said. “But I found a much better way to use Facebook.”

He had my attention.

“How do you do that?” I asked.

“Most of my customers have smartphones. Whenever a customer tries on a pair of shoes and decides to buy them, we ask if they’d like us to take their picture… using their phone. Women like to show off their new shoes, so most of them say yes.”

“Do they let you post those pictures on your Facebook page?” I asked. “Some do, but I don’t really care about that,” he replied.

What makes this work is that as soon as they go home, they post that picture on their own Facebook page. And they usually mention that they got the shoes at my store.

That means that we just got a free Facebook ad, and it gets seen by 500 of my customer’s friends. Two or three times a week, someone will walk into my store and ask to try on a pair of shoes that their friend posted on Facebook. All of this costs us nothing – we don’t even pay for the camera!”

The store owner had stumbled on a great way to use Facebook in its most effective form – to accelerate word-of-mouth.

Here’s what’s happened in the two years since we had a conversation:

  • Facebook has made it harder and harder for a business to reach its fans without paying for advertising.
  • Americans’ love affair with the selfie has grown stronger.

Happy customers love to show off the things they just bought… on social media. The boutique owner I spoke to uses this to get free Facebook exposure. So can you.

It’s a technique that can be used in a variety of retail settings:

  • A window company can take pictures of a homeowner posing in front of her newly‐installed windows.
  • A car dealer can shoot a photo of a happy couple standing next to the new SUV they just bought.
  • A furniture store can take pictures of a customer’s new couch, in the customer’s home.

The key is to take the picture with the customer’s phone, not yours.

Jay Baer put it this way on the Convince and Convert blog:

If you want free reach, you need to do extraordinary, useful things…

You can’t fully replace your corporate Facebook program with this approach, but with reach evaporating for business pages, aren’t your employees and current customers and advocates now the very best way for you to distribute your message on Facebook?

As someone who has sold advertising and trained advertising salespeople for most of my adult life, I’m not about to condemn Facebook for doing what’s best for the company. They’ve got a business to run, and stockholders to serve.

Your best bet is to accept the reality, pay for advertising when you must, and use existing human behavior to your advantage.

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