Party pic, party pic, a few statuses all either bragging or complaining, the what-I-got-at-Starbucks picture, the occasional meme…your Facebook news feed’s been seeming pretty regular these days, but where have all the photos of drool-inducing vegan cupcakes and links to intriguing news articles from your favorite local publication gone?
Did you just realize they’ve been missing? Don’t worry — Karma Cream’s still crafting their petite masterpieces and we’re still writing as much as funds and time allow. Nothing’s changed in the real world, but virtually, things are a little different.
Earlier this year, in May, we and other small businesses and organizations, which includes charities, restaurants, bands, artists, authors, activist networks, photographers, radio stations, YouTube channels, newspapers, blogs, etc., were hit by a wave of what looked like a massive spell of sudden unpopularity. At first we were sad and a little confused (almost as if we just got dumped, multiple times). Then, we took a closer look at the numbers and news, talked to fellow local businesses and figured out that it’s not us, it’s Facebook.
Under Facebook’s new news feed algorithm, business, musician, artist, etc. pages only reach about 15 percent of their fanpool. So, what about the other 85 percent? Well, we would actually have to pay Facebook real money (opposed to Farmville fake Facebook money) to “promote” each post in order for our entire fanpool to see it. It’s not quite advertising, but it is definitely unfair.
The fair way is quite straightforward and the math is simple, really. 100 percent of our fans chose to “like” our page, so 100 percent should be able to see our updates in their news feeds. We shouldn’t have to pay for a “promoted post” to share something with people who already requested to have it shared with them.
The new addition to Facebook’s revenue roll is fueled by its drooping stocks. Over the last year, in an attempt to bump their value back up, Facebook has turned to mobile app install ads (ads displayed on the mobile Facebook app that promote other apps), promoted posts, and Sponsored Stories. The more aggressive monetization looks like it’s working, too; Sponsored Stories are reeling in $1 million per day for Zuckerberg and friends, and stocks are perking back up.
As for the rationale behind promoted posts, Facebook defends their new advertising product, saying they are merely protecting Facebook users’ news feeds from getting too cluttered with pages’ posts. Mind you, these are the posts from the pages the users chose to “like.” If they are getting annoyed with a certain page’s frequency or content of posts, they have the option to “unlike” just as easily or hide all stories from the page.
Paying even just $5 to promote a post, which is the minimum for The Fine Print given our current fanpool and reach, hurts. As a completely volunteer-run not-for-profit, we’re barely getting by as it is. Yet, we do rely on Facebook to keep in touch with our readers, locally and in faraway places, and paying a fee to ensure fans and followers see the content they’re asking to see is something we simply can’t afford to do.
Large corporations have the money to burn on wide-reach promoted posts that show up not only on fans’ news feeds but outside the fanbase as well — which can cost upwards of a few thousand dollars each, depending on their reach. But even if a page makes that however-large investment, Facebook still regulates who sees the post.
That’s the work of the omniscient EdgeRank algorithm. It probably knows you better than you’d be comfortable admitting.
The algorithm is responsible for tailoring your news feed just to your liking based on what it noticed you care about, the time relevancy of posts, and their volume of comments and likes. It’s an ingenious filtering system; it’s why Facebook got so successful to begin with. It lets users see and share what they love. Only now, there’s the money aspect factored in, so instead of pages earning their fans’ attention simply by posting interesting content, they have to buy it.
With EdgeRank now limiting page engagement with its fans, we’re left with two solutions.
The first falls on the pages and their wallets — pay up to show up.
The second calls for users to go just a couple clicks beyond the initial “Like.” Go to an organization page, click the settings gear icon in the upper right-hand section of the main page banner and click “Add to Interests…” Now you’ve told Facebook you like us and are interested in us. It’s a little redundant, we know.
We’re in no position to pay up to show up, so that means this one’s on you. Your thumbs-up means a lot to a small business, an emerging artist or a cause. But more importantly, we want you to be able to stay connected with the organizations you love so (ahem, us).
If promoted posts and therefore this essentially broken EdgeRank algorithm minimized reach junk is here to stay, small businesses might be better off migrating to Google+ or other social networking sites. But that won’t be advantageous until Google+ becomes more popular. So, that said…coup de Facebook!