• Jessica Stephenson

Coming Clean.

I haven't mentioned this before to my knowledge, and it's a definite source of shame and frustration, while it limits my ability to reach new customers on Facebook and Instagram. Deep breath... Here goes. Please, please be kind.

Facebook permanently disabled my advertising account.

This means I cannot run ads on Facebook or Instagram ever again. It happened sometime in early 2019, and I've been sitting on this knowledge for some time now, testing the waters and seeing if I really needed them in order to grow. Since most advertising options are far too expensive for a small business like mine, it sure was nice to be able to put small amounts each month toward ads across these platforms, and I saw a fair amount of regular growth when running ads.

You are probably wondering why my ad account was disabled, so let me explain.

As you know, most of the time I post photos of incoming titles, new and used, showing the spines and the text clearly so you can see all the awesome books coming in. Essentially, Facebook has a rule that you can only have a certain percentage of text in your photos, (mainly because lots of people were running ugly ads that had an image full of tacky overlaid text announcing sales or event info) or else they would either refuse to run the ad or they would throttle your reach while still siphoning money from your account.

For the longest time, my ads were never a problem with Facebook, though. I didn't have to think twice about throwing in a few bucks to boost a picture of books. That changed abruptly in late 2018. They started disapproving my ads regularly, or they would throttle my reach yet still take my money. I frequently had to go through the process of having my ads manually reviewed, and many times it was clear that the text in my ads was not the kind of text they were trying to rid our feeds of. They disabled my ad account once, and I successfully appealed it, with a comment saying the person had no idea why it got disabled in the first place and an apology.

Then in early 2019, they changed their ad policies for the millionth time, and I apparently did not review the changes close enough. I had tried to run an ad for $5 to help spread the word about a fundraiser I was hosting to raise money for a friend who lost almost everything they owned (something that was never a problem in the past), and that's when they hit me. My ad account was disabled again, and when I tried to appeal the decision I received a strongly worded letter stating that my ad account was banned permanently because they do not support my business model.

The impact is difficult to measure, but let me try.

You all know that I am one person wearing all the hats, doing all the jobs, hosting all the events, and creating/ writing all of the original material that I share. I'm sure this has a lot to do with why I got my ad account permanently disabled, but it is still 100% my fault. I should have been more studious and stayed on top of the rules and guidelines for advertising, but mistakes are unavoidable, I am only human, I can't be amazing at everything I do, and I really had no idea that this mistake would carry such a high cost. However it happened, my mistake has been detrimental to my business' growth. Before Facebook heavily monetized all business pages in preparation for their debut on the stock market, I had an incredible organic reach. Growth was regularly exponential, and people were craving the original content I was posting regularly and it showed. After they hit the stock market, I still had a pretty great reach by simply throwing a few bucks toward boosting my posts, especially with events. In fact, the Adult Read-In got wildly popular due to my ability to run ads about it. However, since my ad account was permanently disabled, my reach has been abysmal in comparison to both of these previous periods. Daily new page likes have gone DOWN by two to four TIMES my old average. My post reach, engagement, and actions taken on my page have gone down at a similar rate, too. Only the same few people see, comment on, react to, and share my posts. you can imagine that my sales follow a similar pattern, too. I spend more and more of my time and energy trying to come up with creative workarounds, but it's just not working and I am more exhausted than I've ever been. Word of mouth has been a great source of new and retained customers, and the little slips of paper that I design, print, and cut by hand to give out with every purchase have made a difference in retaining customers too. It's just not cutting it anymore, though. I need your help. I need you to get enthusiastic about spreading the goodness that is Lit. on Fire. If you're already enthusiastic, awesome! Thank you SO MUCH for your help! Understand that I'm not looking for advice here, and I especially don't want to do tacky contests to get page likes and shares from followers who will only show up to get something for free and never show up again. I need to reach REAL book lovers, passionate people who love small businesses, and folx who want to attend unique events that make a lasting impact on the community. What does that look like? Like I said in the previous paragraph, I need your enthusiasm. That may look different to each individual, and that is completely okay. The best ways to help that take very little time at all are to position yourself (and encourage others to, also) to see my posts more often-- subscribe to my events, mark my page as "See First" under the Following tab/ options, and take a few moments to invite your friends to like my page. Leave reviews and recommendations. Post about events that you plan to attend at the shop and foster conversations around your experiences afterward. Visit my page once a week or once a month to see what's new. Explore my website. Whatever your enthusiasm looks like, every last bit of it will absolutely help me overcome this hindrance. At least until we all move away from this monetized platform that exploits our desire for real human connection and meaningful interaction. Thank you, loves. <3

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