Forget Facebook Likes: 10 Alternatives to Grow Your Business Online

Many new businesses focus on Likes rather than sales. Here's how to change your mindset.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 90 days then you are probably aware that Facebook has recently changed their rules on incentivizing likes.

For me personally this change isn’t something radical or out of the blue, in fact I’ve often wondered how long it would take Facebook to go down this direction.

Facebook Likes can be compared to something like Google Pagerank. When there’s some sort of arbitrary metric linked to success people tend to get blinded & just focus on that metric instead of all the other factors that contribute to the overall success of their business. Over the past few years, Google has been moving away from Pagerank completely, instead they encourage webmasters to focus on the important things like engagement, time on site & usability.

Facebook Likes Google Trend

Which brings us to Facebook. Are they doing the same? Is Facebook finally hinting to marketers to stop worrying about how many Likes you have & instead focus on creating engagement & value from social? Or are people just too oblivious to see the declining value of the Like?

Facebook has slowly been reducing the amount that users see your page posts organically over the last number of years.

And the problem isn’t just targeted to small businesses, but plagues large companies with million of followers too.

Lets take our page Gleam as example. Most of our Likes are customers that Like us to recieve product updates, our posts reach on average anywhere from 150 users to 300 users if the post gets decent engagement. Which is a pathetic 3.7% to 7.5% organic reach.

To that end, I literally now just use Facebook as a broadcast medium – I’ll put my updates up there so people can see them but don’t really expect anything from it. If I want my users to read something I’ll send an email instead, as I know that’ll reach everyone.

Big brands have the same issue too, take Victoria’s Secret for example. They have over 26M Likes on Facebook.

A typical post will get liked by ~15k people, and lets assume the reach is 100x the number of likers of a post. That means they are still only reaching about 5% of their overall fanbase.

In this article we’re going to explore things you can add to your strategy to engage with your customers better & ultimately drive sales.

There’s no other medium that is as effective as email for one to one communication with customers. It allows you to land the exact message you want right in their inbox. Sure it’ll be amongst other noise, but you don’t need to pay the customer to see it, just make the message compelling enough.

2020AVE Opt-in Form

Getting users onto your list is the first hurdle to overcome, it just so happens we’ve written an entire post on this topic.

Learn How to Grow Your Email List

Get 20 awesome tips for growing your e-commerce mailing list.

You should always be thinking about how you can get more potential customers onto your marketing lists.

Consider the advantages:

  • You can market to that user whenever you want now, you just need to get them to open your email
  • You can tailor messages specific to their preferences or past purchases
  • You can incentivize them to make purchases with coupons or gifts
  • You can leverage holidays & special occasions when users spend more money
  • You can take subscribers on a journey with posts that provide them with knowledge about your product
  • You can tell your users about updates to your products or services (get them excited)
Exit-Intent Takeover Opt-in

Above I mentioned that an average Facebook post reaches anywhere up to 300 people. This means if I’m letting our fans know about a new feature or product then most won’t see it. If I send out an email, I can instantly get my message into 30k inboxes – all it costs me is the API costs to send the mail.

I can also build in things like, tracking, links to auto upgrade or even drop retargeting pixels inside the mail. My options are a lot more flexible.

In fact we’ve just released a new product called Capture which helps you solve this exact problem & I suggest you start using it.

Reddit Referred User Opt-in

You can build super targeted, beautiful opt-in windows that trigger based on specific requirement. Check out the one above, it triggers when a user comes to the customers site from Reddit, then is about to leave.

Grow Your Mailing List With Capture

Check out our helpful documentation for step by step instructions on setting up your own Capture or get started right away!

After you have amassed enough engaged users on your list, the question becomes how you can better engage them to drive results.

If x is your objective, then you need to think about which strategy is most appropriate to achieve the required outcome:

  • Opens – You might create a more compelling subject line
  • Visits – Might have a stronger call to action
  • Sales / Revenue – Might have a coupon code or special offer
  • Leads – Might ask users to refer friends
  • Referrals – Might link out to key parts of your website that you want users to go to
  • Onboarding – Will teach users how to use your product
  • Improved Usage – Might reactivate lost users or people who have stopped using your product

Having a large number of potential customers at your disposal also opens up opportunities to split test offers against different types of users, or different messaging depending on where in the product cycle a user currently sits.

Consider us here at Gleam, we send out a few different types of emails:

  • The welcome email when you signup
  • A personal email from me after 24 hours
  • Monthly product update emails
  • Emails when new blog posts go up

Each of those emails above have a very different objective. The welcome email is instructional, whereas my personal email is designed to provoke a response from the user.

Take a look at this example from the 5th Watches, they use their email list to communicate offers to users. This is something that’s extremely common in the E-commerce space.

The 5th Sale Email

There’s also no magic bullet for getting the best results, Groove tested hundreds of combinations for their onboarding emails before finding the sweet spot. Below is an example of their winback email.

Grove Winback Email

The beauty of email though is there’s potential applications for it across your entire business. Consider this flow for a typical E-Commerce store:

  • Signup email
  • Welcome email (24 hours later) with coupon
  • Purchase email
  • Marketing email 1 month later for Valentine’s Day
  • Yearly anniversary email
  • Birthday email

You have almost unlimited opportunities to continually engage subscribers & customers. However there’s a fine balance between how often you contact them without impacting your unsubscribe rates (so this is something you should be monitoring closely against the volume of mail you send).

Gleam Google Analytics

We see a lot of businesses that focus on follower numbers from social networks instead of the referral traffic. The reason for this is usually due to not having enough data or Analytics to know which sources give you the most business value. Therefore you end up focusing on arbitrary metrics which have little or no business worth.

The theory is simple – if you know where the traffic is coming from then you know which sources drive conversions.

Lets break down our top 10 referral sources for Gleam in the last 7 days:

Gleam Referral Traffic Source Analytics
  • Organic – Google sends us almost 200 new signups a week just from Organic traffic to our sales site, converts quite highly too at 7%.
  • Direct – Traffic with a referrer, could be social media, email or URL type-ins.
  • Facebook – Users that visit our site from Facebook.
  • YouTube – Users that see contests on YouTube then signup themselves.
  • Partnership (very high conversion rate)
  • Notifications – These are messages we put in our emails to get users that enter contests to signup. Works fairly effectively (see below).
Gleam Post-Entry Email
  • Twitter API – Generally users that have entered a contest previously.
  • Users coming from our Blog Header
  • More Facebook referrals
  • Google+ referrals

This is just the first page of referrals, this goes on for hundreds of pages. However, the data that I’m able to extract here allows me to make great decisions about which types of channels & investments are working best for Gleam.

Facebook is actually one of our poorest converting channels, so perhaps I’m better at investing my time writing blog posts like this one instead?

Setting Up Google Analytics

Learn how to setup Google Analytics to get the data you need to make growth-based decisions for your business.

Sometimes you don’t know which types of campaigns, ideas or landing pages are going to work well. Running targeted ads gives you really great insight into what performs & what doesn’t.

We’ve had fairly hit & miss results from Facebook ads. However, the area that I’ve found them most useful for is doing market research.

Why is it useful for this type of research? Well Facebook is one of the only platforms that allows you to target by specific demographics & interests (aswell as retargeting your own website visitors).

Gleam Facebook Sponsored Ads

For example, the ad above was split tested to see which headline for our Bearbrand case study drove the most attention from users. The winner had a 5% CTR in the Facebook feed (and drove a decent amount of signups/revenue too).

Gleam Demo Sponsored Post

This second ad we used to see how Mailchimp customers could respond to our new Capture app. That’s one of the beauties of Facebook – you can target users that have mentioned specific interests (i.e. Mailchimp or another mail provider). So far it’s driven close to 50 signups, pretty solid for an ad that took a few minutes to make.

Twitter Ads work in a fairly similar way, although they are much simpler. We use Twitter to target specific keywords (i.e. Mailchimp again) or #hashtags.

One clever trick I’ve seen SaaS companies do on Twitter, is to build specific creatives for large events that have popular #hashtags. For example if you’re an email marketing company, you might sponsor a #hashtag for a blogger conference with a special offer for attendees on Twitter.

In order to reduce dependency on paid media sources you need to ensure that your overall inbound traffic is growing. Inbound traffic is made up from a lot of different sources (as we saw in the example above), so you can break down each once to think about how you plan to grow that source.

Gleam Organic Traffic Google Analytics 2014

I come from a lengthy SEO background spanning roughly around 12 years, over time it has become more difficult to grow organic traffic. This is due to a number of things like competition, algorithm changes & Google favouring brands over the small guys.

But, with a good strategy & time dedicated – growth in this space can be both consistent & incredibly valuable.

The screenshot above shows the Organic traffic growth for the main Gleam sales site over the last 12 months, we don’t get buckets of endless traffic – that’s because there isn’t a huge amount of people searching for exactly what we do.

What’s that’s where the fun comes in, even though people aren’t searching exactly for what you do. They are searching for related keywords that indicate they might need your service.

SEMrush Phrase Match Report

Take the term “contest software” as an example, it only gets roughly 110 searches per month. So whilst that could be valuable in driving signups, it’s probably not something we should focus all our attention on.

In that scenario it’s important to at least build content for as any of the searchable keywords that your business addresses. A really fantastic example of this is the Wufoo Gallery.

Wufoo has built a really useful gallery of all the different types of forms that their platform supports. Nearly all of these forms rank well in search engines – thus driving consistent incremental signups for their product.

In our case we’ve built dedicated landing pages for each social network: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitch. We’ve also build dedicated landing pages for a lot of email providers we work with, for example Aweber & Hubspot.

Beyond your sales site there will be more general topics that you will want to educate potential customers about. We use our blog for this – as it allows you to give context around how your own produt fits into certain segments.

Let’s take Instagram as an example. Since our product helps businesses grow their Instagram following, we could easily slot our value proposition into articles that educate users about doing the same thing.

A little research on SEMrush shows that over 60k people per month search for how to get more followers on Instagram. In my eyes, that volume is enough of an upside to really put a huge amount of effort into the best possible guide you can write. Which we did.

How to Get More Followers on Instagram

Learn how to engage your audience and grow your following on Instagram.

Last week I wrote an article on how E-Commerce businesses can grow their email lists. As with every article that I write, my aim is to make it as actionable as possible with tactics that you can use quite quickly.

If any part of the message that I’m trying to convey can be done by showing capabilities of our own product, then it makes sense for me to briefly mention that too (after all if we didn’t grow our own business, I’d not still be here writing this content).

I do think there’s a fine line between going over the top on your blog & keeping the content useful without trying too hard to push users into your product.

Gleam Blog Visit Analytics 2014

And you could say this strategy has been fairly successful for us so far. We’ve only published 37 posts, which drive anywhere up to 15,000 visits to the Blog every month.

We try to target areas that users of our product are interested in, like Growth Hacking. We have also seen incredible success with very unique posts that explain our own personal story & some of the things we’ve done to improve our own business.


Stuart McKeown

Stuart McKeown is one of the Co-founders at Gleam. Aside from writing and helping businesses grow, he also enjoys sound design and drinking tea ☕️