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Dangers of boosting a Facebook post

Boosting Facebook Posts Might Be a Bad Idea

This article is about my recent experiment with boosting Facebook posts, which may or may not be a bad idea for your Facebook page depending on a number of factors that I’ll discuss. As a comic creator, this post is geared toward others who share this space, but the content you will read here might help your decisions no matter what purpose your page fulfills. Using Facebook boosted posts might lower your organic reach, and I’ll tell you why.

The Facebook page for Things in Squares currently has around 156,000 followers. Over the past few months engagement (likes, shares, and comments) has dropped, which is likely because I publish fewer new comics per week. I try to publish at least one comic a day, even it is an old one, because I’ve seen that Facebook Page Suggestions work better for your page if the algorithm that powers them recognizes consistency. I’ve also learned that Facebook rewards your page if it experiences steadily increasing engagement over time, and if you can maintain consistency then these Page Suggestions (i.e. when Facebook “suggests” your page organically on people’s Facebook profiles) will snowball for you, and you’ll have steady exponential growth (at least up to a certain unknown threshold defined somewhere in the Facebook algorithm). I decided to boost a Facebook post because my page’s engagement had plummeted.

Why I decided for Facebook boosting

You can read about how my Facebook page suddenly got a lot of likes to understand where my mind was before I decided to boost a post. The growth graph looked something like this:

Facebook Page Suggestions growth over time
Facebook Page Suggestions’ impact

And here is the Facebook page growth over time from November 2016 to November 2017:

Facebook page growth over time
Facebook page growth

This is important to understand because I thought that by boosting a Facebook post I’d be able to reinvigorate engagement and get back the exponential momentum that I witnessed before it stagnated over the summer.

What is Facebook boost-a-post?

This article is not meant to help you launch your first boost. If that’s what you’re looking for then go here to learn how to boost a post.

What is “boosting” anyway?

It’s just a trademarked term Facebook came up with to increase revenue. On every one of your Facebook posts, there is an option to “Boost Post”.

Boosting a Facebook Post might be a bad idea after all
The boost button

You click the button and this is what you’ll see:

Facebook's boost-a-post dashboard

You define the audience, number of days the campaign will run, your budget, etc. If you had just experienced a windfall of new followers thanks to organic page suggestions, it hurts when that growth levels off–this is likely part of the ploy to get you to consider investing in paid reach such as boosted posts or Facebook ads.

Negative effects of using the boost feature

The most important thing I learned about using the boost tool is:

  • If you run a comic and want to increase engagement, don’t boost a post

Not to be coy, but that’s the gist of it. Comics are already a shareable medium–if you publish your webcomic right and stick to a schedule,  you won’t have to rely on spending money to put it in front of people.

So what went wrong when I boosted my post?

I didn’t keep a log of events, but here’s what I can tell you:

Before boosting a post on Facebook, my comics were averaging 2k likes and 300 shares. After I decided to boost, this average fell to 900 likes and 50-100 shares (this is with ~150k total page likes). After publishing on Facebook for so long, I know intuitively which comics should hit the 2k mark. I can also see the “reach” below each post, and with 150k followers, posts used to reach an average of 60k followers, and now they only reach around 30k, if that. (Factors of time of day, day of the week, total following, etc. remaining more or less constant).

Here is a more detailed account of what happened to another page when they decided to start boosting posts on Facebook. It does a good job of discussing the details behind what calculations Facebook uses to decide whether to place a post on a new user’s wall in the first place, and how negative factors in their reactions to your ad might affect how your content is delivered to people who already follow you.

The lesson is to avoid chasing likes through paid means. You can’t control whether your ads will be pushed in front of people who would never follow your page in the first place, and their reactions could dictate how your content is served generally.


How to stop boosting posts on Facebook

Since boosting a post, it seems that my comics are not pushed organically to my followers as much as they once were. I can imagine that Facebook tracks intent. It knows I boosted a post. It pushes notifications and boosting suggestions my way. It’s a bombardment of “hey, you should spend more money on boosting posts”.

Here is what I did to try to tell Facebook through its tracking of my activity that I’m not interested in boosting posts anymore, which will hopefully have some positive affect on the organic potential of my page:

  • I regularly delete all boost notifications by X-ing out
  • If there is an option, I select not to see suggestions about promoting or boosting my Facebook posts
  • I never click the boost post button, except to take a screenshot for this article
  • I deleted credit card information linked to my page
  • I deleted my cookies and cleared my cache

Lessons learned

I have a bad habit of knowing something to be true and then ignoring that truth. I already knew that my engagement went down because I was drawing fewer comics, publishing to reddit less often, and sharing too many things that garner less engagement (letters, tales, links, etc.).

The lesson is to keep drawing comics and to improve your craft. Ignore the urge to pay for more engagement by boosting Facebook posts or other means. Instead, draw more. Share more. And remember that your following will grow in bursts on social media because that’s how social algorithms work.

I just saw this comic on The Oatmeal, and it’s pretty damn relevant.


More articles that may interest you:

Interview with Sarah Andersen of Sarah’s Scribble

A Tutorial of Tutorials for Setting up an Online Store

Finding a Web Host for Your Comic


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