Two years ago I argued that Facebook Is Not The Internet, Nor Should It Be.
The last few days of furor surrounding a very well written “Dear John” letter from Eat24 to Facebook (a beautiful piece of content marketing if I’ve ever seen one) has certainly proven that many are now awakening to this fact. I’m not going to say, “I told you so.” I’ve been wrong about social media before. I’ll be wrong again. Unfortunately, I don’t think you needed to be able to read tea leaves to get this one right. You just needed to take off the blinders that social media marketing gurus asked you to wear and stare at reality with open eyes.
“Over the past several months, Facebook has been reducing the organic reach of Pages, Victor Luckerson stated in his piece for Time entitled The Free-Marketing Gravy Train Is Over on Facebook. “Even if a person Likes a company or organization on the social network, they’re unlikely to naturally see that Page’s content in their News Feed.” The rumors of this have been flying around for some time, but it appears that this is now an irrefutable truth. Guess what? Facebook is not going to change, because it’s never been different.
“Facebook has always been that kind of network,” Mathew Ingram wrote yesterday. “It controls the signal-to-noise ratio, not you.” Understanding how Facebook’s Edgerank worked has always been a key to understanding how to reach your followers. This used to be true of Facebook Business Page. Getting people to comment and like your pseudo-business posts was a key to getting them to see the more hard hitting business stuff you really wanted them to see. This is still true for people who use their personal profile to generate business. Most of the open-ended questions you see people asking on Facebook are designed to build edgerank. You know the ones, “If you were a color, what color would you be?” Here’s a secret. They work.
Edgerank tactics don’t work on Facebook Pages anymore, and that has people pissed off.
Should they be? My friend Daniel Rothamel doesn’t think so. “Why get mad at a global corporation when it acts like a global corporation,” he asks? And my favorite comment on the Ingram’s GigaOm article is from DuncanPredicts, “If you use Facebook as a form of advertising, don’t be surprised if they want to charge you for that.” And nobody would be pissed if it were just that simple. People aren’t irrationally mad because Facebook is acting like a global corporation. People are justifiably mad because Facebook is acting like an unethical global corporation.
Let’s consider this piece of evidence from Veritasium: “The US Department of State spent $630,000 to acquire 2 million page likes and then realized only 2% were engaged. I thought I would demonstrate that the same thing is still happening now by creating Virtual Cat (http://www.facebook.com/MyVirtualCat). I was surprised to discover something worse – false likes are coming from everywhere, including Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. So even those carefully targeting their campaigns are likely being duped into spending real money on fake followers. Then when they try to reach their followers they have to pay again.”
Watch this. It’s worth 9 minutes.
If ever there was a time to wake up and understand that owning your own content is critical, it is now. “Facebook knows that independence is critical to the future of the Internet, and has created tools to insure it’s a major player there,” John Battelle wrote two years ago. “My advice: use those tools inside your own presence on the web. But put your taproot into soil that you control, soil that is shared by the millions of other independent voices on the web. That insures you’ll be part of a free and open ecosystem where serendipity and opportunity can create wonderful new possibilities.”
If you were one of those people/companies that listened to the throng of experts telling you that you don’t need a website, it’s time to realize that was exceedingly bad advice to follow. The days of using Facebook pages as a free service to advertise your business are over. And if you think Facebook is going to continue to allow people to do the same on their personal profiles, I would suggest you are equally mistaken.