Fans who follow Big Truck Tacos on Facebook who have not seen postings in months were almost guaranteed to have seen a message on Saturday — one that the restaurant owners paid $300 to ensure it was read by all 32,000 people.
For that $300, owner Chris Lower told the restaurant fans that they might be better off following Big Truck via Facebook’s rival social media site Twitter.
“Facebook continues to throttle our posts to reach only a small number of people,” Lower wrote. “Most of our posts show up in about 5 percent of our followers’ timelines. That means you are missing out on a lot of good information and fun stuff. We suggest that you follow us on Twitter also, if you want to see everything that we are putting out to our fans.”
By Monday morning, Big Truck’s Twitter following grew by 200 people, though at a total of 14,600, it is still just half the following of the restaurant’s 32,246 Facebook fans. The response has Lower unsure about his next move with social media.
“About 60,000 people saw the post, which is interesting because we have 32,000 fans,” Lower said. “Our typical posts the past few months are seen by between a range for 500 and 1,000 among our 32,000 fans.”
Big Truck Tacos is generally recognized as one of the first local restaurants to successfully use social media when the restaurant opened at 530 NW 23 in 2009. Lower admits the success was accidental, a result of Lower and business partners Kathryn Mathis and Cally Johnson using Facebook to post photos and updates of their renovation and preparations to open the restaurant.
Within a couple of weeks, Mathis said, the page’s followers hit 500. The restaurant at the time was still months away from opening.
In those early years on Facebook, the restaurant used its page to promote specials, show off photos of the restaurant operators’ travels and their food, and to track the ongoing revival of NW 23 Street.
Those posts, however, were getting seen by fewer and fewer of the Big Truck Taco fans as Facebook repeatedly changed the rules for its users.
“It’s pretty apparent how the spigot has been turned off by Facebook,” Lower said. “After going public, they had to figure out how to monetize their user base. And this is how they’re doing it — by tapping the businesses that have fans and want their fans to see their stuff. From a business point, I guess it makes sense — they’re not a charity. But it’s not what the fans signed up for, nor are they getting what they signed up for.”
What prompted Lower’s decision to urge fans to follow his restaurant on Twitter was a story last week on Gawker advising Facebook was about to make matters even worse for businesses like Big Truck Tacos.
The online publication suggested Facebook would reduce the reach of businesses’ pages to 1 or 2 percent of fans.
Casey Cornett, social media director at VI Marketing, said he wasn’t aware of any other business owners resorting to Lower’s Twitter-promoting tactic. But, he added, not everyone is happy with the ongoing changes at Facebook.
“They say you have to be more engaging, and the more engaging you are, the more your posts will be seen,” Cornett said.
“I can see their point. But Facebook has changed the algorithm to make it even worse. Some pages were down to 8 to 10 percent seeing their posts now. Facebook is going to make you pay for it, and they’re really good at it.”
Cornett advises such an investment may be advantageous to restaurants like Big Truck Tacos — the posts ensure messages are going to customers.
“It’s the highest demographic you can have,” Cornett said.
“So I can see both sides. I wouldn’t push people to Twitter, because it’s something I can see Twitter moving to in a couple of years.”
Lower admits he’s now uncertain after the response the one paid post received.
“It ended up being a bargain — I hate to say that,” Lower said.
“There are so many different platforms popping up. ... I think at some point people might get worn out with it as each site tries to make money, which makes it more difficult for people to do what they want to do.
So five years from now we might be doing great on Facebook or we might not even be on Facebook.”