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Facebook may have the highest number of active users of any social network, but each new change and “improvement” that comes along seems to increase the difficulty for small businesses to keep up engagement levels and remain socially competitive.

Looking at a partial list of challenges that small businesses face with using Facebook:

  • Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm determines what updates are shown to which people. In order for as many fans as possible to be reached with each new status update, you need to make sure every status update is one that causes people to act – either by liking, commenting or sharing.
  • Overall fan page engagement rates are dropping, with the previous average engagement rate (“People Talking About”) averaging around 2% for all fan pages.
  • Facebook’s premium ads are priced at a level only major brands can afford.
  • Facebook frowns upon updates posted via 3rd party tools, making it that much more challenging for small business owners to keep up with it all.
  • The benefits of creating a default landing tab were lost with the new timeline roll out.
  • Facebook users don’t need to “like” the page to view its content or interact, but “liking” is needed for the status updates you post to be pushed into their streams.
  • Posts made by anyone other than the page are condensed into a small box in the right column of the fan page, making them very difficult to notice.
  • Lack of recent activity by a page is magnified with the new timeline layout.

In a lot of ways, Google and Facebook seem to be neck in neck with their attempts at dominating our activity online. But as the list of Facebook challenges grows, it begs the question, “Is Facebook going too far, pushing users into Google’s arms?

I noticed a big uptick in small business owners jumping the Facebook ship in favor of Google Plus with the timeline changes that took place in March 2012. But as it stands right now, Facebook still beats Google Plus with regard to the number of active users. And it’s pretty hard to grow a community or reach your customer base if you are active on a platform where they are not.

It’s only a matter of time until more people join and regularly interact on Google Plus. However, Google Plus will need to maintain all the “favorable” qualities it currently has in comparison to Facebook, if it wants to reap the rewards of Facebook’s oversized ego.

What has your experience been? Do you see long-term benefits of building up your Google Plus following?