Facebook Changes Hitting Small Businesses Hard

Chrystal Bougon remembers the days when customers walked through the door of her plus-size lingerie shop in San Jose and uttered the phrase, "I saw you on Facebook."

Now the small business owner rarely hears those words.

Concerned that people will leave the site if shown too many ads, Facebook this year began filtering users' News Feeds to eliminate many of the unpaid status updates they receive from businesses they've "liked." As businesses vie for limited space on the social network, that's made it far tougher for them to reach customers without paying.

"The philosophy behind Facebook is that the user comes first. If people can't have a great experience on News Feed then the businesses trying to reach them won't be able to reach them," said Elisabeth Diana, a Facebook spokeswoman.

But the change is a hard hit to some small business owners such as Bougon, who don't have a lot of money or time to spend on social media. After years of building up their fanbase on Facebook, they're seeing more of their posts get lost in a stream of text, photos and videos -- unless they pay Facebook to deliver their message.

"People said they want to get my content. They signed up for my page and then Facebook changed the rules later and said you've got to pay," Bougon said.

About 185,000 people have liked Curvy Girl Lingerie on the social network, but Bougon's posts about the store's bestsellers, body image and more are reaching only a fraction of her fans on News Feed -- and the number has dwindled significantly over the past year. To reach 20,000 to 54,000 of the people who like her page, she would need to pay $200 for a post. More than a year ago she could reach about 50,000 people on the site for free.

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