Facebook is in trouble again. There seems to be some sort of pattern here: the company ships out a new feature, the review is mixed and a small but vocal minority calls up a storm claiming the company is infringing on its rights or violating terms or service or the like. The difference? This time the problem seems to be real.
While there was a lot of initial backlash versus most of the changes operated by the social networking giant it all simmered down pretty fast and it almost always referred to users being dissatisfied with a new feature or layout. This time, the new feature rolled out by Facebook is a social marketing tool offering you the opportunity to promote posts so they reach a wider audience and stay on the news feed longer. The usual anti-capitalist sentiments shared by many users notwithstanding there is no reason why this new feature should raise such a backlash.
Or is there? Media personalities like Mark Cuban or George Takei and websites like Dangerous Minds are leading the charge against Facebook, claiming that, due to recent changes in Facebook’s policy, namely the ‘Promote Post’ feature their status updates are now reaching only about 15% of their followers.
The featured works hand in hand with the new Facebook post algorithm called EdgeRank, rolled out for the better part of the year and, as expected, the issue hit critical mass only when EdgeRank was doubled by the new paid promote feature. While a lot of people cry foul at the service and, particularly its costs, post promotion costs vary wildly, from about a dollar for a private Facebook profile with 500 friends to the mind-boggling sum of 2000$ (to reach about 7 million people) quoted by the Dangerous Minds post.
The reason behind Facebook’s promote feature is simple: the company needs capital after a disastrous IPO hit the company stock hard and started to worry investors. The social media platform offers companies like Coca Cola or Nestle the opportunity to reach a large number of people for what is arguably, pocket change to their advertising and PR budgets. Facebook is trying to monetize the very thing that every social media agency has been using on behalf of their clients for a while now. Simply put, Facebook is trying to cut out the middleman.
The people challenging the company, however, are not complaining about the change as much as about the manner in which it is being implemented. The decrease in site traffic that some people are claiming to see could be top-implemented (by Facebook) both as an incentive for people to actually use promoted posts and in order to avoid stream overcrowding in the eventuality of several promoted posts.
The debate still rages on even after Facebook added an (slightly annoying) ‘opt-in’ feature that allows users to subscribe to a page’s updates so that you receive notifications for all of them. This compromise solution has calmed the waters so far but this social media debacle will likely not be easily forgotten. The question still stands though: In the wake of this growing debacle, will Facebook back off promoted posts?
This guest post was by Mara Fuchs who is originally from Massachusetts, where she worked for a social media agency for several years. Now living in the Netherlands she guest blogs about SEO and social media on a variety of sites.