Facebook is always making updates to its site. Some updates are minor; others can have a big impact on your business and its social traffic.

Since no one has time to read Facebook’s blog every day or scour through updates and guidelines, we’ve put together a list of three Facebook changes that every small business owner should know.

We picked changes that are likely to have the biggest impact on small businesses and suggest alternatives to keep your traffic flow and engagement on the rise.

1. Facebook bans like-gating

Planning to run a contest to boost the number of likes on your Facebook page? Think again. You can no longer run a contest that requires someone to like your page to participate in a deal. You can still give visitors an option to like your page, but you can’t require it for entry.

Facebook did away with the concept of like-gating late last year. If you haven’t run a contest in a while, we want to make sure you are aware of this change. It’s a serious one, breaking this rule could get your page shut down.

While the change does toss a social monkey wrench into your plans of amassing a large following, it’s a good move. By allowing fans to decide whether or not to like your page, you’ll recruit a social audience that’s genuinely interested in your product or business. It’s better to have a small number of loyal followers than it is to have a large number of not-really-interested followers.

Alternative solution: Focus on engagement, not likes, for your next contest. Consider hosting a contest that encourages participants to upload pictures or content. The winner gets a business-related prize, and your business gets to use the content in future marketing campaigns. (Just be sure to mention that you plan to use entries in marketing materials in the contest rules.)

Here’s a great example of a photo contest from an equine store in the UK.

2. You can no longer advertise without paying

Once upon a time, businesses could feature items that were on sale. You’d post a picture of a cute pair of shoes that were 40 percent off at your store, or mention a holiday bargain on a service that you provide. Now, that idea is a Facebook fairytale.

Facebook is cracking down on what it calls “overly promotional ads.” In other words, posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app. Facebook says users were complaining about the number of ads in their newsfeeds, so the social giant reconfigured its algorithm to catch ads like this and limit their reach.

Alternative solution: Try Facebook advertising. You can still post about upcoming sales, but you have to do it through Facebook’s advertising platform.

Yes, we’re bummed that you have to pay for advertising, but Facebook ads can be an effective and affordable marketing tool. By purchasing an ad, you can increase your reach and sales. Facebook ads come with some impressive measuring tools, so you know how well your ad is working.

Need help hosting a contest on your site? Look into tools like ShortStack or Wishpond to get help creating and managing a contest. Be sure to look into pricing before you commit to services though.

3. No promotional cover art

When someone visits your Facebook page, what’s the first thing they see? The cover art, right? This portion of your Facebook page is prime real estate, so it’s no wonder that business owners are inclined to use the space for promotional purposes.

Well, it’s a no-no on Facebook. Just as Facebook cracked down on promotional posts, it also put a ban on promotional cover art. For example, you can’t snap a picture of your sales flyer and post it as your cover art.

Alternative solution: You can’t get ‘salesy’ with your cover photo, but you can add call-to-action buttons to it. Facebook has seven different buttons, including “Shop Now” and “Sign Up” that you can add to your page to encourage sales and engagement.

While Facebook is an ever-changing platform, it’s still one of the most popular and useful ways to reach your audience. We’ll continue to keep you updated on changes to ensure your social marketing success.

© 2015 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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