There Is Something Rotten In The State Of Facebook
by Ed Dale
A Wolf In Sheeps Clothing?
This report has been a long time coming!
With all the excitement of the MagCast launch I wasn’t able to cover all of the dramatic changes happening on Facebook Pages last month.
I’ve considered Facebook Pages a criticle part of my Marketing Platform…
By the end of this article, I wonder if you’ll think they deserve to be called criticle…
Why Facebook Pages?
The job of a Facebook Page is important. Prior to Facebook Pages, there was no way to separate the personal side of Facebook, the one we want to keep up-to-date with what you’re drunk brother in London is up to and get all of those ridiculous 2 AM photos from. As opposed to your “serious” marketing side.
This caused a real problem with Facebook. It became unusable with all the irrelevant noise from people you didn’t know.
If you listened to people like me (duh!), you would have found having 5000 friends on Facebook completely unusable. You’ll recall, the controversy when I decided to axe everybody except the people I actually really knew and were friends with in real life. I was the 1st person to do this from a marketing perspective and it created great outrage amongst the social media digerati. Of course, these same digerati have now done exactly the same thing.
I like to keep my Facebook profile purely for friends and family. I’m a pretty open book. The main reason I want this separation is that me mentioning Internet Marketing stuff on my timeline all the time would totally bore my friends and family who don’t give a fig about what I do in my day job! (So rude, they should think everything I do is Awesome!)
Facebook realised there was no way for professionals, brands, and products to utilise Facebook’s social graph. (They probably figured out it would be pretty lucrative as well!)
Enter Facebook Pages.
Facebook Pages look and feel is very similar to your personal Facebook profile. This was a cause for confusion for some time. The fact the term “Facebook Page" could so easily be mixed up with your personal profile is did not help matters! You can interact with a Facebook Page just like a personal page. You can post photos, videos and links to other things on the web and on Facebook.
The first crucial difference with Facebook Pages is you could have multiple administrators. This is pivotal for any brand wanting a 24-hour presence, or had a team of people working on it. It’s also a very important safety mechanism. In the early days, Facebook was very quick to pull the trigger when it came to deleting accounts. If your page was attached to a deleted account, your page got deleted as well!
As I look back now, I’m amazed at how Facebook Pages has taken off. Brands and corporations have taken to them with gay abandon. You can hardly walk into a small business now without their Facebook Page prominently displayed.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by this;
- Everybody has a Facebook profile so it’s easy for them to update their Facebook Page (updating their website, which cost them money, was often nigh on impossible)
- It’s free! Business owners knew they needed a web presence but did not want the hassle of maintaining a website. When you add the fact pretty much every one of their customers has a Facebook profile, and is quite likely an active user, it became a no-brainer. (Of course, with the June changes, this could end up being a significant mistake.)
- Third-party tools. There were some great applications developed to help make updating Facebook pages easier. There were applications like HootSuite which enabled you to manage multiple social media presences and our favourite, Buffer, which allowed you to schedule Facebook Page posts to be read at the time which was most appropriate to your audience.
Trouble was, there was a massive problem, and we discovered it !
How Facebook Strangled The Monkey.
I started to notice something strange happening. I had a Facebook Page from day one. However, I treated it as a dumping ground! I auto-posted tweets and references to my blog posts. I was not adding any original content at all.
As my Facebook Page audience increased, I was auto-posting in the blissful ignorance of the damage I was doing.
It was only when I went to add something from my iPad and couldn’t, I was forced to manually update my Facebook Page.
Something crazy happened!
I noticed, the comments on my post went through the roof in comparison to anything else I had done. I started manually adding information instead of using the automated services I had been previously.
Sure enough, interaction, and that vomit enducing word “engagement" increased dramatically.
Keep in mind this was in the days prior to Facebook providing statistics for your Facebook Page. I was convinced I was right and published my findings.
Fellow online marketers like Paul Colligan, replicated my results and in our little community this little fact became common knowledge. Using some of your favourite tools was harming the spread of your posts.
Ironically, Facebook themselves, confirmed this when they added statistics to the page. It became obvious.
Later that year one of the mainstream social sites began to notice the phenomena and reported on it. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed.
Fast forward to December 2011.
Just as we were getting ready to wind down for the year and heading into the holidays. Facebook announced they were modifying the news feed distribution for Facebook Pages. We tested and sure enough tools like Buffer all the sudden became useful again.
Between January and May of this year it was a golden age for your Facebook Page. It became the totem around which all of my other content revolved.
Trouble was, I was being played and worst, I should have known better.
Facebook Page Slap!
Everything was going along swimmingly, then all the sudden, over the course of a couple of days in late May I noticed a dramatic drop-off in interaction and spread on my Facebook Page posts.
It was really strange, no announcements from Facebook but the proof was incontrovertible.
Facebook were applying the choke again.
Just as suddenly, a week or so later, things went back to normal. I’d wondered if it was a matter of them doing some backend work on Facebook Pages and everything would be fine.
The good news, it was just Facebook working on new Pages infrastructure…
The new infrastructure was promoted posts.
Pay to reach the audience you built!
It was no secret to anyone reading Facebook page stats, any one post would only reach approximately 10 to 12% of your audience. I’d assumed this was a function of the amount of traffic on any individual Facebook users newsfeed and the fact that they only looked at things at a particular time of day.
Turns out, this was naive thinking.
Towards the end of June, a little promoted link started to appear under the posts.
For a fee, Facebook would guarantee your post would reach a guaranteed percentage of your audience.
My 1st reaction was vaguely positive, I thought this could be handy when I have something really important I want to send out.
Then I started to do some back of the envelope calculations on the proposed fee structure.
It looked hideous. It is also designed to penalise those of us with smaller Facebook Page audiences.
This seems crazy. For example, just to guarantee a post is seen by my audience it will cost me $75 dollars.
Remember, I pay just for the privilege of hoping my post is seen by someone who actually requested to see my stuff on Facebook!
It is a cpm advertising model (how 20th-century!).
It’s the vibe of the thing
I have worked hard to build up my Facebook audience. I made a decision from day one to grow organically without paying for audience.
Many of my colleagues actually ran campaigns which cost the money to attract an audience.
Now Facebook is asking us to pay for the privilege of most of the audience seeing information they have actually requested to see from us!
This is nuts!
To compare and contrast with Twitter, any update of Twitter I send out will be seen by anybody who opens up Twitter. Twitter does not discriminate, nor do they choke the spread of my results. Imagine the uproar from the digerati if Twitter suggested such a thing…
Why aren’t people marching in the streets about this?
- The Digerati don’t use Facebook much any more. When I’m visiting San Francisco, Facebook is a dirty word. It’s not popular amongst the hipsters and start up fashionistas of Silicon Valley. They’re responsible for creating most of the heat and light when it comes to these things and I think they haven’t noticed.
- I think a lot of direct marketers and response driven marketers are starting to put Facebook Pages on the back-burner. In my neck of the woods, there is no question the spread and interactivity of my Facebook Page posts are going downhill. If it’s not working as much, Why should I put in so much effort?
The Plumber With The Leaky Faucets…
I wish I’d listen to my own advice sometimes. If you’re going to all the trouble of building a tribe, build it on a platform you control.
Here’s what I’m going to start to do
- Use Facebook Pages, like you would use Twitter or Google+ – as a broadcast mechanism. Schedule times to respond to comments each day.
- I’m going to use Buffer to update new content on my blog to Facebook Pages.
- I’m turning off Twitter tweets from my Facebook Page (I don’t want people to go to the Facebook Page as a primary source, I also don’t want to make people go to “Double Jump” – go to a piece of curated content via my blog just to get the hit. This is annoying.
- Turning on automatic tweets for each new piece of content on my Blog (and make sure if it’s curated content – the tweet goes to the curated content not my site)
- Doubling down on creating original content that matters, has an opinion, has a point of view – if I see something explaining it better elsewhere – I’ll link to that instead – why repeat. I need to bring my view to things
- Making sure I +1 every post on my blog and make sure I post it with the Public setting on Google+ – This is really important for two major reasons (one I had no clue about until last week – but I’ll explain later in another article.
- More time creating, less time consuming. This is a battle I struggle with everyday.
- My blog post on dumping Facebook friends ↩
- Never Assume, It makes an Ass out of U and Me ↩
- CPM = cost per thousand (M is a thousand in roman numerals) – this was the old way people charged for advertising until google came in and redefined how advertising was done with CPA (Cost Per Action) advertising with Pay per Click. ↩
- I’ve noticing with a lot of market leadership blogs I’ve been reviewing recently. They could have been written by anyone – there was no voice – no personality. When you start, you don’t have a voice, a point of view, it’s something that develops. I’ve been doing this a few years – I don’t have an excuse! ↩
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