matthew murray

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Social media

Published on November 15th, 2012 | by Matthew Murray

4

Facebook pages – the pool party’s over

Facebook. It’s free and always will be. Just don’t expect many of your fans to see your posts anymore unless you pay.

That’s the stark realisation that page owners are coming to terms with after recent changes to Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.

Previously, between 30-40% of fans would see your posts in their news feed. Now that Facebook has rolled out its ‘Promote this post’ feature, the percentage of fans seeing your posts has been slashed to 10-20%.

Working in digital communications for a local authority on Brisbane’s Bayside, I know how frustrating this is.

It’s free and always will be. Just don’t expect many of your fans to see your posts anymore unless you pay.

In August and September 2012, our Redland City Council Facebook page experienced some impressive organic growth. Yet by early October, the reach of our posts (the number of people seeing them) started to decline markedly. With our reach decreasing, so did our likes, comments and shares. This was at a time when Facebook rolled out their new feature ‘Promote this post’.

To measure the decline in reach, I looked at the Insights data for our twice-weekly crowdsourced photography feature. We ask members of the public to tag photos of the Redlands with #RedlandLocal on Instagram, which we then feature on several social networks including Facebook.

Before ‘Promote this post’ appeared, our #RedlandLocal photos were regularly being seen by around 700 people – or approximately 40% of our fans. Since ‘Promote this post’ appeared, the reach of these posts slumped to around 350 people, and sometimes as low as 150.

View from Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island. One of our #RedlandLocal photos.

At first I thought it could just be a temporary blip. Until I saw this post from Hipstamatic World on 7 October to their 13,500 fans.

“Facebook appears to be putting the squeeze on page owners by trying to force them to promote their posts with money. A few weeks ago every photo post I made went out to about 25% of the Hipstamatic World fans. Now it seems like each post is only showing in about 10% of the fans newsfeeds. Greed sucks. I doubt this would be happening if their stock wasn’t in a freefall.”

This was no blip. It was deliberate and orchestrated. The blunt message from Facebook to page owners was this – if you want the same reach you used to have, pay up. I have seen many similar posts from other pages since.

The outrage at these changes was also evident in the blogosphere. A post on the New York Observer site summed it up well – Facebook is broken on purpose. In the post Facebook, I want my friends back, Dangerous Minds has asked whether it is the biggest ‘bait and switch’ in history.

Outrage at new features on Facebook is certainly nothing new. We’ve all seen the whinging and moaning from people when Facebook has dared to change their user interface or bring in something new.

Yet this double whammy of decreasing post reach and introducing promoted posts is one of the most damaging stunts Facebook could’ve pulled. Here’s why.

Loss of trust with Facebook users

People have liked pages about brands, topics and organisations because they want to receive updates from them in their news feed. Yet the likelihood is that they won’t be seeing as many of these updates as they used to – unless these pages pay up.

Loss of trust with business

Many businesses have spent serious money building up their fan base on Facebook through Facebook ads. Now they are finding that it’s so much harder to communicate with their likers unless they promote posts.

In his excellent blog post Goodbye, Facebook, and thanks for all the fish…  Simon Dell brilliantly sums up this loss of trust.

“So why shouldn’t Facebook make money out of brands talking to fans online? Because this wasn’t what Zuckerberg talked about when he presented the social web. It was based on cooperation, sharing, following something you liked, engaging with them. It wasn’t based on who had the most money pushing the little guys aside.”

It’s part of the ever-increasing commercialisation of Facebook

There are now ads everywhere you look. Facebook ads. Promoted posts. Suggested posts. Sponsored stories. Suggestions of other pages to like based on pages my friends like. I’ve even been subjected to huge ads – after signing out of Facebook – from Australian supermarket giant Woolworths.

The social web? Facebook is more like the home shopping network these days.

Facebook thumbing their nose to government and non-profit organisations

Squeezing businesses for money is one thing, but there is something even worse in my book. Facebook have demonstrated that they don’t value the thousands of government, voluntary and non-profit pages that are an integral part of the social web.

The use of social media has revolutionised the way that government and non-profit organisations communicate and engage with their audience.

Just one example of this is the role that social media plays in 21st century disaster and emergency management. As I write this post, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross America (among others) are providing invaluable advice and support to those suffering the after effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Yet it’s going to be that much harder for those in the public and voluntary sector to get their messages out there now that we are competing with a barrage of promoted posts by corporate giants.

Wynnum Wading Pool, Brisbane

The pool party’s over

Mashable reported last week that Facebook compared themselves to a swimming poolin a recent post.

 “Swimming pools are filled with people. Some you know. Some you don’t. And every once in a while you see something that maybe you shouldn’t. That’s why swimming pools are a little like Facebook.”

Promoted posts have left many Facebook page owners feeling like the pool party’s over and it’s time to get out of the water.

This post was first published by comms2point0 – the free online resource for creative communicators


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4 Responses to Facebook pages – the pool party’s over

  1. Pingback: Facebook pages – the pool party’s over | weeklyblogclub

  2. Pingback: Walking on the wild side and seeing things differently | weeklyblogclub

  3. @PartCymru says:

    Bad news if you use #Facebook to engage with your service users http://t.co/MuGLUPrr #eparticipation

  4. Wow, thoroughly depressing stuff. We only currently use the groups feature, but we do look at the pages as part of our work with both non-profit and government organisations. Thanks for letting us know about this!

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