* Facebook vs. Referrals and SEO


Facebook marketing seems to be gaining traction with music lesson studio owners. Let’s compare!

By Dirk Johnson


Facebook (FB) is a behemoth in the online marketing world. It can be used to easily reach into very specific markets, and it would not be a multi-billion dollar company if it did not work for advertisers.


We’re not here to bash Facebook. It has proven to work, for some. Our goal here is to compare FB marketing and advertising with getting free traffic from referrals and search engine optimization (SEO).


For those of you who are actively using or considering FB marketing, there may be some business revelations here.


Who Are Your Reaching?


Facebook is so big and so ingrained in SOME people’s lives that it can appear to reach everyone. That is false.


This article uses USA-based user data statitics, because that data is readily published. Other countries might see far different (less?) usage stats regarding FB, but the logic is the same.


Yes, FB has a huge registered account base. In the USA, there are about 170 registered accounts, out of about 330 million people. Curiously, that user base has barely grown since 2017.


See this article: How Many People Are Using Facebook?


What is the problem with that? Well, for one, it’s only 51% of the population. So anything you do on FB can potentially reach ONLY 50% of the population, but let’s say that your target market of young parents has a slightly higher FB established account percentage.


Second, and this is very important, is how many of those established account users actively log in AND scan through their timeline? And how often do they do that? Once a day, once a week, once a month, or never anymore?


Here’s another article about that: Facebook’s US user base declined by 15 million since 2017


This is where the rubber meets the road. The ACTIVE USER base on FB seems to be in decline.


Of the 51% who have accounts, how many of them are using FB regularly. 25%? Less? Who knows?


The point here is that FB actively reaches only a slice of your local market.

Think about your own life!


Have YOU trimmed back your own FB activity? Probably, and so has most everyone else.

It was a shiny nugget for a while. It was trendy. Most of us jumped in.


But with it’s endless timeline, political noise, pictures of friend’s dinner plates at restaurants, and lots of ads, it soon became an incredible time suck. Busy people (i.e. parents/your clients ???) found little choice but to abandon their usage, in order to get on with their lives.


Once someone has been extracted (i. e., de-programmed) from active usage, there’s little chance of them going back. Their hardcore FB usage days are OVER, along with your ability to reach them on FB. 

Let’s Slice It Even Further


OK- let’s be more specific to the music lesson business. Maybe you are running FB ads, maybe on local FB groups, like the local buy/sell groups, or the local community groups to promote your business for free (if allowed), or maybe as groups you select to run ads at their members. 


Who sees these ads?

Well, it is ONLY people who are MEMBERS of those groups.


So let’s review. For someone locally in your service area to see your ad or post, they HAVE to be:

1) An FB account holder.

2) A member of one of these groups.
3) An active FB user, scanning their timeline or notifications regularly.

Your Facebook efforts might easily be reaching only 10% or less of your local market population that meets the above criteria.

Think about that. Your efforts on FB are probably NOT reaching 90% of your local target market.


Of those you do reach on FB, how many are actively looking for music lessons? Maybe the answer is “none” on any given day?

Granted, most forms of marketing reach only a slice of the market, except maybe direct mail, which can hit every household, but direct mail is a huge cost these days, with a lot of waste in the process.

At What Cost?

The next question is the cost in time and money that it takes to make this work.


Let’s look at the “free” side of FB, where you post to local groups. Let’s consider that a FB post has a half-life of about 24 hours, at best.

Given that, how often are you going to post? Once a day? Once a week? Once a month?  You’ll have to experiment, without becoming so repetitive as to force people to ignore your posts, or until some group admin tells you to stop with daily self-promotion posts.

How many groups are you going to post to? The more you post, the bigger your reach, but the more work it takes.

WHAT are you going to post? The same post over and over? Is it informative, or just an ad? If it is informative, then it requires additional time in terms of PREPERATION to make it work.


OK – Then Just Run Some Facebook Ads


Ok – the easy way out is to just run some Facebook ads. Prep them once, and keep running them over and over.

To do that, you have to learn to navigate the confusing behemoth that is the FB advertising interface. Then you have to track your ad constantly to make sure you are not throwing away money. More time, and certainly, money is involved here.

Some of these local groups deteriorate into just a handful of active users. You can see that when the same people post again and again and nobody else participates anymore. A handful of these “over-posters” can chase away everyone else with their noise. 


So these groups that serve a local interest base can easily de-generate into narrow cliques of a few active people. If you are running ads into these clique groups, you are no longer reaching anybody who is useful to you, but you are still paying.


Then new groups form, and the process repeats. So FB requires constant monitoring and digging.


WAIT - What is Your Real Goal?


The real goal here is, of course, to fill up your studio. If you had a full roster of students, and it keeps coming, you’d probably skip the time and cost of FB, right?


So if our ultimate goal is to fill out your studio, you should want to do it at the least cost possible, right?


Marketing decisions should take place on a risk/reward/time/effort spectrum. All advertising is not created equal.

Instead, we sometimes just go with what is in front of us, with no regard for the total cost, just to do SOMETHING that will bring in students. Facebook certainly provides that quick fix.

But if you are ignoring the free leads that exist, then it is costing you a lot of profit for that convenience.


How Do FREE Leads Happen?


There are two primary sources of free leads. One is referrals.


Are you doing everything you can to generate referrals? Are you providing incentives for your parents and students? Are you reaching out to local school music teachers, band directors, theatre directors, choir directors and other influential people? Are you promoting your recitals?


Referrals are ALWAYS your best source of free leads. Do that first. Some lesson studios fill their classrooms with nothing but referrals.


Maybe it will work for you, and maybe not. In competitive markets, the referrals from outside sources might be a tough nut to crack, with established competitors getting the bulk of them. 


If you are spending a bunch of your marketing time on Facebook marketing and very little on referral program development, then that is backwards, from a business analysis perspective. Convenience is winning out over profit.


Is Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) In Good Order?


Second on the free spectrum, and possibly much more powerful in terms of total volume, is the free traffic that comes from search engines when someone searches for your type of “music lessons in [Your City]”.


In a nutshell, we ALL use search engines to find what we need. People who need music lessons use search engines! They simply search for a local provider, and select from the websites that pop up in results. 


In advertising, these are known as “self-qualified leads”. That is, the people who initiated the search are ALREADY in the market for your services. They just want to find a local business that provides the service. What’s more, there is a 50% chance that they do not even have a Facebook account. 


You can read more about the quality of search traffic here: Web Traffic is NOT Created Equal! Get The Best For Your Music Teaching Site!


With advertising, be it Facebook, or any other ad, you are paying to reach a huge number of people who have no interest at all in what you are selling.


With FREE search engine traffic, once you are ranking well, the interested people COME TO YOU and they usually keep coming.


Maybe It’s Time To Re-allocate Your Time?


Here’s the thing.


Maybe referrals alone will not fill your studio. Maybe SEO alone will not fill your studio. Then again, maybe they will. Maybe you have never really tried.


If they do, imagine the time and/or money you’ll save by not having to jump through the Facebook hoops, while reaching a much larger audience than the active FB user base.


As someone who gets free search traffic regularly for my guitar lesson studio, I don’t do other forms of marketing. I don’t need to spend the time or money. It’s liberating.


Many studio owners say that FB marketing works and I am sure that it does. We all need to choose among options.


From a business perspective, “free and consistent” business from referrals and SEO beats the time and money required for managing Facebook advertising. It’s just common sense, really.

Bottom Line – Do Yourself Some Good.


The bottom line here is that you are going to do yourself some good if you make a very basic SEO effort. Spend a few hours on it. It might just pay off in a lot of free leads from search engine traffic, or even direct leads from the profiles themselves. 


It’s all laid out in this 80 page do-it-yourself guide to SEO for music lesson teachers, tutors, and studios will help.


If you don’t have time, or if you prefer to have someone else manage the basics for you, please contact me.

And, as always, if you want to get a quick review of your current website SEO condition, please contact me with your website address, and I’ll be glad to have a look and report back to you what I find.


Thanks again for tuning in!