The good news: Facebook can still be a powerful tool to share information and build your brand and referrals. The bad news: Facebook solar marketing is no longer free.

Well, technically, yes, it is still a free platform for your solar company to use, but its effectiveness as a free solar marketing tool is pretty much over. If you haven’t noticed, Facebook’s organic “reach” (the number of people who see your non-ad supported posts) has been severely ratcheted down. In other words, just because you have 1000 followers, don’t expect that all 1000 will see your posts—for free. These days, perhaps 6% of your Facebook fans may see your daily posts, give or take.

As Facebook has revealed in a marketing sales deck to Facebook advertisers:

“We expect organic distribution of an individual [company] page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

“Meaningful experience” are the key words there. Facebook claims that if they allowed all of the content from companies to flow to a user’s timeline that the Facebook user would then be flooded with commercial content, so they have to curate content for the sake of user…unless you advertise. Then all of Facebook’s user experience customer care philosophy goes out the window.

Pay up to “promote” your post, and all of your current followers—and more—can see every post. As for protecting the user’s experience, Facebook algorithms will decide the most effective time to show your post to each of your followers and to a relevant non-follower demographic that should theoretically be interested in your content.

What’s still free on Facebook for solar companies?

When I started doing marketing for solar companies, I always recommended utilizing Facebook, and I still do, even though it’s no longer free—mostly.

Although Facebook is most effective now with paid posts, there are still many features that have no cost. Here are nine off the top of my head:

  1. It’s still free to create company page.poly solarpanel like on facebook
  2. It’s still free to post information, events, sales (etc) (though 10% of fans will see them)
  3. It’s still free for people to share your posts with other friends/family, whether your posts are free or paid.
  4. It’s still free to post images of your beautiful solar installations in a FB photo album.
  5. It’s still free to ask people to follow you on Facebook. In other words, you can have as many fans as you want, but not all of them will see your posts.
  6. It’s still free for people to actually go to your Facebook page and see what’s happening.
  7. It’s still free to post your email, telephone number, and website address.
  8. It’s still free to see the demographics of your Facebook fan following—a very valuable insight if you know how to use that info for even non FB campaigns.
  9. It’s still free to be included in a user’s Facebook search for your solar company page.

Is there a way to get around paying for posts?

Yes and no. There’s no way to figure out Facebook’s algorithm for why some posts are shared more than others, but in general, they don’t want to be accused of hiding “popular” content from users. So if people are organically reacting to your post by clicking, liking, and sharing, the more Facebook will organically show that post to more of your followers. I’ve accomplished getting organic content to all followers of a page once in the last year. Yes, once. So it is possible, but it’s extremely rare, and anyone who claims otherwise may also try to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

Is it Still Worth It for Solar Companies to Have a Facebook Page?

Two words: Hell, yeah!

Before I get into why, let’s acknowledge that Facebook is a business, especially now that it’s on the stock market. They’re just like magazines, Google Adwords, radio, or any other advertising platform but with a big difference: They’re relatively inexpensive—for now—and people can share your Facebook content. Nobody shares a Google search advertisement, a banner ad, or a radio ad.

Second, Facebook is now a social media institution for all sectors of the solar industry, but especially the residential sector. Like a website, everyone needs to have a Facebook company page, even if you’re not actively using the page to market solar. Think of it like the old Yellow Pages. Even if you don’t advertise, you’re still listed. So if you’re a solar B to B company, at least create the page and post your press releases and news and events. Couldn’t hurt and takes a minimal amount of time.

If you’re a residential solar company, post useful content, attempt to engage with customer fans, and create a social media strategy that includes a Facebook advertising budget.

Remember that there’s nothing like social media word of mouth. Yes, you have to pay the cost of getting selected posts in front of all your Facebook followers, but if it’s really great content and they share it with their friends and family? That’s worth a lot in terms of brand recognition and building trust with new leads.

It ain’t free anymore, but Facebook is still a great way…to UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.