Basically, Facebook wants brands to make you pay to receive the love from your fans who already, well, like you. So when TechCrunch rolled out its guest post from Robin Grant over at We Are Social last Friday we launched into a company-wide discussion on what the hell is going on.
Take a look at our responses.
I think the long and short of it for businesses is paying for advertisements. Facebook is a public company now, with shareholders to report to. If they want to get shares trading at anywhere near their IPO price again, it’s going to take continued revenue growth every quarter. Locking businesses out of being effective is a good way to pump up revenue. Maybe shortsighted though.
Similar to what Jeremy said at the YouTube session during the State of Search, ‘Engagement is part of the driver to decide what comes out on top of the heap.’ Facebook won’t keep sticking a company’s posts into newsfeeds if it continually gets ignored. If we can drive engagement to each and every post within an hour of it going live, we have a chance to stay in the newsfeed.
I think this is a perfect example of why we use social networks like Facebook to drive traffic to the website and why the website is the centroid of the business – we have zero control over what other sites do.
I think the main reason Facebook is doing this is twofold:
1. Users primarily don’t use
2. People are spending less time on Facebook. Neilson just reported on the 8th that on average people are spending 30 minutes less on Facebook than they were six months ago.
I am sure that this is a trend they’ve been seeing internally and this is their attempt to both boost revenue and try to keep the news feed what the users want to see. By having to click “Add to Interests List” you are basically telling Facebook that you are genuinely interested in the brand’s content.
Facebook to engage with brands. A statistic I found (this is from 2011, so take it with a grain of salt) 1/10 users “Like” a brand on Facebook.
The problem is – Facebook exposed its own flaw in its business model by allowing businesses to have pages. It originally treated them like any other user. And, the people users who wanted to hear what a business had to say could opt to hear it just like from any other individual.
Now, they are curtailing that ability in order to monetize their platform. No wonder that doesn’t sit well with businesses. They were told to “go talk to your customer where they are, don’t make them come to you.” Now, they have to pay for that privilege. It’s clearly Facebook’s prerogative to do that, but it’s also clear why that doesn’t sit well with businesses.
Mark Cuban said, “Just make me pay to have a Facebook page for the Mavericks. I’d gladly pay upfront to make sure everybody who wants to hear from me, gets to hear from me every single time.” To his point – how can Facebook determine what a person wants to hear and what they don’t want to hear – when that person has ostensibly opted in to hear from the brand?
I looked at some client data over the past 4 months and I will go as far as to say that Facebook has taken a page from Google here – extending the reach of content based on relevancy. While the decline in reach isn’t as explicit as in the article, I’ve definitely noticed some changes in how engagement is reported.
In August we were coming off the release of a new infographic that was based on the Olympics. It was still relevant so we were able to ride the wave until the end of the month – where the reach started to dip. I noticed the same thing happening at the end of October when we sent out a Halloween post and I could predict that if we hadn’t done anything related to Hurricane Sandy or Veterans Day, another dip would happen.
Now I’m also looking at interactions. One of Facebook’s algos is simple: the more people like your stuff – the longer it stays in the news feed. I’ve seen this on my personal account but I also think that Facebook is doing some selecting of its own to promote your content when it believes it’s highly relevant. Why? Because the interaction level is pretty much the same across the last 5 months. The organic reach remained steady but the viral interaction outperformed organic in all but one month. How can you go viral without interaction? Now I’m not saying that there aren’t other factors in play but this is a huge chunk in the strategy to squeeze the wallets of brands.
We know things are always changing with these platforms and we’re okay with that. What we’re not okay with is shady behavior that undermines the ability of brands and their fans to be able to share and enjoy the content they want without monetary restrictions.
We’ve got our eye on you Facebook.