A revelation by Facebook some time back shook the world of social media, more so the brands who were concentrating a lot on the way their pages were maintained on Facebook. The statement by the officials of the most popular social networking site, confirmed the apprehensions of the managers of these brand pages.
Though, Facebook has been quite open in accepting the fact the some tweaking happens on their part in the posts that are displayed on people’s walls, the extent of it was never known. The gossiping had begun when the Brands noticed a large decline in the reach of their posts, in the recent past. This decline was as large as 50% and extended up to 80% in a few cases.
For instance, a brand X, having 100,000 likes on its Facebook page, if previously was able to reach 80,000 fans through their posts, now could touch as low as only 20,000 of them. Thereafter, it was corroborated by Facebook that all the happenings on a page are often seen by as little as 16% of the people who have liked it (read fans). This was a punishment not only for the brands but for user profiles too. Everything that I posted didn’t make it to the walls of all my 800 friends.
All of it has been blamed on the new EdgeRank algorithm, put in place by Facebook, to determine what posts reach the users’ walls. Facebook incessantly keeps a check on the behavior of its users, both when they engage or avoid a post, that is, not only when they like, share or comment on a post, but also when they hide, report or mark a post as spam. Taking all this into consideration, only stories that seem to be the most engaging and of interest to the user concerned, after passing through the “ranking system of news feed”, make it to The Wall.
Now, this is where the whole thing has come as a challenge for brands and the agencies managing them. Their task now doesn’t end at luring customers to like their page and then living happily ever after, assuming the message is reaching them with the aid of posts happening on the page.
What this means is that, the change has given rise to the need of constantly monitoring what types of posts are getting good responses, and hence are successful in causing engagement. And, somehow if you don’t intend to put in brains, put in the bucks, is what Facebook seems to have suggested, as they introduced “Promoted Posts.”
Promoted Posts are a way to push posts more prominently into people’s news feeds. The “Promote” option is available just next to the usual “like”, “share” and “comment”. Paying to promote a post means it will be now be visible in news feeds of more fans than it previously did.
Hence, if the brands intend to speak to the rest 80-85% of their following that had gone missing in the deluge of feeds, they need to pay for or sponsor their story. In other words, through “Sponsored Stories”, brands are now charged to reach their own fans, defying the concept of having a page to interact with fans. Also, there are many a brands that advertise on Facebook to build that fan base, and now they need to pay again to make them hear.
Though many opine that all this is a part of Facebook’s money making strategy, to restrict the reach and then propose inorganic ways of creating it, kindred to what is known as artificial scarcity in economic parlance: rigging the supply of something to create inflated demand.
However, contrary to the claims, Facebook says that regardless of whether brands or individuals are paying to promote a story or just posting one to a page, "the newsfeed will always optimize for stories that generate high levels of user engagement and filter out ones that don’t".
All this with the logic that, if your news feed was an equal-opportunity space, then it would be flooded with uninteresting posts, game requests and everything else that would deteriorate the user experience, refraining them from spending as much time as they do now. The lower traffic for posts from fan pages are just part of keeping the feed engaging.
Hence, they vow to be on the side of users against the advertisers, by assuring that content that is not specifically promoted will still be seen, and content that gets lots of likes and shares will be seen more often. But promoting posts increases the potential reach.
This phenomenon of making the whole thing engaging leads to “the filter bubble” — a social world limited only to those people whom you “like,” interact with, and probably agree with.
For the users, however, there are ways to fight the menace.
- Now there is an option of “get notification” for the pages you have liked, which lets you see all the posts from that page.
- The option to choose the sorting option used to put your feed in order: “Top Stories” or “Most Recent.” Top stories expose you to everything that your friends and pages might have shared, in the chronological order.
However, Facebook hasn’t attempted to put this feature to light, and understandably so, as it makes the concept of promoted posts, a little less sought after.
Zukerberg’s brainchild finds itself in a delicate position as it aims to make all the parties happy, by helping brands to reach users, keeping users away from the feeds they don’t want, and making money for self after not-so-happening IPO. What made social media the popular medium that it is today is that it offered a level playing field, and involved no real investments, and this Facebook feature seems to be a complete antithesis to it.
However, still, the concept of promoted posts doesn’t seem to be that bad a thing, if put to meaningful use. Announcements of concerts, call for support of the kinds done by India Against Corruption, and launch of trailers, music, etc can be very efficiently done by promoting the posts and enabling them to reach not just the ones who are directly connected, but their friends as well.