Facebook posted the most interesting piece of . . . . content. . . I’ve seen on the web in a long time. It’s the internet equivalent of a vaudeville song and dance routine coupled with the fancy patter of a snake oil salesman. When I saw the post, I thought it was going to be a lengthy denial. What do you mean organic reach is down? It looks fine from over here. . . . But, they didn’t deny so I have to give them massive props for being upfront about the issue.
Having said that, I still stand by my original evaluation of the value of the post. Seriously, it’s a tap dance to rival any number by the great Ann Miller.
They begin with explanation of why reach is declining. Bascially, we’re all a victim of our own success. There’s simply too much content on Facebook.
On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.
In order to keep from overwhelming the reader, Facebook filters content to around 300 top picks. This filtering system has decreased the amount of spam (a good thing) and raised the quality of the content in the feed (not so sure about that.)
Then comes the big question; why is Facebook deciding what I see and what I don’t. Why can’t I decide for myself?
In our tests, we’ve always found that the News Feed ranking system offers people a better, more engaging experience on Facebook. Additionally, given the amount of content in the average News Feed, using a real-time system for content would actually cause Pages’ organic reach to decrease further.
So, if I actually saw all the content from the people and pages I want to follow, I’d pay less attention and organic reach would go below zero?
I don’t buy this. I understand the overwhelming issue. However, I’m capable of adjusting my own dials. If I’m getting too many posts, I’ll stop following brands and people I don’t care about. I do this on Twitter all the time. And maybe I’d miss a few posts but I’ll survive. A few brands might lose me as a follower but if I’m not engaging anyway then it’s better that I leave. My feeling is inflated numbers don’t do anyone any good.
Fans absolutely have value.
— Fans make your ads more effective. When an ad has social context — in other words, when a person sees their friend likes your business — your ads drive, on average, 50% more recall and 35% higher online sales lift.
— Fans also make the ads you run on Facebook more efficient in our ads auction. Ads with social context are a signal of positive quality of the ad, and lead to better auction prices.
— You can use insights about your fans — like where they live, and their likes and interests — to inform decisions about reaching your current and prospective customers.
— Fans can give your business credibility
Unfortunately, that last one is true. Customers feel more comfortable when they see a large fan number. Think about your first look at 2 local restaurants. One has 1,000 fans, one has 100 fans. Which feels like the better place to eat?
Here’s the most valuable sentence in the entire post:
Fans can help you achieve your business objectives on Facebook, but having fans should not be thought of as an end unto itself.
We’re in total agreement. Facebook should not be a game of he who has the most fans wins. It’s a tool for advertising your business and keeping customers informed. It is not a business in itself.
Hidden within the post are hysterical swipes at those “other” social media sites who let you see all of your content and then lie to you about reach. Then Facebook tops it off with a reminder that on most platforms, marketing is most valuable when you pay for it. Still, they insist that the decline in reach isn’t about making money, it’s about keeping users happy. . . which in the end is about Facebook making more money. I’m okay with that. It’s a business and it should make money.
The last point I want to address comes from the comments. Someone posted that only the marketers are lobbying for an unfiltered feed. That the average Facebook user is happy the way it is. I don’t agree. I’m perfectly capable of looking at this from both sides and neither side is happy. I follow several local businesses because I want to know what’s happening. In order to not miss out, I have to make it a point to visit their Facebook pages on a regular basis. It’s a hassle, so I might do it once a week. As a Facebook user, I’d rather have those posts show up in my feed so I don’t find a deal after it’s too late to use it.
Care to chime in? Would Facebook fall apart if they stopped filtering content? Or would we all be in a happier place?