Has Facebook Played Marketers For Suckers?

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Nearly every client I have worked with in the last few years has had a presence on Facebook and the few exceptions have felt as if they should have one. As you can tell from a number of my posts here on the screed, I’m generally a skeptic of any medium over which a marketer doesn’t have control. Today’s news just reinforces that and makes me wonder if Facebook has been playing the marketing community for suckers. Let’s see what you think.

Facebook puts a fair amount of energy into recruiting brands and other businesses to set up pages.  Once those pages are established, anyone who does it right can tell you that supporting the pages is like the plant (Audrey II) in “Little Shop Of Horrors”: a constant refrain of “feed me.”  Where does that content reside?  Facebook.  Who controls how much of it your “fans” see?  Facebook.  In fact, Facebook themselves said a year ago that pages organically reach about 16% of their fans on average.  Yep – 84% of the people who like a page won’t generally see it unless they take a specific action to seek it out.  In their words: “Newsfeed uses an algorithm to rank content based upon the likely interest to a user to help deliver the most relevant and valuable content.”

That was then.  Facebook recently changed how that algorithm works (which is, obviously, unknown to the brands making investments in the platform and totally out of their control).  Here is one what study found:

Facebook’s December News Feed algorithm change is so far punishing brand pages, regardless of how interested fans are in that page’s content, according to a new analysis by Ignite Social Media. Ignite analysts reviewed 689 posts across 21 brand pages (all of significant size, across a variety of industries) and found that, in the week since December 1, organic reach and organic reach percentage have each declined by 44% on average, with some pages seeing declines as high as 88%. Only one page in the analysis had improved reach, which came in at 5.6%.

So the 16% has dropped to around 3%.  Of course, Facebook is more than happy to have brands pay to promote their content, the very content that keeps the platform interesting and vital.  Many studies have shown that organic content drives better results than paid yet organic is almost impossibly hard to get front and center.

My take is this.  Facebook may just be playing a con where the mark doesn’t want to give up the investment they’ve already made.  Even if unintentional (BIG stretch there!), they seem to be finding ways of restricting the reach of page fans by page owners as a way to force them to advertise.  These same owners already had to spend money with campaigns to build up fan bases.  Now you want the brands to pay again to reach an audience that has already said they want to receive page updates by “liking” the page.  Put yourself in the place of the social media person at a business who has to explain that one.

People are not the customer on Facebook.  Paying brands are.  As with any business, Facebook won’t be around for the long haul if their priorities are making a buck rather than serving their customers’ needs or by playing them for suckers.  That’s my take.  What’s yours?

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