Jennifer Messina runs her small soap business Seascape Skincare from her home in Toms River, N.J. She uses Etsy to sell her soaps and Facebook to help market them.
But even as her fanbase on Facebook has grown from 300 people to nearly 800 since last summer, when she created the company's Page, the number of people viewing her posts has remained the same at about 150 per update, she said.
Messina is not alone. Small business owners have been raising a stink over promoted Facebook posts, saying the social network is curbing their ability to do organic marketing and quashing their content's visibility. In March, Nick Bilton noted on the New York Times Bits blog that his own content was reaching fewer and fewer people across the social media channel as Facebook endeavored to get businesses and other brands, such as authors, to pay to promote their own work or products.
Facebook's pricing for these paid posts is determined by the length of time the post is visible and the number of people it is targeted to reach. However, the social media company does not tailor its pricing based on the size the company buying advertising. What's peanuts in ad buys for a large company quickly adds up for smaller ones.
Messina told The Huffington Post she could pay anywhere from $5 to $15 for each promoted post. “I am just starting out and I don't have money to pay for ads,” she said.
Messina posted a petition on Change.org last week asking Facebook to give small businesses like hers a break by giving her posts more visibility for fee. In less than a week, the petition garnered more than 500 signatures.
When contacted by The Huffington Post, a Facebook spokeswoman called the financial concerns of small business owners "completely understandable" but reiterated that the company's services offer both organic and promoted posts.
“Facebook is aware of small business's limited resources so this is why creating a Page in the first place is free for businesses,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email.
And despite the outcry from small business owners, Facebook appears committed to driving revenue through ads. Facebook's ad engineer Philip Zigoris said the company is pushing small businesses to purchase ads to reach all their fans:
To address the fact that not everyone sees every single message from a friend or a Page, Facebook offers ads to businesses to help them increase the likelihood that people will see their message in their news feed when they log in.
Messina voiced frustration that the smallest companies are unfairly pushed to Facebook's sidelines. “I understand they have to make money too, but we're trying to help ourselves and they are making it very hard,” she said.