Tortoise and the Hare

There’s an exciting thing that can happen when you first start advertising on social media. The organic measures of exposure are quickly fading away, so when you get that first boost of exposure as a result of spending very little money, it can become addicting.

It’s a trap. Overexposing at the wrong time to the wrong people can prevent you from being able to reach the right people in the future, particularly on Facebook. As I’ve mentioned many times, social advertising is very different from other forms of online advertising as the performance of the content being promoted has a dramatic and often instant impact on subsequent posts.

In other words, done wrong, you can do real damage.

The story of the tortoise and the hare is one that few want to hear. They don’t want their advertising to resemble that of a slow tortoise in any way, shape, or form. However, the reality is that it’s the best way to reach the most people in the long term as well as in the short term. Look at these statistics:

Steady Reach

As with nearly every attempt at social media, there’s a quick spike. Just about everyone who is not using advertising in their social media is having a hard time truly reaching anyone, particularly at the local level. Even with a strategy grounded in consistency, there is still the initial spike and it’s almost always a noticeable difference.

The problem is that with many of the pages I check out that are using social media advertising, the view is much different. It’s high peaks and low valleys. The overall reach early on is great. The problem is that the spikes are damaging. There’s no consistent growth of active fans. There’s no steady engagement being built up. It’s happening all at once.

There are plenty of reasons why slow and steady after the initial burst is preferable to spikes and low points, but the biggest reason is that the overall number of people reached is much, much higher when it’s done with a sound steady strategy. It’s not easy to see because Facebook doesn’t offer the proper tracking and because it’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but once you really dive in and see what’s happening it makes sense.

You see, the 10,000 people reached one week are not the same 10,000 people reached the following week. Sure, there are plenty of people (if you’re doing it right) who see most of the things you post, but a consistent strategy aimed at spreading out the reach is much more effective at reaching the masses. Facebook insights don’t portray this properly which is why you see so many who throw money at Facebook to see the big spikes. It feels like you’re reaching more people that way, but you’re not.

The only time there should be spikes is when there’s something extremely important to get exposed. These should be rare. Sure, there’s always something really important going on – the big sale, a new model rolling out, incentives, etc. – but it has to be social gold as well a being important. Otherwise, standard promotion will do the trick.

Unfortunately, it’s very easy based on the fallacies in Facebook Insights for a company to demonstrate their effectiveness using inflated numbers. The biggest problem is that it cannot be sustained that way. Social media advertising is the easiest thing to do. It’s also the easiest thing to do wrong.

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  1. Excellent points, JD. Your post hits the nail on the head as to why a lot of businesses think they can get away without having a social media director, or at least a coordinator. They think the ads will keep the leads rolling in. I am a big advocate of the “slow and steady wins the race” philosophy…consistency falls right in there, too. Great post!

  2. JD Rucker

    Thanks Jennifer! It’s easy to get caught up in trying to save a few bucks, but the reality is that they need experience and a proper strategy to really make it sing.

  3. Yup, Totally agree, JD!
    If the Facebook Fanpage has a lot of likes and the engagement happening relatively is negligible it’s a total fail. Social Media Success is through it’s power of connecting with people and it needs time and consistency to achieve it. Slow and Steady definitely wins the Race!

  4. Very good article JD!
    You mentioned social media ads in your article. What do you think of custom apps on Facebook ? Many people tell me that they don’t work anymore. I am keen to hear your thoughs!

  5. JD Rucker

    Juliet, I’ve seen some that work, at least in getting people to click to them. You have to have ads to make it happen, but it’s not as useless as most believe. With that said, they’re definitely not effective compared to great posts on your wall, so I suggest putting them up but not spending a ton of effort or emphasis.
    Where I see them really working is for short term events. The events feature on Facebook is awful, but once you tie it into an app/tab, it can be effective with proper promotion.

  6. Great points made. I’ve been doing the slow and easy way and I like it. I don’t want to bombard with pics/content…I want to post with a meaning. Thanks

  7. samanthacart

    I really enjoyed this post. I am looking for ways that religious organizations can use social media effectively, and I had never considered that “the 10,000 people reached one week are not the same 10,000 people reached the following week.” Knowing when to post and how to reach the most people is a necessary tool to being digitally effective. I just started my blog (, and I look forward to learning more by reading your posts.