The diminishing returns of Facebook EdgeRank – or maybe not?

I have to be honest here.

I really don’t particularly like Facebook as a business tool <disclosure>

It could be the amount of spam.

It could be the tagging, the spammy messages from strangers, the inane games and the poking. (remember pillow fights?)

Or maybe the poor, unfortunate souls who are stuck in a refugee camp with their kids and need you to send them money now (with no explanation why the name and image relate to someone else entirely and how they have good internet access and a computer in the middle of a humanitarian disaster!)

There have always been a lot of reasons to Dislike Facebook.

Unless you use it as it was intended – to keep in touch with your close circle of friends and family through your personal profile.

What about “business pages” then?

Yes, you have probably read a zillion posts about how to increase engagement, what type of posts get the most Likes or comments, how to respond to negative comments, how to get more fans without buying them…

So, I’m not going to bore you with more social media replication here.

It is all about Edgerank!

Edgerank is the Facebook equivalent of Google’s infamous algorithm.

It is the formula Facebook uses to decide what to serve you up in your newsfeed. It is based on the people you have had the most conversations with, the number of Likes on other people’s stuff, the people Facebook decides you would like to hear from the most.

And then Facebook tweaks their Edgerank and all of a sudden all you see is motivational posts by people you have never heard of…

Then Bam! Your friends are back again…

But often the ones you talked to a lot no longer feature in your feed.

Damn Edgerank!! Grrrr! (say most Facebook users)

So the idea for business pages is that they get lots of fans, get them liking and commenting by posting inane crap like “Who’s having an awesome time this weekend?” or “What’s your favourite BBQ treat?” …

Because it helps your “real” marketing posts to be visible to your potential audience.

And in many cases brands have paid a significant sum to “buy” this audience through the use of Facebook’s own pay-per-click advertising!

What happens next?

Facebook go all IPO on us and suddenly have to justify the multi-billion share price tag by actually returning a profit.

Well, they ain’t going to do that with PPC are they? Not the way those ads get clicked on!

“What about this genius idea then? Why don’t we reduce business page post visibility so that only a small percentage of the fans get to see any posts. And once we have done that we can charge the business x amount to get their post in front of their fans (that they have already paid Facebook for in many cases)…

and we can charge them a little for a small percentage of their fans, a bit more for more fans, and a huge terrifying amount if they want to reach most of their fans!…”

Brilliant?

No, sorry!

Call it “bait and switch” or “extortion” or “unethical” or “just plain stoopid”

The result has been that many very large businesses have decided that paying Facebook hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to reach and communicate with genuine fans of their products does not make economic sense.

Many have shifted emphasis elsewhere and some of these like Mark Cuban have been very public in their criticism.

And the irony is that the more successful Facebook becomes at selling sponsored posts the more it becomes purely an advertising network where big bucks dictates what information people can get which diminishes it as a social platform and which makes it like watching a TV channel that has all ads and no content…

Doh!

I have seen a number of smaller business Facebook pages plummet to a reach of less than 10% of their fans.

If your small business Facebook page has 150 Likes how demotivating is it to see the constant Facebook insights saying “12 people saw this post” or “2 people are talking about this”?

What do you do?

You could pay for Facebook advertising perhaps and build your fans to a thousand or more.

Then you could pay to promote your posts to these new fans hoping they didn’t just click Like to go in the draw for that click-bait giveaway.

You kind of hope they might be interested in your brand or products but you really have no idea.

Makes email marketing to a real subscriber list a whole lot more attractive doesn’t it?

It even makes Google+ seem like a viable alternative… (really? – Hey at least we don’t have to pay to share our stuff!)

It makes Twitter and LinkedIn look “awesome” for business.

It makes good quality websites on your own domains and blogging and SEO look a lot more affordable.

Nice work Facebook! I bet Google are cracking the Champagne over this strategic stuff-up!

Just to finish and to put a whole different slant on the weirdness of Facebook here is an interesting case.

Many businesses work away and post good content. They answer comments. They engage and share.

And they still see those weekly Facebook reports stats go up and down and up and down (they really shouldn’t call them insights)

And the reach is pathetic as a percentage of the following…

Then something like this happens.

One client posted a simple meme about the date 12.12.12

and things went crazy!

Look at this for insights:

Facebook post goes viral

 

 

 

Yep, a page with less than a thousand fans suddenly has a reach of more than 26,000…

Seriously!

And 1,774 are Talking About This!

The meme got 50 Likes and 564 shares.

(this page had an average of 300 reach and 8 people talking previously)

This is the potential that Facebook SHOULD have been looking at instead of trying to leverage advertising in the traditional way.

When did the innovators abandon the company to the bean counters?

When did they begin to employ people from a traditional marketing mindset?

Will they turn this stupidity around?

I will watch 2013 with interest.

 

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