A lot of people are feeling screwed by Facebook right now. If you haven’t noticed, Facebook has recently changed their algorithm to dramatically decrease the overall reach of posts. The hard numbers haven’t been officially released yet, but some creators have reported at least a 30% decrease in their overall fan page interactions.
At the end of the day, public companies have to honor financial obligations to investors; those obligations typically mean that we, the consumers, can look forward to jacked-up prices. Facebook is no exception, and unfortunately the social media site’s need to appease investors is damaging everyone from blogs to businesses.
The New Facebook Marketplace
Dave Seligman, founder of popular geeks culture blog Geeks of Doom told me recently that “Of the 18,000 fans of our Facebook page, only about 900 (5%) of them ever have the opportunity to view one of our posts at a given time.” For years, blogs and creators have relied on Facebook as a means of driving additional traffic to their work. As the most visited social media site in the world, Facebook became a cheap and efficient means of promoting work. Perhaps we relied too heavily on the social site for marketing purposes, but that still doesn’t make Facebook pulling the rug out from under us feel any better.
The beauty of Facebook previous to promoted posts existed in the public’s preternatural ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. With everyone on the same promotional level, compelling content rose above the dreg that would be typically found on free promotional services. Yeah, free promotion led to a ton of bullshit posts on Facebook, but at least great posts had an equal opportunity to stand out. Facebook at one point provided a free marketing tool to the struggling and financially-strapped that worked so well that big business soon jumped into the fray.
Seligman explained that without funds to promote the dozens of articles Geeks of Doom posts daily, the site’s reach percentage “is down from an average 20% when we had between 4-5,000 fans.” Geeks of Doom’s current non-sponsored posts are reaching almost the exact number of people as they did when the site had a much smaller following. “Without paying to sponsor our posts, we’re ostensibly no better off with 18,000 Facebook fans than we were with 5,000,” Seligman said.
This push towards “pay-to-promote” advertising will only alienate independent companies without the means to pay for promoted posts, leaving already well-off companies to fill up feeds. The whole point of Facebook was to give people a place to talk about what they loved. Now what we “love” will be dictated by those who can afford to buy promoted posts.
Even as some bloggers are buying into promoted posts, the results aren’t nearly as impressive as Facebook has promised. Blogger Joe Miragliotta spoke about buying promoted posts for his site Joe’s Daily, saying, “I’ve been forced into using their promoted posts feature to stay relevant. I should also add that I’ve been promoting my page using Facebook ads for a little over 5 months now. Even with the steady growth of newly targeted fans, I continue to see less engagement.”
I’ve heard several people refer to Facebook’s introduction of promoted posts as “selling out.” With its constant legal troubles and hungry investors looking to cash in, Facebook has never truly been an independent company. Promoted posts won’t be the last step Facebook takes to start turning a profit. In the meantime, let’s hope the further “selling out” of Facebook won’t hit our wallets too hard.