Posted May 7, 2014 7:33 am by with 6 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

This is total speculation, but could Facebook be getting ready to force businesses to pay for any post that is blatantly promotional in nature?

While enjoying my normal morning browsing of dog photos, family updates, and tennis controversies, Facebook slipped in a small request for me to take a brief survey. Sure, why not?

Here’s what happened next:

Facebook Survey

And this:

Facebook Survey 2

Another one:

Facebook Survey 3

In total, Facebook asked me to look at 14 different posts–some from companies I didn’t follow, some from Pages I did, and others from friends. With each post, I was asked to rate whether I believed it was an ad or not. Interesting, huh?

Now, here’s my speculation on why Facebook is doing this:

  • Facebook is just testing my own tolerance for what it already knows are ads.
  • Some of these posts triggered FB’s own ad algorithm, and they want a human to confirm if something looks like an ad.
  • This is part of a recent announced crackdown on Pages that ask for Likes and Shares.
  • Or, perhaps all of the above.

Maybe I’m just too much of cynic–I’ve seen a lot of the web monetized over the past decade–but I can’t quite shake off the feeling that Facebook might be looking to force businesses to pay for any post that looks like an ad. After all, only 6% of posts make it into a user’s feed anyway, so we’re not far from that now.


  • Brandon Harig

    I like this post and am happy it doesn’t actually go where the title raises questions. The truth is Facebook has been pushing for brands to do more engaging content rather than salesy content with their shifts about a year ago to throttle reach based upon the type of content shared (picture/text/video/other) with the message that it was about encouraging engagement. The above examples are lazy spam and not something someone develops understanding, learns from or even uses as a platform to speak with the brand. When Facebook pushes for engagement between brands and people, while also allowing better facilitation with reaching JUST your Likes and not their friends as well, things will be better.

    • Do you think Facebook will start flagging the “lazy spam” posts and only allow them to be shown if sponsored? That’s what I am wondering.

      • Brandon Harig

        I think they may go even further and just prevent it completely. Posts like those above damage the brand(ing) behind company advertisement and Facebook as a whole. It is in their better interest to prevent that content from being seen by the masses, no matter the potential profit.

  • Facebook is a business, and they are going to eek out revenue from every possible stream. Businesses are an easy target. Facebook is still considered a must-have by many business and they will (grudgingly) pay to get their posts in front of fans. Whether that is a long-term solution will depend on additional changes Facebook makes to the news feed.

    • Brandon Harig

      I agree in some respects but Facebook has to show that quality promotion gets results; the more that these sort of items clog feeds, the more users will disregard all messages. Much the way a convention hall may limit which companies can present at the expo, so too should Facebook weed out the “riffraff”

  • Elena Meadowcroft

    Andy, my thought is that Facebook could be testing what type of content gets promoted in their ad platform, as well as to what degree ads are recognized by an average user. Posts #1 and #3 in your example have a “like page” button which tells me (along with the gazillion likes and shares) they are sponsored. Post #2 is a link to a company blog, which is self-promotional but also helpful and educational. Facebook encourages pages to be less promotional and more helpful, however, you now have to pay to be seen and the content you pay for is likely to be promotional in nature, which the examples above prove. I’m sure Facebook is aware of this paradox, and this survey might be used to measure how much of the sponsored content is blunt service/product advertising, as well as to compare user reactions to sponsored ads versus non-sponsored promotional posts. Just my thoughts!