Facebook. That’s what we want to talk about today. It’s a fairly prominent force in our society – our global society even. You’re probably familiar with it and in fact have linked to this article through it. In fact, as of September 2012, there are over a billion Facebook users on the planet. 1 in 7 people are getting their Facebook fix. That’s nothing to scoff at. Every consultation I have with companies looking to build a website includes an integral discussion on the necessity to plug into Facebook and utilize it as a vehicle to drive traffic to one’s website. This is sort of the web 2.0 101 in establishing website presence. …or at least this has been the case up until today.
In a recent discussion with a client whose site I manage, it was brought up that up until recently, their company’s Facebook page posts had been receiving between 1200-1500 views. In recent months, however, despite the fact that the frequency and content of their posts has remained relatively constant, they’ve noticed their views have decreased to 300-400. This phenomenon is being reported elsewhere – and there’s a reason for this, Facebook has made some significant changes to their platform. These significant changes require our attention – whether we’ve got a company making $10k a year or $1m a year – and I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss this today. So buckle up.
This article does a great job of breaking down what’s going on and you’d be wise to read it in full. If you can’t be bothered, though, at least let me break it down for you very quickly: Posts on Facebook pages are now only showing up in approximately 10-15% of subscribers’ newsfeeds. 10-15%. That means whatever time and energy you are investing on your Facebook page in hopes to communicate with your audience or drive traffic to your site, you are now missing out on 85% of your audience. 85% of people who have “Liked” your page and “Liked” what your company offers are now no longer receiving updates from your page. But don’t fret! There’s a solution to this. Oh yes, there’s a solution. See, this has been scaled back intentionally by Facebook with the expectation that companies will in fact pay to have their posts sponsored, elevated, promoted! That’s right, in attempts to reach your full audience, you simply have to pay to have your posts sponsored. Here’s a quick quote from social media expert Ryan Holiday (that I ripped from the Dangerous Minds article: ”
It’s no conspiracy. Facebook acknowledged it as recently as last week: messages now reach, on average, just 15 percent of an account’s fans. In a wonderful coincidence, Facebook has rolled out a solution for this problem: Pay them for better access.
As their advertising head, Gokul Rajaram, explained, if you want to speak to the other 80 to 85 percent of people who signed up to hear from you, “sponsoring posts is important.”
In other words, through “Sponsored Stories,” brands, agencies and artists are now charged to reach their own fans—the whole reason for having a page—because those pages have suddenly stopped working.
This is a clear conflict of interest. The worse the platform performs, the more advertisers need to use Sponsored Stories. In a way, it means that Facebook is broken, on purpose, in order to extract more money from users. In the case of Sponsored Stories, it has meant raking in nearly $1M a day.
The rates aren’t worth scoffing at either… unless you’re Warren Buffett or El Chapo. Although I think El Chapo’s Facebook page, should there be one, would actually benefit from 85% less exposure. Come to think of it, I don’t think it would be in El Chapo’s best interest to have a Facebook page to begin with. Drug Lord’s typically don’t use traditional marketing approaches in their business models. You don’t see Walt and Jesse of Breaking Bad deliberating the finer details of their social media marketing approach …but I digress. I won’t repeat the rates here, you can read about them on the Dangerous Minds article, but let’s just say it is hardly a financially strategic move for most small companies to get on board with this new scheme.
One other thing that needs to be mentioned in this discussion is the sneakiness of Facebook in how they pulled this off. In recent years, with younger CEOs rising out of a disillusionment with business economics of yesteryear, greed of the few being replaced with genuine desires to see mutual benefits for all, and new business models being built around concepts such as “Don’t be Evil” – an optimist might suggest that we’ve turned a new leaf as a society. In fact, giant, enormous, lofty profits can still be made and the end user doesn’t have to get screwed as a result. However, Facebook’s decision to roll out this pay-for-exposure approach – and to do it without making any significant public announcements or acknowledging this move until confronted head on with it (this new cash grab actually came out in May 2012. Did you know about it? Me neither) suggests that maybe business is and always will be a greed-driven pursuit in which the rich get richer and the poor stay dumber and uninformed. Not only that, but it seems that they have actually lied to the end user by promising content exposure and leaving out the asterisk that they meant only 15% exposure. I’d rather be an informed poor man than a naive optimist I suppose.
So what does this mean for Facebook? In discussion with a buddy recently, we noted that this may in fact be the moment of a reverse tipping point. Malcolm Gladwell has become famous for his “Tipping Point” metaphor. Gladwell suggests that the tipping point is that “threshold” moment, or “critical mass,” in which a trend, product, or whatever, simply explodes – it sort of takes care of itself as it spreads and becomes a mainstay in culture. Viral videos on Youtube are a prime example. A unique proposal is recorded and makes the rounds among close friends and families, starts spreading to 3rd party friends, 4th party, etc… until the video sort of just grows legs of its own and takes off running down the corridor of the Internet, opening doors and yelling “I’m here! Watch me!” Before you know it, 16 million people have viewed it and everyone’s trying to recreate their own unique proposals that will land them on Ellen. Facebook had its tipping point, I’d venture to guess, somewhere around 2006-2007. It no longer required some outside marketing ploy to gain an audience. It suddenly just “tipped” and spread like dandelions in my front yard (a battle I ended up losing this summer, by the way). However, with the latest fortune-making strategy undertaken by this already multi-billion dollar outfit, I suspect something of a reverse tipping point may result. That is, people are going to turn to other avenues for their social media marketing – Google+, Twitter, etc. – because as of now, there aren’t exuberant fees associated with marketing and there is still an assurance that 100% of your audience will receive whatever you post. In the same way that myspace slowly lost momentum due to the new players Facebook and Twitter coming on the scene, there came a point in its slow demise in which a switch was flipped and the masses suddenly turned away. (As an aside, myspace has a new interface as of a few weeks ago and looks to make a potentially promising comeback –
especially for music-minded junkies. Check it out.) It may just be that this latest move for Facebook is the first step in venturing down what some would say is an inevitable path.
Possibly. But then, maybe not. Consider that when you have 1 out 7 people on the planet utilizing your product, this may be sufficient staying power to avoid any such reverse tipping point. I guess this remains to be seen. For now, I am not alone in my tsk tsk’ing of Zuck and his tribe. Evidently there is quite a stir arising on the web, expressing disdain and even boycotting Facebook as a marketing tool. We shall see if this trend continues. I do know that I am now informed (and so are you if you’ve trodded through ’til now) as I seek to advise future clients – there may be other avenues worth pursuing before assuming Facebook is the be all and end all it claims to be.